Citizenship reform blocked at early stage

Unlike in the United States, Switzerland does not grant a child citizenship for being born on Swiss soil. © Keystone/Gaetan Bally

Plans to introduce the birthright citizenship in Switzerland have suffered a setback in parliament.

This content was published on December 14, 2021 minutes

The Senate clearly rejected a left-wing proposal to change from the current regulation on citizenship that is determined by the nationality of one of both parents.

Paul Rechsteiner, senator from St Gallen, argued the time was right for a reform in Switzerland, a country fond of its participatory democracy and promoter of human rights.

He said people born and grown up in this country deserved to be recognized as full members of society. He said currently more than 25% of the residents couldn’t participate in votes and elections.

Rechsteiner said the current system was outdated and unfair.


However, a majority in the Senate said the proposed reform was a fundamental rejection of Swiss tradition and would lead to abuses.

During the debate on Tuesday, Justice Minister Karin Keller-Sutter said the government could no longer regulate immigration sufficiently, if the proposal for birthright citizenship was approved.

She also dismissed criticism that the current regulations made it almost impossible for children of immigrants to apply for Swiss citizenship.

The decision by the Senate has blocked the latest reform attempt at an early stage. The House of Representatives won’t be given an opportunity to consider the proposal which would ultimately have been subject to a nationwide vote.

Parliament regularly discussed reforms of the citizenship principle over the past 40 years and the issue has also been the subject of nationwide votes.

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