February 12, 2017
GENEVA (AP) — Swiss voters are considering two issues that will affect immigrants and foreign companies in Switzerland, deciding whether to make it easier for “third-generation foreigners” to get Swiss citizenship and whether to lock in competitive low tax rates for businesses.
The “simplified naturalization of third-generation immigrants” measure is expected to pass in Sunday’s referendum. It would simplify applications for anyone under 25 whose parents and grandparents have lived in Switzerland for years.
Polls have suggested a tight race over the complex tax reform initiative, which aims to get Switzerland in line with international standards by scrapping a two-track tax system that offers lower rates to foreign firms to lure investment.
Sunday’s referendum is the latest installment of Switzerland’s direct democracy that gives voters a frequent say on political decisions. A third issue on the national ballot involves infrastructure spending.
Voters in the eastern Graubuenden canton, or region, are also deciding whether to bid to host the 2026 Winter Olympics. Four years ago, the region rejected a similar referendum about the 2022 Winter Games, which were eventually awarded to Beijing.
Those hoping to benefit from a new, easier way to Swiss citizenship include high school student Selena Mercado. The 17-year-old was born in Switzerland, has gone to school in Switzerland, considers herself Swiss and dreams of a political career in the country one day.
But her passport is from Chile, a country that she’s never set foot in but was home to her grandparents before they moved to this small Alpine nation decades ago. Being born in Switzerland doesn’t mean automatically mean becoming Swiss, a situation echoed in a few other European nations.
Swiss voters are considering giving “third-generation foreigners” like Mercado the same fast-track, simplified access to Swiss citizenship that foreign spouses of Swiss nationals often enjoy. “I want to give back to Switzerland,'” said Mercado, who lives in Vallorbe on the French border.