(as of march 2014)
08.432 n Parl. init. Switzerland must recognise its children
The parliamentary initiative submitted by National Councillor Ada Marra on 9 June 2008 proposed that third generation foreign nationals living in Switzerland should be able to apply for naturalisation at their own request or at the request of their parents. In general, after a preliminary examination of the initiative, both PICs recognised the need for legislation in this respect. The majority of committee members agreed that children born in Switzerland whose parents grew up in this country should no longer be seen as foreign nationals, but as part of Switzerland.
Following preparatory work by its sub-committee, the PIC-N launched a proposal on 5 November 2009 to amend the Federal Constitution and the Citizenship Act. The proposal aims to facilitate the naturalisation of third-generation foreign nationals and ensure uniform procedures across the country. The automatic granting of Swiss citizenship at birth (ius soli) is not envisaged.
On 15 April 2010, the committee acknowledged the mainly positive results of the consultation, but decided on 9 September 2010 to suspend its proposal to await the Federal Council’s draft text for the total revision of the Citizenship Act (11.022 n). When it met on 23 February 2012, the PIC decided to postpone debating its draft until deliberations on the total revision had been completed, as it would like to deal with this topic in a wider context. The committee is expected to readdress the proposal during the third or fourth quarter of 2014.
10.052 s Asylum Act: Amendment
The aim of the partial revision of the Asylum Act is to streamline proceedings.
Since it was adopted by the Federal Council on 26 May 2010, the proposal has undergone numerous changes and amendments in the course of parliamentary proceedings. As the designated first committee, the PIC-S requested the Federal Department of Justice and Police (FDJP) to submit a report by the spring of 2011 indicating how asylum procedures could be streamlined across the board and not just in certain areas. In May 2011, the committee acknowledged the FDJP’s report and decided to divide the proposal into two drafts. In Proposal 1, the committee selected suggestions for solutions that can be implemented quickly from the original Federal Council dispatch and added the new requests listed in the Federal Council’s additional dispatch submitted to parliament on 23 September 2011. In the 2011 winter session, the Council of States addressed the proposal and approved its committee’s requests. At the same time, the chamber decided to follow the recommendation of its PIC to return the original draft bill in its entirety as Proposal 2 to the Federal Council, with the instruction to propose a marked acceleration in asylum proceedings, in particular by expanding existing federal asylum centres and constructing new ones.
The PIC-N then examined both proposals in the first and second quarters of 2012. At the recommendation of its committee, the National Council adopted a series of tougher restrictions in the 2012 summer session, which include providing all asylum seekers with relief aid only, rather than social assistance. In addition, the National Council decided to follow its PIC’s recommendation to formulate a third proposal, declared as urgent, with legal provisions, stating that conscientious objection and desertion would no longer be grounds for asylum and that applications for asylum would no longer be accepted at Swiss embassies abroad. In addition, federal buildings and facilities may be used to house asylum seekers for up to three years without cantonal and communal authorisations, and asylum seekers who are unruly or have a criminal record may be accommodated in special centres. The Council of States largely approved the suggestions relating to Proposal 3 in the autumn session of 2012. During the resolution of differences procedure, parliament eventually adopted a provision allowing the federal authorities, with a view to the next revision of the Asylum Act, to conduct trials to test new, streamlined procedures in processing centres. The proposal, which was also declared urgent by the Council of States, came into force on 29 September 2012. After a referendum was requested on emergency amendments and then rejected on 9 June 2013 by 78.4%, the emergency amendments adopted under Proposal 3 will remain in force until 28 September 2015.
The most important outcome in the resolution of differences procedure regarding Proposal 1 was that the Council of States abandoned the provision whereby asylum seekers should only be provided with relief aid rather than social assistance.
In the winter session of 2012, the Councils resolved the remaining differences and passed Proposal 1 in its final vote. After no referendum was requested against this proposal, the Federal Council brought the new provisions into force with effect from 1 February 2014.
Following the rejection of Proposal 2, the Federal Council is expected to submit an additional dispatch or a new draft bill to parliament in the second half of 2014, which will also be examined initially by the PICs.
10.403 n Parl.init. New system of support for the press
For several years now the PIC-N has been addressing the question of support for the press. As such it drew up the proposal that led to a system of indirect support for the press through preferential postal rates (06.425 n Parl. init. Supporting the press through subsidies for distribution costs). As part of the total revision of the Postal Services Act (09.049 n), the committee succeeded in securing the unlimited extension of these reduced postal rates, contrary to the Federal Council’s wishes.
