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Newly elected member of the Swiss government renounces Italian citizenship even though the law does not demand it

The Swiss parliament has elected Ignazio Cassis, a member of the Italian-speaking minority, to the seven-member Swiss cabinet on Wednesday. He will replace Didier Burkhalter on the multi-party government.

Before the election, Cassis had been in the cross-hairs of the Swiss People's Party, who questioned his loyalty to Switzerland because he held dual nationality. Born to Italian parents in Switzerland in 1961, Cassis held both an Italian and a Swiss passport. 

During the campaign, Cassis announced he would give up his dual nationality if elected to the cabinet although he's under no legal obligation to do so. He insisted that it was a personal and “spontaneous” decision not influenced by any political pressure. Nevertheless, the decision was widely criticised.

The debate has also annoyed the more than 775,000 Swiss living abroad, the vast majority of whom (73.5%) have dual nationality. “We regret this decision, for it implies that dual nationals are not fully Swiss," said Ariane Rustichelli, director of the Organisation of the Swiss Abroad. 

Swiss political scientist Nenad Stojanovic has emphasized that the election of Cassis is still “historical”, as he is the first naturalized citizen to be elected to the federal council. Stojanovic insisted that, when seen from this angle, the election is a strong positive signal to foreigners and naturalized citizens in Switzerland.

Read more here, here and here

Interview with Stojanovic here (in German).