The Swiss Abroad community has suffered a new setback in its efforts to receive improved access to banking services in Switzerland.
The House of Representatives on Tuesday threw out a call on the government to ease the financial woes of expatriates by publishing relevant information on the websites of the foreign ministry and Switzerland’s diplomatic representations abroad for the Swiss overseas communities.
Roland R. Büchel, speaker of the foreign policy committee, said the demand to provide data on bank expenses, interest rates and other offers was a liberal and “very moderate” attempt to solve a long-standing problem.
He noted many expatriates needed an account with a Swiss bank for their old age pensions and their health insurances or to manage property held in Switzerland.
However, Hans-Peter Portmann, a member of the centre-right Radical Party and a bank manager, criticised the motion as ludicrous and hypocritical.
He said the motion made promises that can’t be kept because they would violate legal requirements and amounted to state interference in economic freedom.
For his part, Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis came out against the motion saying it was not a task of the government to publish information on private firms. He acknowledged the difficulties of many Swiss expats but said solutions had been found without involving the state.
The House rejected the motion with 96 to 80 votes and one abstention.
The director of the Organisation of the Swiss Abroad (OSA)external link, Ariane Rustichelli, expressed her disappointment with the parliamentary decision.
She said it was not an extravagant demand as the ministry would only have to commit itself to adding an internet link on its sites.
Over the past ten years, many banks have closed accounts of Swiss expats or imposed high fees for banking services. They fear legal issues with the countries of residence of the Swiss clients and claim additional administrative work because of international regulations.
Earlier this year, the Organisation of the OSA and the Geneva Cantonal Bank reached a special deal for Swiss expats.
Tuesday’s rejection of the foreign policy committee motion is the fourth time since 2014 that parliament snubbed concerns of the Swiss expat community.
Another call obliging the state-owned PostFinance company to improve its services for the Swiss Abroad is still pending. The Senate is due to discuss it next week.