Thursday, August 19, 2004

POLITICS: Swiss Abroad Meet at Annual Congress

The Swiss president, Joseph Deiss, has called on the country’s expatriate population to help Switzerland become more open and receptive to change. Friday marks the opening of the annual Organisation of the Swiss Abroad (OSA) congress, to be held in Winterthur from Aug. 20th to 22nd.

President Deiss said that the Swiss abroad - of which there are now over 600,000 – were good role models for those who were sceptical about the impact of globalisation on the country.

“You demonstrate to us at home that we have no grounds to fear losing our identity in a more globalised world,” said Deiss.

The number of Swiss living abroad has been growing steadily over the last few decades. There were more than 612,000 Swiss citizens living abroad at the end of last year - an increase of 2.3 per cent on 2002, according to the foreign ministry.

The biggest communities of expatriates are based in France (163,000) and Germany (70,000), as well as in the United States (71,000). Just over 70 per cent of the registered Swiss citizens living abroad have dual nationality.

OSA has been trying to encourage more of those living abroad to vote as a way of increasing their political influence. Nearly 90,000 expatriates were registered to vote last year. They first received the right to vote in 1992. “We are moving closer to our goal of 100,000 registered voters,” said Georg Stucky, the organisation’s president.

This is particularly important for the OSA as it is the number needed to launch a people’s initiative. Politicians have also been weighing up ways in which expatriates could be given increased power, such as being given their own “virtual” canton and parliamentary representatives.

Copyright: Swissinfo, Urs Geiser


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