PARIS Feb 18 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