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Free movement of persons – a relevant topic

Watch Prof. Christa Tobler introduce the economic element of migration in the EU – a topic that has lead to important votes in Switzerland.
Welcome to the fourth week of our course! Last week, we took a look at the international and European rules on the migration of people in need of international protection. This week, we turn to the issue of economic migration in the legal framework of the so-called ‘free movement of persons’ as relevant in the European Union, in the European Economic Area, and in the relationship between Switzerland, the EU, and the EFTA states. We have heard before that international migration law distinguishes between different categories of persons, depending on the reasons for which they migrate. Apart from the need for international protection in the classic sense, these reasons may include, for example, economic need or fleeing from the consequences of climate change.
We also stated that some people do not migrate out of need, but rather out of choice, such as pensioners who have decided to move to another country because of its favourable climate, or workers who have found particularly interesting work in another country. In the present week of our course, we will see that, on the regional European level, there are rules that make the movement of people with an EU nationality and of certain of their family members comparatively easy. And what is more, this concerns not only economic migrants, but to some extent, also other categories of persons wishing to migrate, for example students and pensioners.
Switzerland, to some extent, has joined this system through the Swiss-EU Agreement on the free movement of persons and through the EFTA Convention. So, what are we going to do in this course week? We will first reflect on the interests at stake in economic migration, on the basic idea of free movement, and on the criticism that is sometimes levelled at it. We will then take a closer look at the legal meaning of free movement in the European Union’s internal market and its (full or partial) extension to non-Member States, such as Switzerland. You will remember that, in a previous course week, we mentioned the popular vote of the 9th of February 2014 on curbing migration.
We stated that this vote aimed at all sorts of migration, including even asylum seekers, but also economic migration and here as well the migration that is at present regulated by economic treaties. In fact, we will see that this vote has created serious tensions with regards to a number of international treaties to which Switzerland is a party, most notably, the Swiss-EU Agreement on the free movement of persons and the EFTA Convention. We will also see how, after the vote, the Swiss Federal Government has attempted to find ideally together with the EU a solution to the legal problem created by this vote.
This has proved a very difficult issue, not least because the Swiss vote provoked an echo in other parts of Europe, in particular among nationalist parties in certain EU Member States, including notably the UK. Again, we will find that Switzerland is definitely not an island. We look forward to working with you in this course week!

The legal concept of the ‘free movement of persons’ is at the heart of the European Union’s internal market law.

Within the European Union (EU), the rules on the free movement of persons make the movement of people with an EU nationality and of certain of their family members comparatively easy. These rules also apply in the European Economic Area. Further, to some extent they have been extended to Switzerland through the Swiss-EU Agreement on the free movement of persons.

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Switzerland in Europe: Money, Migration and Other Difficult Matters

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