Norway ruling party calls for 'Swiss' migrant vote

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Norway ruling party calls for 'Swiss' migrant vote
Progress's immigration spokesman Mazyar Keshvari outside the Norwegian parliament - Photo: Progress Party

One of Norway's two government parties has called for a Swiss-style referendum on measures to restrict immigration, in a further sign that Switzerland's shock decision will have knock-on effects elsewhere in Europe.


Mazyar Keshvari, immigration policy spokesman for the anti-immigration Progress Party, told the VG newspaper that he believed Norway should follow Switzerland's example.
"Norway should also have a referendum on immigration," he said. "I am quite sure that there is majority support for tightening immigration across Norway's political parties. The polls show that." 
On Sunday, the Swiss voted with a razor-thin 50.3 percent majority to limit immigration by drawing up immigration quotas, surprising the country's establishment. 
The decision has provoked calls for similar quotas from far-right parties elsewhere in Europe, with Germany's anti-EU party, Alternative für Deutschland (AfD), and France's National Front both calling for new Swiss-inspired immigration laws. 
Norway is the first country where a government party has backed the Swiss decision, however. 
Progress's position clashed with that of Norway's Conservative Party, which leads the ruling two-party coalition. 
Europe Minister Vidar Helgesen stressed that her party supported open labour markets.  
"We in Norway want to emphasize that the principle of free movement of people is essential for growth and prosperity in an open economy," she said after the Swiss result. 
Switzerland and Norway are both members of the European Economic Area (EEA), rather than the European Union, so any new immigration law Switzerland successfully negotiates within the EEA treaty could in theory be adopted by Norway. 
"Progress has said many times that Norway should study the EEA Agreement and use whatever room for manoeuvre there is to limit immigration," Keshvari said. 
He accused Lithuanians and Poles of being drawn to Norway by the country's free health care and generous social security benefits. 
He said the party had yet to decide on what kinds of limits to immigration it would impose. 
"We have not taken a position on quotas, either in the Progress programme or in government policy," he said. "But it [immigration policy] will tighten up as soon as negotiations with the Liberals and Christian Democrats are finished." 


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