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ZURICH (Reuters) - Switzerland s business elite published an appeal in a Swiss newspaper on Sunday to save the country s accords with the European Union from unravelling due to a vote earlier this year to curb immigration from the bloc.

The Swiss government said in June it would introduce quotas for EU citizens from 2017 after voters in February narrowly backed proposals to curtail immigration. The move could violate a free movement of citizens pact and threaten Switzerland s other agreements with the 28-member union.

Switzerland will also vote on an even more radical initiative on Nov. 30, which proposes capping immigration at just 0.2 percent of the resident population or the equivalent of 16,000 people per year.

More than 100 members of Switzerland s business, economic and political elite signed the appeal, including Swiss Re Chairman Walter Kielholz, Lonza Chairman Rolf Soiron, Nestle Vice-Chairman Andreas Koopmann and former Swiss National Bank Chairman Jean-Pierre Roth, the Schweiz am Sonntag newspaper said.

The document, published on the newspaper s website without a full list of signatories, warned against Switzerland s self-isolation .

(We) ask all citizens, particularly the young, to take part in a realistic dialogue on Europe based on facts, with the aim of giving Switzerland a coherent, long-term policy in this area that will allow the country to represent its interests in a European context with success, the announcement said.

Separately on Sunday, the vice-president of the right wing Swiss People s Party that spearheaded February s referendum, told the Sonntagszeitung it would be open to a discussion on alternatives to immigration quotas.

If a reduction in immigration can be achieved through a better system than quotas, we wouldn t close our minds to the discussion, Christoph Blocher was quoted as saying by the paper.

The limits on immigration are widely opposed by Swiss businesses as they rely heavily on foreign labour in all areas of the economy.

(Reporting by Alice Baghdjian; Editing by Stephen Powell)


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