In the medium term, however, the PIC-N would like to arrive at a practicable alternative to reduced postal rates. Accordingly, it submitted a committee initiative calling for an efficient and sustainable model for maintaining and promoting a varied and high-quality press; at the same time, a legal basis for such a model should be set up. Following the PIC-S’s approval of the initiative, the PIC-N set up a sub-committee to examine possible models and the pertinent basic legislatorial conditions in detail. In January 2012, at the request of its sub-committee, the PIC-N decided by 15 votes to 0 with 6 abstentions on a committee motion (12.3004), which was approved by the National Council in the spring session. In the 2012 summer session, the Council of States decided to follow its PIC’s recommendation and adopted the motion in part. It instructed the Federal Council to examine support for the press and to develop a funding concept, but decided not to instruct it to draft a specific bill yet at this stage. The PIC-N is expected to decide in the third quarter of 2014, after the Federal Council’s presentation of the overview and the funding concept, how it intends to proceed with its parliamentary initiative.
Former Federal Councillors. Waiting period before taking up further employment
Whenever a former Federal Councillor has taken up a paid post after leaving office in recent years, it has attracted a good deal of attention. Both PICs felt that something needed to be done in this respect and on 31 March and 27 June 2011 respectively, they agreed to address two parliamentary initiatives from members of the National Council. Both initiatives call for a waiting period to be respected before former Federal Councillors take up paid positions in the private sector (10.511 n Parl. init. Binder. Waiting period for mandates and posts for former Federal Councillors, and 10.517 n Parl. init. Leutenegger Oberholzer. Restrictions on mandates for former Federal Councillors). On 3 May 2013 the PIC-N submitted a proposal to its council that would impose a waiting period on both former Federal Councillors and former senior managers in the federal administration before they take up certain positions in the private sector. On 18 September 2013, however, the National Council voted in favour of imposing such a waiting period on former federal councillors only. On 3 March 2014, the Council of States took the decision not to enter into debate on the proposal.
11.022 n Civil Rights Act. Total revision
The aim of the Federal Council’s proposal is to ensure that in future only successfully integrated foreign nationals are granted Swiss citizenship and that deadlines and procedures, which vary greatly from canton to canton, be harmonised.
The National Council, as the first chamber to address the issue, tightened restrictions on several important points of the draft bill at the request of its PIC. Accordingly, foreign nationals wishing to apply for citizenship should hold a permanent residence permit, be able to demonstrate that they have been resident in Switzerland for 10 years and have adequate written and spoken communication skills in one of Switzerland’s national languages as proof of their successful integration. The number of years an applicant has spent in Switzerland with a temporary residence permit should no longer count towards the duration of residence.
At the request of its PIC, the Council of States largely approved the Federal Council’s suggestions in the 2013 autumn session. A duration of residence of eight years should be sufficient and applicants must be able to communicate well in one of the national languages to get by in everyday life. As proposed by the Federal Council, the number of years that a young person lives in Switzerland between the ages of 10 and 20 should count double. Similar to the Federal Council, the Council of States also wants the number of years of residence with the status of temporary admission to be considered.
After the first resolution of differences by the National Council on 26 November 2013, there were still notable differences with the Council of States. At the request of its committee, the National Council stood by its decisions regarding a ten-year period of residence and the need for applicants to have command of a national language orally and in writing. On the question of allowing the number of years that young people have lived in Switzerland to count double, it offered the Council of States a compromise. The ages between which this system should be allowed should be lowered to between the ages of 5 and 15 (as opposed to between the ages of 10 and 20 at present).
In the spring session of 2013, the Council of States took steps towards the first resolution of differences. At the request of its committee, it decided to stand by its position on an eight-year period of residence, the counting double of the number of years a young person lives in Switzerland between the ages of 10 and 20, and the inclusion of years of residence under temporary admission status. In terms of language proficiency, it accepted the National Council’s recommendations that applicants must be able to communicate in one of the national languages, orally and in writing, to get by in everyday life, but only sees a need for basic skills, not good language skills. In the second quarter of 2014, the National Council committee will examine the remaining differences a second time. Deliberations are expected to be concluded in the summer session of 2014.
11.446 s Pa.Iv. Act on Swiss Abroad proposal
AAt the beginning of 2012, both PICs addressed a parliamentary initiative submitted by Filippo Lombardi, member of the Council of States. The PIC-S submitted an initial draft proposal for consultation on 13 May 2013. After taking account of the largely positive feedback from the consultation procedure and after making its own amendments to the draft proposal, the PIC-S submitted the draft proposal to its council on 27 January 2014, which will be tabled in the spring session of 2014.
