Swiss voters are going to the polls to decide whether Switzerland’s strict rules on citizenship should be relaxed.
Being born in Switzerland does not guarantee citizenship and non-Swiss residents must typically wait 12 years before applying.
Tests and government interviews are also required, which can be expensive.
The new proposal will allow third-generation immigrants to avoid some of that bureaucracy.
The referendum results will directly affect those born in Switzerland, whose parents and grandparents also lived in the country permanently.
Image source YouTube
Supporters of the plan to simplify the process argue that it is ridiculous to ask people who were born and have lived all their lives in Switzerland to prove that they are integrated.
However, opponents suggest that the measures could lead to further steps that will eventually allow all non-Swiss residents – 25% of the population – to gain easy citizenship.
An opposition poster, which features a woman in a burka, suggests that the new proposal could lead to a so-called “Islamization” of Switzerland.
The current vetting procedure, aimed at ensuring that new citizens are well integrated, includes interviews carried out by town councils. Questions put to interviewees can include requests to name local cheeses or mountains.
Those in favor of maintaining the current system also argue that the strict vetting rules make it superior to the more anonymous systems in neighboring France and Germany.
Over the past 30 years, three previous attempts to relax the rules have been defeated. This time, opinion polls suggest the vote on February 12 will be close. Big cities back the idea, while more conservative rural areas oppose it.
A new referendum in Switzerland has approved a law on new surveillance powers for the intelligence agencies.
The law would allow the authorities to tap phones, snoop on email and deploy hidden cameras and bugs.
According to supporters, the new law would help Switzerland catch up with other countries.
Opponents have feared it could erode civil liberties and put Swiss neutrality at risk by requiring closer co-operation with foreign intelligence agencies.
Some 65.5% of voters agreed to accept the proposal. The new law will allow the Federal Intelligence Service and other agencies to put suspects under electronic surveillance if authorized by a court, the defense ministry and the cabinet.
The Swiss government says the powers would be used about once a month to monitor the highest-risk suspects.
The new law was not comparable to the spying capabilities of the US or other major powers, which “go well beyond what is desired in terms of individual liberty and security for our citizens”, Defense Minister Guy Parmelin said earlier this year.
According to a government website, Swiss law currently prevents authorities from relying on anything more than publicly available information or tips from foreign officials when monitoring domestic threats.
The new surveillance law was passed last year but has not yet been enacted after opponents collected enough signatures to force a referendum under Switzerland’s system of direct democracy.
On September 25, Swiss voters also rejected a proposal to boost state pensions by 10% – an initiative supported by the left but considered too costly by opponents. Voters also rejected another initiative to reduce Switzerland’s ecological footprint.
The Swiss voters have decisively rejected the Ecopop proposal to cut net immigration to no more than 0.2% of the population.
Switzerland’s 26 cantons rejected the proposal, with about 74% of people voting No in Sunday’s referendum.
Supporters of the measure argued that it would have reduced pressure on Switzerland’s resources. Opponents said it would have been bad for the economy.
Around a quarter of Switzerland’s eight million people are foreigners.
The measure would have required the government to reduce immigration from about 80,000 to 16,000 people a year.
Under Switzerland’s system of direct democracy, citizens can force a referendum if they muster enough signatures of support.
Switzerland voted in February to re-introduce immigration quotas, in effect opting out of an EU free movement agreement.
The government still has to implement that referendum result, which threw relations with the EU into turmoil.
Two other referendums were also being held on November: one on forcing the central bank to boost its gold reserves and one on scrapping a tax perk for wealthy foreigners.
They, too, failed to garner enough support for the measures to pass into law.
The immigration proposal was dubbed the Ecopop measure, after Switzerland’s 40-year-old Ecopop movement which seeks to link environmental protection with controlling population growth.
Switzerland’s population has grown by over a million in 20 years, and is currently 8.2 million. Some 23% of its inhabitants are foreign nationals, most of them from EU states.
Last year, net immigration stood at 81,000, according to public broadcaster Swiss Info.
Supporters of the measure said restricting immigration would safeguard Switzerland’s environment by reducing the need for new transport links and new housing.
The proposal also included a measure to limit overpopulation abroad by devoting 10% of Switzerland’s overseas aid to family planning in developing countries.
Opponents, among them all the major political parties, argued that the proposals would be bad for the economy because business leaders wanted to be able to recruit skilled labor from across Europe.
They also feared that if passed, the measure could put the country in breach of its international commitments and damage its image.
Switzerland’s population is about 8.18 million – of whom 1.96 million are not Swiss nationals, according to the Swiss Federal Statistical Office (FSO). EU citizens make up the vast majority of immigrants.
The largest group of foreign nationals living in Switzerland is Italians; immigration from Italy started more than one hundred years ago, but difficulties getting Swiss nationality meant many families remained Italian.
The second largest group comes from Germany, and the third largest comes from the former Yugoslavia.
Swiss people are voting in a referendum on measures aimed at severely restricting immigration.
The ballot marks the second time this year that the non-EU country has held a referendum on immigration.
Last February voters narrowly backed the reintroduction of quotas, effectively opting out of a free movement agreement with Brussels.
The new proposal, known as Ecopop, goes much further, limiting net immigration to just 0.2% of the overall population.
Switzerland’s population is just 8.2 million – but that is still more than a million more than it was 20 years ago.
While unemployment is low and living standards are high, many Swiss worry about overcrowding and environmental degradation.
Supporters of the Ecopop initiative say restricting immigration will safeguard Switzerland’s environment by reducing the need for new transport links and new housing.
Ecopop also aims to limit overpopulation abroad, by devoting 10% of Switzerland’s overseas aid to family planning in developing countries.
Opponents, among them all the major political parties, say the proposals will be bad for the economy – 25% of the Swiss workforce is foreign, and business leaders want to be able to recruit skilled labor from across Europe.
Meanwhile, many environmental groups argue that if the Swiss really want to protect their environment, they should start by adjusting their own lifestyles.
Opinion polls show a close vote, with latest indications suggesting that while many Swiss are worried about immigration, the Ecopop measures may be a step too far.
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