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Undivided loyalties Parliament gives dual national Swiss ministers the thumbs up

Ignazio Cassis

Ignazio Cassis promised to drop his Italian citizenship to become Swiss Foreign Minister.


A debate on whether dual nationals should be allowed to become ministers appears to have been settled with one chamber of parliament voting down a motion to prevent double passport holders from holding government office.

The issue surfaced a year ago when Ignazio Cassis, who held both Swiss and Italian nationality, was appointed Foreign Minister. His nearest rival, Geneva minister Pierre Maudet, was also a dual national – both Swiss and French. Despite Cassis giving up his Italian passport to land the job, the debate refused to go away.

However, on Tuesday the House of Representatives voted down a parliamentary initiative to prevent dual nationals from representing Switzerland in government by 125 votes to 64. This resounding defeat looks to have settled the matter.

Supporters of the initiative had argued that dual nationals might display divided loyalties when dealing with contentious issues involving other countries. But twice as many parliamentarians dismissed the fears. It was pointed out during the debate that nearly 20% of all Swiss citizens are dual nationals.

The Organisation of the Swiss Abroadexternal link (OSA) had also waded into the debate last year, expressing annoyance that the loyalty of dual nationals was being questioned. Nearly three quarters of the 775,000 Swiss people living abroad have more than one passport.

"We think, on the contrary, that dual nationality is an enrichment, since it offers a vision and way of thinking differently on certain realities. Having two passports can be interesting, including for a cabinet member. In some cases, it could even facilitate negotiations with other countries," said OSA director Ariane Rustichelli at the time.

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