12.069 n Power to conclude international treaties. Provisional application and treaties of limited scope
During the discussions on the administrative assistance agreement with the United States in the UBS case it emerged that the respective powers of the Federal Council and the Federal Assembly regarding the conclusion and adoption of international treaties are not sufficiently clearly defined. In the 2010 winter session, parliament submitted two motions to the Federal Council calling for a revision of the competence to conclude treaties (10.3354 Mo. FAC-S and 10.3366 Mo. EATC-N). On 4 July 2012 the Federal Council submitted its dispatch to parliament (12.069). The Federal Council wishes to retain its responsibility for the provisional application of international treaties, which parliament must approve, and to renounce this responsibility only when two-thirds of members in each of the relevant committees of each Council reject it. The National Council unanimously rejected this proposal; according to its decision, the relevant committees of both Councils must approve a provisional application. The Council of States did not follow this decision on 2 December 2013; however, it also rejected the Federal Council’s proposal and wants to maintain the current law regarding the provisional application of international treaties. Both councils agree that there is
a clear need to clarify the competences of the Federal Council to independently conclude treaties of limited scope.
The National Council conceded some ground to the Council of States in the 2014 spring session by adopting the proposal of a narrowly defeated minority in the Council of States under which the relevant committees of both Councils would obtain a right of veto over the provisional application of international treaties. Deliberations are expected to be concluded in the summer session of 2014.
13.030 s Foreign Nationals Act. Amendment. Integration
The legislative amendment proposed by the Federal Council aims to set out in greater detail the principle of integration policy whereby foreign nationals receive support, but are also expected to undertake efforts to integrate. It is also intended to clarify how tasks are allocated between the Confederation and the cantons by putting in place a coherent nationwide system to promote integration.
In the 2013 winter session, the Council of States was the first chamber to address the issue and approved it in a vote on the entire bill by 24 votes to 7 with 4 abstentions. The Council of States made its most important amendment at the request of its PIC, voting by 20 votes to 12 with one abstention to maintain the existing regulation under current legislation whereby the decision to grant a permanent residence permit remains at the discretion of the cantonal authorities even if the requirements are fulfilled. The Federal Council’s draft text envisaged that a permanent residence permit must be granted once the legally defined integration requirements are fulfilled. A minority in the Council of States rejected the proposal outright because the cost-benefit ratio of the proposed system of encouragement was unreasonable. The intended objectives of the revised law could also be achieved using existing legal instruments. Ultimately, integration is primarily the responsibility of immigrants themselves, not of the state.
The National Council addressed the proposal in the spring session of 2014. At the recommendation of its committee it decided to return the proposal to the Federal Council requesting it to present changes to the Federal Assembly setting out proposals for the implementation of the new constitutional provision on annual quantitative limits and quotas (Art 121a FC) introduced following the adoption of the popular vote against mass immigration on 9 February 2014.
Through their support for various parliamentary initiatives over the past few years (see years (see 06.485 n, 08.406 n, 08.420 n, 08.428 n), the PICs have repeatedly been made aware of the legislatorial need to improve requirements concerning the integration of foreign nationals, particularly with regard to residency rights and the acquisition of Swiss citizenship.
The National Council therefore attached a further condition to its decision to refer the proposal back to the Federal Council by requesting that these concerns expressed in these initiatives be taken into account in the new draft.
During the 2011 spring session, a committee motion was put forward by the PIC-N (10.3343 n) calling for the Federal Council to draft a specific law on integration or to revise the Foreign Nationals Act.
13.031 s Foreign Nationals Act. Amendment. Infringement of duty of care and obligation of due diligence by airlines, information systems
The proposal presented by the Federal Council is aimed at reducing the number of entries into Switzerland without proper travel documentation by introducing more effective sanctions against airlines. The draft bill would reverse the burden of proof so that in future the authorities would only have to show that the airline conveyed a passenger without proper travel documentation.
At the request of its PIC, the Council of States accepted the relevant amendment to the Foreign Nationals Act in a vote on the full bill unanimously in the spring session of 2014. The PIC-N is expected to examine the proposal in the second quarter of the year with the National Council following suit in the summer session 2014.
