Should grandchildren of immigrants have privileged access to a Swiss passport? The political right warns against the reform, saying it is wrong and potentially dangerous to ease the citizenship procedure for so called ‘third generation foreigners’. The Swiss decide on February 12.
The Swiss People’s Party is fighting against not only the government but also all other major political parties, the cantons, cities as well as the business community.
Parliamentarian Jean-Luc Ador is concerned that Switzerland essentially might put the passport up for sale.
“It is like a club membership. If you want to join, you have to apply. I don’t know of many clubs which give away membership so easily. Switzerland would be unique,” he says.
He argues that a person must earn the Swiss passport. His party colleague Lukas Reimann is adamant that easing the process of gaining citizenship could encourage grandchildren of people who are poorly integrated in Swiss society – even jihadists – to apply for Swiss nationality.
“The third generation is considered particularly problematic,” he says, quoting experts from Germany and France, in a party newsletter.
Up to 24,600 young foreigners are eligible for facilitated citizenship now, according to a study by the University of Geneva.
They are mainly from neighbouring Italy as well as Turkey and southeastern Europe. Experts say only a fraction among them is likely to apply for a Swiss passport.
About 40% of the potential beneficiaries can already use a simplified procedure in seven of the country’s 26 cantons: Geneva, Zurich, Vaud, Bern, Neuchâtel, Fribourg and Jura.
Under current law, spouses of Swiss citizens can apply for afacilitated citizenship. All others, as a rule, have to undergo a time-consuming and somewhat expensive formal procedure, depending on their place of residence in Switzerland.
The proposal, approved by parliament in September 2016, sets a number of conditions for potential applicants of eased citizenship. They must be born in Switzerland, between nine and 25 years of age, hold a C permit and have attended at least five years of regular schooling in Switzerland.
Their parents also must have lived in Switzerland for at least ten years, including five years of Swiss schooling, and hold a valid residence permit. At least one grandparent has to be Swiss or have a residence card.
Candidates for eased citizenship procedure have to be ‘well integrated’, respect the law and values of the Swiss constitution, speak at least one of the four national languages, and be free of debt.
An estimated 24,600 foreigners currently are eligible for the eased procedure, but experts say only a fraction of them are likely to apply.