A Dutch woman who was twice denied Swiss nationality by her neighbours has finally been granted citizenship by the Aargau cantonal government.
Dutch-born Nancy Holten has lived in Switzerland since she was eight, speaks fluent Swiss German, has three children with Swiss passports, has no criminal record, does not claim welfare and is politically active. However, her neighbours in Gipf-Oberfrick a rural commune of 3,500 people in canton Aargau in northern Switzerland twice rejected her application for Swiss citizenship.
Holten, a 42-year-old vegan, has repeatedly organised protests against local horseracing, Sunday roasts and various bells in the neighbourhood. She says she was accused of not being integrated in Swiss society because she wanted to abolish these traditions.
However, following Holten’s appeal the Aargau government has decided to overrule the local commune and not allow it another chance to vote on her citizenship application.
“I was rather naive,” Holten told swissinfo.ch in an interview in January. “I never thought about [the integration issue] – I just wanted to get involved in protecting animals. I didn’t realise that these things are traditions for many people. I now understand that.”
In the interview, Holten said she intended to become a politician if she gained Swiss citizenship.
Naturalisation in Switzerland takes place at the municipal level. In some municipalities, the local authorities or parliament decide; in others, it is up to voters.
Holten’s case is not a one-off. In 2014, a retired United States chemistry professor was rejected, despite living and working in Switzerland for more than 40 years and raising his children in the country.