In Basel, an SVP initiative to toughen naturalisation requirements was rejected, even though foreigners will now have to prove to the authorities that they have an adequate command of German.
In Lucerne, meanwhile, an overwhelming majority of voters rejected an initiative to grant foreigners the right to vote in local elections. The initiative, launched by the second-generation immigrants' organization Secondos Plus, resulted in 83,773 ‘no’ and 16,006 ‘yes’ votes. 39.3 percent of registered voters participated in the referendum.
The Lucerne parliament, which is dominated by conservative parties, had rejected the initiative and recommended citizens to vote against it.
Foreigners have the right to vote in local elections in eight different cantons: three in the German-speaking part of Switzerland and five on the French-speaking side. In cantons Neuchâtel and Jura, they even have the right to vote in cantonal elections.
In the Basel City cantonal referendum, an initiative proposed by the far-right Swiss People’s Party (SVP) to tighten language requirements for naturalisation was rejected by 24,978 votes to 17,653. 43 percent of the electorate turned out to vote.
The SVP wanted foreigners seeking naturalisation to take a written test to prove a high level of German equivalent to the international standard B2.
Voters instead approved the cantonal government's counter-proposal, which will require foreigners seeking a Swiss passport to pass a language exam at the less difficult B1/A2 level.
People who have been resident in Switzerland for 12 years may apply for naturalisation.
The Federal Migration Office examines whether applicants are integrated into the Swiss way of life, are familiar with Swiss customs and traditions, comply with the Swiss rule of law, and do not endanger Switzerland's internal or external security.
This examination is based on cantonal and municipal reports, before naturalisation proceeds in three stages.
Full Swiss citizenship is only acquired by those applicants who, after obtaining the federal naturalisation permit, have also been naturalised by their municipalities and cantons.