Switzerland must ratify the protocol expanding its agreement on the free movement of workers with the EU to include Croatia by February 9, 2017, Swiss President Johann Schneider-Ammann said, as quoted by the swissinfo portal on Thursday.

The ratification of the said protocol is expected to make it possible for Croatians to work in Switzerland under the same conditions as other EU citizens.

Switzerland must ratify the protocol before 9 February 2017, Schneider-Ammann said, adding that it was clear that there was no time to lose.

Under a Swiss constitutional amendment on immigration quotas, the Swiss government has three years from a referendum held on 9 February 2014 to pass laws and negotiate international agreements anew or adjust them.

The country was under the obligation to sign the protocol since Croatia joined the EU in 2013, but it refused to do it after the 2014 referendum in which the Swiss voted for introducing quotas for workers from the EU. The country eventually signed the protocol in March this year, but the protocol is yet to be ratified by the Swiss federal parliament.

The ratification of the protocol will enable Croatians to work in Switzerland under the same conditions as other EU citizens.

Due to the discrimination of Croatia, the European Commission has sided with it and threatened Switzerland with withholding aid from some EU programmes.

"We can no longer afford not playing in the Champions League and not being fully involved in the research programme Horizon 2020," Schneider-Ammann said in an interview with the Swiss daily Neue Zeurcher Zeitung, a reference to Switzerland not being part of the programme's financial plan due to its failure to ratify the protocol that expands the EU-Swiss agreement on the free movement of workers to also include Croatia.

Schneider-Amman expects delays in the process of reaching agreement with the EU on Switzerland's decision of February 2014 to restrict immigration from EU countries, which is also expected to be completed by February 9.

Even though Switzerland is not an EU member, if no agreement is reached on immigration, a number of bilateral agreements between Switzerland and the EU could be brought into question.

In the February 2014 referendum, Swiss citizens decided with 50.3% support to restrict immigration, which requires new negotiations on the agreement with the EU.

"We made things more difficult for us on 9 February 2014," Schneider-Amman said but added that the country's constitution included procedures that allowed shifting deadlines despite a referendum outcome.

"We will probably have no choice and will consider it," he said, adding that an agreement was unlikely this summer.

Switzerland and the EU have put on hold their agreement in anticipation of a referendum in Great Britain on the country's exit from the EU, to be held on June 23.

"It is in the EU's interest to normalise relations with Switzerland," the Swiss president concluded.

Latest news

Syrian opposition rules out future role for President al-Assad

The Syrian opposition said Friday it would not accept any role for President Bashar al-Assad in the future of the war-torn country, reacting to a recent US shift saying that removing al-Assad is no longer a priority for Washington.

Russian Army integrates breakaway forces of Georgian province

Parts of the small fighting forces of the Georgian breakaway province of South Ossetia have been placed under Russian military control, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Friday.

Czech Republic's Pilsner Urquell beer is now Japanese

Japanese brewing company Asahi completed its takeover of the Czech brewery Pilsner Urquell on Friday, Asahi said in a statement.

Judge approves 25-million-dollar settlement of Trump University case

A US district judge on Friday approved a 25-million-dollar settlement of lawsuits and state fraud allegations against Trump University, the US president's now-defunct business venture.

Former Thai premier Thaksin to junta on reconciliation: 'Cut me out'

Former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra on Friday announced that he is not interested in the junta-led reconciliation process, three days after the junta handed him a half-a-billion-dollar tax bill for his past business deal.

Dalic: We welcome possible deal between Agrokor and banks

The government welcomes the possibility of an agreement being concluded between the Agrokor food company and creditor banks, and the bill on vitally important companies is not a fallback plan but the result of the government's care for the overall economic and financial stability of Croatia, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economy Martina Dalic told a press conference in Zagreb on Friday.

Croatia, China sign action plan for cooperation in agriculture

The Croatian and Chinese ministries of agriculture on Friday signed an action plan for cooperation in the field of agriculture for the period 2017-2018, the Croatian ministry said in a statement.

ZSE indices up, Agrokor shares in focus of investor interest

The Zagreb Stock Exchange (ZSE) indices on Friday rose by more than 1.8%, with stocks of the Agrokor food and retail concern being in the focus of investor interest again.

Berlin police defend handling of Berlin market attacker

Berlin police defended themselves on Friday against accusations that they stopped surveillance on Berlin Christmas market attacker despite knowing in June 2016 he was dangerous.

Croatia, creditors tailor emergency measures to save tottering giant

Croatia's tottering retail and food giant Agrokor reached an agreement with its creditors, putting its debts standby and allowing it to continue working during emergency restructuring, the Croatian branch of Austria's Erste Bank said Friday.

Agrokor's creditors say standstill agreement to go into force today

A standstill agreement regarding the Agrokor concern's existing financial obligations to banks will take effect on Friday, additional capital will be injected into the concern in the coming days and the concern will be actively restructured, which includes a change of its management, it was said on Friday after a meeting between Agrokor's suppliers and creditor banks.

Palestinians, UN slam Israel's new settlement plan

Palestinians, Israeli activists and the UN lambasted the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday, a day after it gave the go-ahead for the first new West Bank settlement in a quarter of a century.

South Sudan rebels release three abducted foreign oil workers

South Sudanese rebels have released three foreign engineers they abducted in early March in the oil-rich Upper Nile region, Foreign Affairs Ministry official Mawein Makol Arik said on Friday.

Turkish opposition: Imprisoned party chief has gone on hunger strike

The head of Turkey's pro-Kurdish opposition party has launched a hunger strike from prison.

European leagues threaten Champions League schedule clashes

The European Professional Football Leagues (EPFL) on Friday threatened schedule clashes on Champions League matchdays in an ongoing dispute with the governing body UEFA.

Danish court revokes citizenship of IS volunteer

A Danish appellate court on Friday stripped a man of his Danish citizenship for volunteering to fight for the extremist Islamic State in Syria.

Banks and Agrokor agree on key elements of standstill agreement

Member banks of the coordinating committee of financial creditors and representatives of the Agrokor food company have in principle agreed on key elements of a standstill agreement, which is expected to be signed later today, announcing changes in the company's management team, Erste Bank said in a statement on Friday afternoon.

Syrian man on trial in Sweden; mosque attack labelled terrorism

A Syrian man went on trial Friday in the southern Swedish city of Malmo, charged with terrorism and arson after an attack last year on a building used as an assembly hall by Shiite Muslims.