Swiss expat community makes fresh attempt to tackle political evergreens

The delegates almost unanimously approved a resolution calling on the Swiss government to break the impasse in relations with the EU. © Auslandschweizer-Organisation / Adrian Moser

The Swiss Abroad community has urged the government to ensure existing rights for Swiss citizens living in European Union countries, notably the freedom to settle and work in the 27-nation bloc.

This content was published on August 19, 2022 minutes

The delegates of the Council of the Swiss Abroad almost unanimously adopted a resolution at a meeting in the city of Lugano on Friday.

“The free movement accord has to be maintained at all costs to guarantee European rights for the currently 449,571 Swiss citizens living in the EU and for future expats,” it states.

About 57% of the registered Swiss expats live in EU countries. Switzerland and Brussels agreed a series of bilateral accords over the past two decades, but Swiss membership in the EU is no longer on the political agenda in the medium term.

Filippo Lombardi, president of the Organisation of the Swiss AbroadExternal link (OSA) admitted that the adopted new resolution is “not revolutionary”, but similar to a demand made a year ago, when the Swiss government walked away from the negotiating table with Brussels.

The government argued that there was no consensus in Switzerland for a framework deal about future relations with the country’s main trading partner.

A panel discussion with representatives from the main six political parties and a former senior Swiss ambassador, Alexis Lautenberg, tried to show possible solutions to break the impasse with the EU.

The Swiss government, which has been facing criticism over its policy, is due to present its strategy for future relations with the EU - Switzerland’s main trading partner - in the next few weeks.

Closer contact and National Day

The council also heard Johannes Matyassy, senior official in the Swiss foreign ministry, outlining an additional communication platform to strengthen ties with the expatriate community.

Johannes Matyassy is deputy secretary of state in the Swiss foreign ministry. © Auslandschweizer-Organisation/Adrian Moser

Matyassy mentioned plans to launch a programme for Swiss golden agers living abroad.

He called on Swiss expats to register with authorities to help the OSA give an accurate figure of the total number of Swiss citizens living around the globe. They currently number 788,000 but there are estimated additional 100,000 expats who are not included in the official count.

The delegates of the council also held lively discussions about the importance of Swiss National celebrations for expat communities amid calls for financial support from the foreign ministry.

They also voiced concerns about health insurance issues and called for ways to boost active participation in Switzerland system of political participation. This includes moves to push for e-voting and improving the postal delivery of voting material to expats notably in countries outside Europe.

“Even after 20 years of political efforts political participation is a key issue for the Swiss Abroad,” said OSA President Lombardi.

Swiss Abroad Council

The council currently has 129 members, including delegates of the Swiss Abroad communities around the world and representatives of political parties and institutions in Switzerland.

The council meets twice a year as a rule.

In Lugano, nearly 90 members took part in the one-day meeting ahead of the annual Congress of the Swiss Abroad.

The Organisation of the Swiss Abroad (OSA) represents the interests of the about 788,000 expats. Some 210,000 among them are registered voters.

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Kai Reusser /

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