Swiss government urges voters to reject immigration quota plan

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By Ruben Sprich BERN (Reuters) - The Swiss government urged voters on Monday to reject quotas on immigrants from European Union countries in a planned referendum, saying the plan would harm the economy and strain relations with the 28-nation bloc. Immigration is a hot-button issue in Switzerland, where the right-wing Swiss People's Party (SVP) has long blamed higher crime, rising rents and crowded transport on an influx of foreigners. The SVP initiative "against mass immigration" seeks to amend the constitution and set annual quotas on permits granted to foreigners in Switzerland, where unemployment is just over 3 percent compared to more than 12 percent in the eurozone. "Approval of this initiative would jeopardize long-established bilateral relations with the European Union," Foreign Minister Didier Burkhalter told a news conference, adding it would test Swiss treaty obligations with the EU.