This week’s incredible Davis Cup victory, Switzerland’s first, was proudly wowed by Swiss both at home and abroad, including those who vehemently oppose migrants coming to this country, whether through last February’s anti-European Union vote and this month’s 30 November referendum. At least two of this month’s federal and cantonal initiatives are particularly xenophobic. The first, Ecopop, proposes to insert two articles into the Swiss Constitution. Firstly the reduction of net population growth due to immigration, to be limited to a maximum of 0.2% of the total population per year and secondly, for at least 10% of Swiss federal development aid to be invested in programmes to encourage voluntary family planning.
The other initiative seeks to eliminate special tax arrangements for wealthy foreigners, a move that could well scare off many of them, plus deny lucrative income from taxes and in the form of jobs and services. So, looking at Switzerland’s sports’ achievements, who among those representing this country, whether in football, ice hockey or basketball, is really Swiss? And would Switzerland have come this far without its historical intake of migrants and refugees?
One only need look at the player line-ups in most of its competitive sports. World tennis victor, Roger Federer was born in Basel of Swiss-South African parents, while fellow Davis Cup team-mate, Sam Wawrinka, is of Swiss-Czech origin, and holds German and Swiss nationalities. Former female tennis champion, Martina Hingis, is Swiss but was born in Slovakia.
Many of Switzerland’s leading football clubs, but, above all, its national team, known as the “Nati” and which did not do too badly in the last World Cup, are heavily represented by Swiss of foreign or mixed-race background, such as Albanian, Kosovar, Congolese or Italian. Nati captain,Gökhan İnler, is Swiss-born but of Turkish parents, while headcoach, Vladimir Petković is Bosnian. The same goes for this country’s varied hockey and basket ball teams, which rely on American, Canadian and other foreigners to play for, or to train their teams.
Of course, many of these players consider themselves Swiss. And so they should. But their representation of Swiss society only ridicules those nationalists who insist that foreigners should be kept out. It also underlines why immigration, including refugees seeking new lives, is actually good for this country. And the need will rise as Europe’s aging societies seek new blood in order to remain economically productive and competitive. Furthermore, much of Switzerland’s current cultural and university research talent relies on foreign input. So maybe those who think “from the hip” when it comes to blaming outsiders for everything, should inform themselves a bit better.
There is good news, however, for Switzerland’s “International Geneva.” Both Swiss and foreigners are pushing this exceptional global asset as a means for harnessing the highly cosmopolitan and dynamic expertise that has made this country its hub for activities ranging from humanitarian and academia to business, telecommunications and environmental protection and stewardship. Such resources are not restricted to the Lake Geneva region, but include other parts such as Basel, Zurich and Neuchatel. United Nations’ Secretary General, Ban-Ki Moon has just re-appointed Michael Moller, the Danish interim head of the UN in Geneva and one of the most ardent supporters of “International Geneva” for another year. The move already has been welcomed by Switzerland’s business and “global issues” communities.
Edward Girardet, Managing Editor, Le News. firstname.lastname@example.org