(as of december 2013)
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 PIC-N noted 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 second or third 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 parliamentary procedures. 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 its PIC’s recommendation 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 dealt with both proposals in the first and second quarters of 2012. On 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 2012 winter session, 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 is expected to bring the new provisions into force in the first quarter of 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 2013, 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. This committee 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
In recent times, whenever a former Federal Councillor has taken up a paid post after leaving office it has made the news. Both PICs felt that something needed to be done in this respect and on 31 March and 27 June 2011 respectively agreed to address two parliamentary initiatives from members of the National Council. Both initiatives call for a certain 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. The Council of States is expected to give an opinion on the proposal in the 2014 spring session.
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 to harmonise the deadlines and procedures handled very differently from canton to canton.
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 residence document granting temporary admission 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. The National Council responded to its committee’s request and stood by its decisions regarding a ten-year duration of residence and the need for applicants to master a national language orally and in writing. As regards counting the period of years that young people have lived in Switzerland double, it offers the Council of States the compromise of changing the age range during which the period of years that young people have lived in Switzerland counts as double to 5 to 15.
The remaining differences will be addressed by the PIC-S in the first quarter of 2014 and by the Council of States in the spring session.
11.446 s Pa.Iv. Act on Swiss Abroad proposal
At the beginning of 2012, both PICs addressed this 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 is expected to submit the draft proposal to its council for the 2014 spring session.
12.069 n Power to conclude international treaties. Provisional application and treaties of limited scope
During the discussions on the remedial action agreement with the United States regarding the UBS case it became clear that the respective powers of the Federal Council and the Federal Assembly in terms of the conclusion and adoption of international treaties are not sufficiently clearly defined. In the 2010 winter session, the Councils 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 basically intends to hold on to its responsibility for the provisional application of international treaties, which parliament must approve, and to renounce this responsibility only when two-thirds of the members in each of the relevant committees of both Councils reject it. The National Council unanimously rejected this proposal; in its decision, the relevant Committees of both Councils must approve a provisional application. The Council of States did not follow the recommendation to adopt this decision on 2 December 2013; however, it also rejected the Federal Council’s recommendation and wants to maintain the current law regarding the provisional application of international treaties. Both councils agree that there is undoubtedly a need to clarify the competences of the Federal Council to independently conclude treaties of limited scope.
13.030 s Foreign Nationals Act. Amendment. Integration
The legislative amendment proposed by the Federal Council should specify the principle that foreign nationals should receive support but at the same time that something is expected of them, and make clear in which areas the Confederation and the cantons are responsible for encouraging integration, by providing a coherent system to promote integration throughout Switzerland.
In the 2013 winter session, the Council of States was the first chamber to address the issue and approved it in the vote on the entire text by 24 votes to 7 with 4 abstentions. The Council of State made its most important amendment at the request of its PIC, voting by 20 votes to 12 with one abstention to maintain the existing regulations in the applicable law, according to which the cantonal authorities are also able to grant a permanent residence permit at their discretion 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 was not reasonable. The objectives pursued with the revision of the law could also be achieved with currently existing legal instruments. Ultimately, integration is primarily the responsibility of immigrants themselves, not of the state.
The PIC-N will address the proposal initially in the second quarter of 2014; it will be ready for consideration by the National Council at the summer session in May 2014 at the earliest.
Through their support for various parliamentary initiatives over the past few 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 foreigners, in particular in relation to their residential rights and acquisition of Swiss citizenship. Finally, during the 2011 spring session, a Committee motion was put forward by the PIC-N (10.3343 n) calling for the Federal Council to draw up a bill on integration in general or to revise the Foreign Nationals Act.
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), which 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 Civil Code and Military Civil 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 on 10 October, the PIC-N, as the first of the two committees to debate the issue, decided that in principle the wording of the ‘implementation initiative’ presented by the initiators of the deportation initiative should be adopted into legislation. This text, submitted subsequently, proposes a way of implementing the result of the popular vote, and is still to be discussed by parliament. In the first quarter of 2014 the committee will address suggestions made by the Federal Office of Justice regarding the exact formulation of the legislation. During the debate on deportation legislation, the committee will also address the implementation initiative (13.091 n).
13.086 s Fight against overpopulation – preserving our natural resources. Popular initiative
On 23 October 2013 the Federal Council presented its dispatch on the so-called Ecopop initiative to parliament. The two parliamentary chambers will be required to produce statements on this popular initiative by the 2015 spring session, at the request of their PICs.
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 is expected to address the bill in the 2014 spring session.
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 is expected to address the bill in the 2014 spring session.
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. By 14 votes to 0 and 9 abstentions, on 30 August 2013 the PIC-N approved 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 procedure. Considering that discrimination is prohibited in the Constitution, the PIC considers the current unequal treatment untenable.
The PIC-S will announce in the second quarter whether it will give the National Council committee the go-ahead to draw up a draft bill and possibly a draft amendment to the Constitution on this issue.