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Lost in translation Translation error found in Ecopop initiative text

The chancellery admitted that it had made a mistake when translating the text of the Ecopop initiative

The chancellery admitted that it had made a mistake when translating the text of the Ecopop initiative

(Keystone)

A major statistical error has been discovered in the French version of the so-called Ecopop immigration initiative text translated by the Federal Chancellery. It means that French and German-speaking voters will decide on two slightly different texts on November 30.

On that day the Swiss people will vote on an initiative entitled “Stop overpopulation – safeguard our natural environment”, submitted by environmentalist group Ecopop.

The French version of the text, which was published in April 2011, is misleading because its wording suggests that in the future the annual net inflow of immigrants to Switzerland should total 35 people, instead of about 17,000 people, as calculated in the original German version, the Federal Chancellery confirmed on Sunday.

The French translation states that the “proportion of the increase of permanent Swiss residents attributable to immigration should not exceed 0.2% annually as a three-year average”.

While in the German original this figure refers to the overall number of permanent Swiss residents attributable to immigration and not a share of annual population growth.

The chancellery said the free decision-making process has not been compromised by the mistake because it is clear from the context that that the 0.2% referred to the Swiss population and not to the annual population growth.

The chancellery said it is not able to correct the translation of the initiative but that it considers adding a note to the French vote documents, specifying that the quota referred to the population, which currently is about eight million.

The text of all federal initiatives are distributed in three languages by the chancellery and also serve as the basis for the discussions in parliament.

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