When Ignazio Cassis gave up his Italian nationality ahead of his recent election to the Federal Council some celebrated.
According to 20 Minutes, Lorenzo Quadri, from the Lega dei Ticinesi, a political party in the Italian-speaking canton of Ticino, put forward a motion to have this made law. He thinks Federal Councillors, parliamentarians and diplomats should hold only Swiss nationality. Some members of the Swiss People’s Party (UDC/SVP) agree.
The Federal Council however disagrees. After considering the matter it said on Thursday that it thinks such a law could potentially violate the right to vote, something intertwined with the right to be elected. It also points out that some foreign states grant citizenship automatically and don’t have a process for renouncing it.
Legal clarity on dual nationality is relatively recent in Switzerland. From 1985, children born with at least one Swiss parent were automatically Swiss. Children like this that already held another passport were automatically dual nationals. At the same time the law said those who acquired Swiss nationality through naturalization must give up their foreign nationality if it could be reasonably expected.
There were two problems with this. Firstly, it was contradictory. Dual nationality was possible for some but not for others. Secondly, some thought too few young people eligible for naturalisation were applying. Most of these young people, who were being forced to choose between the nationality of their parents and Swiss nationality, were opting to stick with their parents’. So in 1990 the law was changed to allow those naturalizing to keep any other citizenship they had.
Talk this year around dual nationality and elected officials has not been confined to Switzerland. Australian politics has been shaken by the subject. Australia’s constitution effectively bans dual nationals from the federal parliament. This year numerous elected representatives were found to be dual nationals. Some said they were unaware and hadn’t taken the active steps required to renounce their foreign nationality. One’s mother had naturalized him without his knowledge. 25 people have been caught up in the scandal. Some have quit, others are in court while the rest remain under suspicion.
According to The Australian, Barrister David Bennet QC, who is defending some of the federal parliamentarians caught up in the scandal, said that if all those eligible for foreign citizenship by descent were included “a very high proportion of the Australian population, possibly of the order of 50 per cent” would be excluded from the nation’s federal parliament.