Attacks on dual nationals irk the Swiss diaspora

Cabinet candidates Pierre Maudet (left) and Ignazio Cassis have sparked a lively debate in Switzerland on the compatibility of such a position with dual citizenship. Keystone

Candidates for the Swiss cabinet and elected officials with dual nationality are in the cross-hairs of the Swiss People's Party, who question their loyalty to Switzerland. It's a debate that also affects the Swiss abroad, nearly three in four of whom hold a second passport.

This content was published on September 12, 2017

Can member of the cabinet have two passports? Ignazio Cassis and Pierre Maudet have both responded, in their way, to this question. Cassis, who is from the southern Swiss canton of Ticino and is favoured to succeed Didier Burkhalter as a cabinet minister, has declared that he "spontaneously" turned in his Italian passport the moment he became a candidate. And Maudet, who is from Geneva, he has said that he's ready to renounce his French nationality if he is elected to the position. 

Many see in these announcements a concession to the conservative right, which has always judged dual citizens with a suspicious eye.

'Enrichment' for Switzerland

The debate has also annoyed the more than 775,000 Swiss living abroad, the vast majority of whom (73.5%) have dual nationality. In certain countries, like France, Italy, Australia and Argentina, the figure exceeds 80%.

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"We regret this decision, for it implies that dual nationals are not fully Swiss," says Ariane Rustichelli, director of the Organisation of the Swiss AbroadExternal link

"We think, on the contrary, that dual nationality is an enrichment, since it offers a vision and way of thinking differently on certain realities. Having two passports can be interesting, including for a cabinet member. In some cases, it could even facilitate negotiations with other countries," Rustichelli says.

In Rustichelli's view, the controversy over dual nationality that has become entrenched in the campaign for the election of a new cabinet member reveals a backward vision of what it means to be Swiss or Swiss Abroad. "International mobility is totally ignored, whereas it is a reality and a necessity in 2017," she says.

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