Swiss immigration vote is "collective suicide"- French minister

PARIS Tue Feb 18, 2014 5:45am EST

PARIS Feb 18 (Reuters) - France's industry minister said on Tuesday a Swiss vote to reintroduce immigration quotas with the European Union amounted to "collective suicide", further stoking tensions after Paris said it would review ties with Switzerland.

The criticism came a week after Swiss voters narrowly backed proposals that curtail the relatively free movement of citizens to and from the EU, a move which could unravel bilateral accords between the small Alpine country and the 28-nation bloc.

"I have plenty of respect for universal suffrage, but this is collective suicide for the Swiss," Arnaud Montebourg told France Inter radio. "Tariffs will be imposed ... on Swiss exports in retaliation, so Switzerland will impoverish itself."

The vote shows how far-right politics can reshape a country's laws, said the Socialist minister, less than two months before French local elections in which the anti-immigration National Front party is expected to make gains.

Many Swiss voters blame newcomers for rising rents, crowded transport and more crime, prompting the right-wing Swiss People's Party to introduce a draft law restricting immigration.

However, Swiss business leaders worry that the vote could hurt an economy reliant on foreign professionals by increasing red tape and undermining the bilateral accords with the EU, the country's biggest trading partner.

After the Swiss vote last week, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said France planned to review its diplomatic relationship with Switzerland, without specifying how.

The Swiss vote has also drawn sharp criticism from the European Commission in Brussels. The EU's executive arm said it would examine the implications for its relations with Switzerland, which is not a member of the bloc. (Reporting By Chine Labbe; writing by Nick Vinocur; Editing by Gareth Jones)

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