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Voice of Swiss abroad Swiss expat parliamentarian resigns

A picture of Tim Guldimann speaking at a conference in the spring session in the Swiss parliament. 

When Guldimann was resoundingly elected into office in 2015, he staunchly defended his decision to stay in Berlin with his family. 

(Keystone)

Tim Guldimann, a member of the Social Democratic Party is giving up his seat in the House of Representatives in March. The former diplomat was the first politician elected to the Swiss parliament whilst living as a Swiss abroad.

His party said that Guldimann who previously served as a Swiss ambassador to Germany, would step down at the end of the three-week spring session of parliament.

Guldimann cites personal reasons for his decision to quit his post after two-and-a-half years in office. Fabian Molina, former party leader of the Young Socialists, will be his successor.

Guldimann was elected into office in 2015, and staunchly defended his decision to stay in Berlin where he lives with his wife and two daughters. As an expat himself, he had “hoped to give voice to Swiss abroad”, whose interests, he felt, were underrepresented in Swiss politics of the day.

He often referred to himself as an “International Councillor”, as opposed to a “National Councillor” (the usual term for a member of the Swiss House of Representatives) during his time in parliament.

Guldimann has also been a member of the Swiss Abroad Council, an assembly of the Organisation of the Swiss Abroadexternal link (OSA).

Bridging gap

In a statement to the members of his party, the former diplomat wrote that “it is difficult to live in one environment, but politicise in another”. In order to bridge the gap between Berlin and Switzerland, he would have had to spend a lot more time in his home canton of Zurich – which his duties to his family would not allow him to do.

In an interview with Tages-Anzeiger, Guldiman said that Switzerland still had a long way to go when it came to creating equality between the sexes. “Even the smallest step in the right direction is blocked immediately”, he said. He also criticised Switzerland for its attitude towards the European Union.

“It’s only ever a matter of arranging ourselves with them so we don’t have to join the EU” he said.

Swiss Abroad reaction

In a statement to swissinfo.ch, the spokesperson of the OSA, Ariana Rustichelli, said that Guldimann had been “a of symbol of the Fifth Switzerland”. “Thanks to our first Swiss-abroad national councillor, there were more discussions about the day-to-day problems and interests of the Swiss abroad in parliament”, Rustichelli said. 

Guldimann had contributed valuable insights to topics such as e-voting, consulate networks and EU-Swiss relations. For the OSA, Guldimann’s resignation is "a pity, but not a catastrophe”. According to Rustichelli, there are many other politicians who also care about the Swiss abroad community. The right structures are in place in Bern to support their network, she said.  

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