Why did you become a dual citizen?

naturalization - Dual citizens: From a controversial political issue to the norm

In 1992 Ivona Domazet was born in Brunnen, in the canton of Schwyz. She is the daughter of Croatian guest workers. Her parents came to Switzerland as seasonal workers and worked in the hotel industry in the Schwyz tourist resort on Lake Lucerne. Ivona always felt like a “normal” girl from Central Switzerland: “The fact that I had a Croatian - and no other - passport didn't matter in my childhood. I've always felt Swiss. "

Also in 1992 Switzerland got a new civil rights law: One of the changes was the recognition of dual citizenship. Foreign women were allowed to keep their previous passport after naturalization. This easing was preceded by a political U-turn, which in retrospect is surprising.

In September 1989, parliament refused to overturn the ban on dual citizenship. But just six months later, in March 1990, the National Council and Council of States came back and deleted the article of the law. "Nobody is forbidden to become smarter," commented the CVP politician Beda Humbel laconically in the National Council at the time.

European development is forcing Switzerland to open up

He justified this “becoming smarter” with the developments in the past six months: the wall had fallen and Europe was in upheaval. The EC (now the EU) planned to move closer together politically and economically.

Against this background, the business associations had put pressure on the Federal Council. They feared disadvantages with regard to a common European economic area if Switzerland continued to prohibit dual citizenship. In addition, the number of naturalizations declined. The Swiss passport seemed to be losing its attractiveness, which the Federal Council did not like either.

The ban on dual citizenship fell without a referendum having been called. As a result, the number of naturalizations rose rapidly. They doubled to more than 10,000 within a year and continued to rise in the following years - until today. In recent years, more than 40,000 people have been naturalized in Switzerland.

Switzerland was one of the pioneers in Europe when it came to recognizing dual citizenship. Germany, for example, has only tolerated dual citizenship after naturalization since 1999 and in principle only for citizens of other EU countries or Switzerland. Austria still excludes dual citizenship - apart from special cases - to this day. Anyone who wants to become a Liechtenstein citizen must also hand in their old passport.

The long way to dual citizenship

Ivona Domazet was just of legal age when she was naturalized in 2010 and thus became a Croatian-Swiss citizen. The impetus for naturalization came from Ivona's parents. They wanted Ivona and her older sister to have an easier time in Switzerland than they experienced. As seasonal workers, they had experienced a lot of rejection, exclusion and discrimination in Switzerland.

She got the Swiss passport after a two-year hurdle run. “I thought: why are they taking so long to clarify whether I deserve the Swiss passport, even though I was born here? You almost feel a little criminal, ”remembers Domazet.

I thought: why are they taking so long to clarify whether I deserve the Swiss passport, even though I was born here? It almost makes you feel a little criminal.
Author: Ivona Domazet

The most “absurd” she found was the naturalization test in the community of Brunnen. There she was asked, among many others, whether she throws the household rubbish out of the window onto the street, burns it in the forest or gives it to the garbage disposal in fee bags. "Just being asked this question shows what the authorities think of you."

Facilitated naturalization for the second generation failed

Not much was missing, and Domazet could have benefited from a simplified naturalization procedure. The easier naturalization for foreigners of the second generation had come to the vote 16 years earlier. Despite more people, however, it had failed because of the number of estates.

In the meantime, Switzerland at least allows third-generation foreigners to enjoy easier naturalization. You, whose parents were born here, only need the green light from the federal government and then do not have to go through a procedure at the community level.

Dual citizenship is still controversial today….

Dual citizenship status has also remained unrestricted since 1990, even if there have been repeated attempts to shake it - mostly on the part of the SVP, which has more than doubled its share of the vote since 1990. But neither the general ban on dual citizenship had a chance in parliament, nor the restriction of their civil rights - such as the exclusion from political office at the federal level.

Recently, dual citizenship abroad has increasingly come into focus. Among the Swiss abroad, 75 percent have one or more other passports in addition to the Swiss passport. In 2019, an expert report suggested that the Swiss abroad should lose their political rights after a few years abroad.

Another suggestion from politics, which has not yet found a majority, is that Swiss people whose ancestors have lived abroad for several generations can no longer pass on Swiss citizenship to their children.

... but meanwhile a piece of Swiss normality

In Switzerland, in any case, dual citizenship seems to be part of normality. An indication of this is the fact that it is difficult to get exact numbers about them. The parliamentary services do not know how many in the National Council and Council of States have two or more passports. The Federal Statistical Office cannot provide any reliable information about the total number of people in Switzerland who have another passport besides the red one. The relevant information is missing from all persons under the age of 15, without them there are around a million.

A million dual citizen life stories, a million dual citizen life feelings. Ivona Domazet, for example, always travels with a Swiss passport and sometimes she thinks that Croatia is not part of me at all. «And then I travel to Croatia, breathe in the air and somehow feel at home. Something is there emotionally. " Ivona Domazet is Swiss. But she's Croatian too.

Radio SRF 3, November 16 - November 20, 2020; csb

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