What level of language mastery should be required to become Swiss? Members of the Swiss People’s Party (UDC/SVP) in the canton of Zug have decided the current language requirements for naturalisation in the canton are too low, so the party has put forward a motion to raise them, reported Blick.
Who gets to become Swiss is decided by the municipality where an individual lives, the canton and the federal government. Cantons set the level of language requirement.
The current language requirements in Zug and many other cantons are B1 oral and A2 written. These definitions come from the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages. There are six levels ranging from A1 (breakthrough) to C2 (mastery).
A2 is described as the waystage. Someone with this level can formulate frequently used sentences, such as those related to very basic personal and family information, shopping, local geography and employment. Someone at B1, described as the threshold level, can convey familiar matters regularly encountered in daily life, deal with most situations likely to arise while travelling in an area where the language is spoken, produce simple connected sentences on topics that are familiar or of personal interest and describe experiences and events, dreams, hopes and ambitions and briefly give reasons and explanations for opinions and plans.
Politicians in Zug pushing for higher language proficiency to gain Swiss nationality would like to see the bar raised to B2 for oral and B1 for written. B2 is a more advanced level of ability where an individual can express complex ideas and abstract topics, including technical discussions in their field of specialisation. They can interact with a degree of fluency and spontaneity that makes regular interaction with native speakers comfortable.
Those behind the push for higher language requirements argue that these higher levels are necessary for integration. However, others are not convinced. The Socialist Party in Zug described the idea as a false solution. While they acknowledge the importance of language for integration they say it is only one of a number of elements. Social and professional participation in society are also important.
In 2018, becoming Swiss became more difficult. Only those with a C-permit have since been able to apply. This has led to a noticeable fall in the number of naturalisations.
At a national level some are calling to make naturalisation easier. A popular initiative has been launched to reduce the current time requirement from 10 years to 5 years. The organisers also want to see Jus soli applied in Switzerland, a system where citizenship is automatically acquired by being born there. Jus soli, which is associated with birth tourism, is rare outside of North and South America. The most common system is Jus sanguinis, which grants citizenship at birth based on the citizenship of parents.
Perhaps higher language and integration requirements could be combined with a shorter time requirement.