As I noted on Monday, the standard line on the Swiss February 9 vote against unrestricted immigration–that it is the result of a growing xenophobia and nationalism, stoked by a fear-mongering, far-right People’s Party–is overly simplistic.
One detail that the American media have missed is that one of the unexpected supporters of the anti-immigration bill was the Green Party of Ticino in Switzerland’s only entirely Italian-speaking canton. While the national Green Party opposed the referendum, Ticino’s chapter sponsored a resolution in 2010 requesting the authority to fight the “harmful” effects of what it called “economic colonization.” Ticino borders Italy and is host to many Italian businesses and 60,000 Italian citizens, which make up nearly a third of the population. Switzerland as a whole has one of the highest percentages of foreign national residents in Europe.
That resolution was resubmitted to the federal government yesterday in light of the February 9 vote. While some members of the cantonal parliament viewed the request as moot, others, such as Sergio Savoia, were hopeful that request would be approved, opening the door for Ticino to tailor federal immigration policy as it sees fit.
The Green Party across Europe is strongly in favor of more open immigration policies, but, as in Ticino, some local chapters and individual members are concerned about the effects of overpopulation on the environment. In England last year, Green party members lamented a strongly worded statement by their Party’s leader against immigration caps. And the Green Party in Scotland has come out in support Scottish Independence in part because decentralization would allow them to better manage natural resources.
Again, viewing the Swiss vote as a vote motivated by xenophobia misses the fact that it was also motivated by strong anti-multinational sentiment as well.