13.056 n SCC and MCC. Deportation of criminal foreigners
Following the adoption by the electorate on 28 November 2010 of the popular initiative in favour of deporting criminal foreigners (09.060 s), wwhich the PICs had discussed and recommended for rejection, the Federal Council was required to present to parliament draft implementing legislation. In its dispatch to parliament of 26 June 2013, the government proposed introducing a new form of deportation into the Swiss Criminal Code and Military Criminal Code, thereby taking account of the provisions in the Constitution regarding automatic deportation yet also considering existing constitutional principles and human rights guarantees.
At its meeting of 10 October, the PIC-N, as the first committee to debate the issue, decided to pave the way for the implementation of the deportation initiative by setting out in the law the aims of the 'application initiative', submitted subsequently by the initiators of the deportation initiative which is still pending in parliament. At its February meeting, the committee approved the Federal Council's modified draft law, which was adopted by the National Council on 20 March 2014 by 106 votes to 65 with 11 abstentions.
In the second quarter of 2014 the PIC-S will have to decide whether or not to follow the National Council's proposal to directly implement the application initiative in the form of a law.
13.086 s Fight against overpopulation – preserving our natural resources. Popular initiative
On 23 October 2013 the Federal Council submitted to parliament its dispatch on the 'Ecopop' initiative, which calls on the Confederation to limit the growth of Switzerland's permanent resident population to 0.2% a year and to invest at least 10% of its international development cooperation budget in measures to encourage voluntary family planning.
In the spring session 2014, the Council of States decided by 39 votes to 1 with 1 abstention, to recommend the rejection of the initiative as requested by its committee. A minority proposal to declare the initiative invalid due to a lack of cohesion of the subject matter was rejected by the council by 29 votes to 11 with 1 abstention. The initiative can now undergo preliminary examination by the National Council committee in the second quarter and be considered by the National Council in the summer session 2014.
13.088 s Consultation Procedure Act. Amendment
The Federal Council proposed amendments to the Consultation Procedure Act in response to criticisms made in parliament regarding the consultation procedure. It is proposed that in future no difference should be made between hearings and consultations, no more oral consultations should be held, the results of consultations should in each case be summarised in a publicly accessible document, and when a deadline is shortened, reasons must be given for this in writing. The Council of States approved the Federal Council's draft on 3 march 2014 after making a number of small changes.
13.103 n Federal Act on Political Rights. Amendment
The Federal Council wishes to make amendments to the Federal Act on Political Rights in preparation for the National Council elections in 2015. The National Council adopted the proposal on 19 March 2014. A number of small changes were made to the draft submitted by the Federal Council at the request of the PIC-N. By way of example, the timeframe within which a popular initiative should be timetabled for a popular vote should be extended from 10 months to 12 months. Unlike the Federal Council, the committee sees no need for a special provision on ballot observers.
13.418 / 13.419 / 13.420 / 13.421 / 13.422 n Pa.Iv. Parliamentary groups GL/ BD/ G/ S/Fiala. Equal treatment of registered partnerships and marriage in naturalisation procedure
Foreign nationals in a registered partnership should receive the same treatment as those who are married when wishing to become naturalised. On 30 August 2013, the PIC-N approved by 14 votes to 0 and 9 abstentions, five parliamentary initiatives which propose to amend the law so that persons in a registered partnership receive the same treatment as married couples in the naturalisation process. Considering that discrimination is prohibited under the Constitution, the PIC considers the current unequal treatment untenable.
The PIC-S examined the demands of the parliamentary initiatives in the first quarter of 2014. By approving the decision of the National Council committee by 5 votes to 1 with 4 abstentions, it gave the PIC-N the go-ahead to draw up the relevant legal basis. Once deliberations on the total revision of the Citizenship Act have been concluded, the committee will state in the second quarter how it plans to set about drafting a corresponding law and possibly a draft constitutional amendment.
13.443 n Pa.Iv. PIC-N. Appropriate representation of language communities in a Federal Council consisting of nine members
On 29 August 2013 the PIC-N came out in favour of drafting a committee initiative by 13 votes to 6 and three abstentions, to amend Article 175 of the Federal Constitution. The initiative would propose that the Federal Council should have nine members and that the different geographical and linguistic regions of the country should be represented in the government. On 27 January 2014 the PIC-S agreed by 6 votes to 3 and one abstention to give the PIC-N the go-ahead to draft a proposal to that effect.
14.025 n Asylum Act. Extension of urgent amendments
On 26 February 2014 the Federal Council submitted a draft bill to parliament intended to extend the urgent amendments to the Asylum Act of 29 September 2012 (see 10.052 s Asylum Act. Amendment) by four years to 28 September 2019. The PIC of the National Council will study the proposal on 16 May 2014.