Please enable javascript to view this page in its intended format.

Queen's University
 

Multiculturalism Policies in Contemporary Democracies


Switzerland

Flag
TOTAL SCORES
Year: 1980 2000 2010
Score: 4 4 4


1. Federal or quasi-federal territorial autonomy

   Yes.

TOTAL SCORES
Year: 1980 2000 2010
Score: 1 1 1

Evidence:

  • Switzerland has been a federal state since 1848. It is composed of 26 federated cantons and demi-cantons which have a permanent constitutional status and a high degree of independence. Article 3 of the Federal Constitution of the Swiss Confederation states that cantons shall exercise all rights that are not vested in the Confederation.
  • Cantons are further divided into 2,700 communes, which are granted varying degrees of autonomy (Federal Department of Foreign Affairs 2008a).
  • Switzerland also comprises three main linguistic and cultural regions—German, French and Italian. These linguistic boundaries do not necessarily correspond to cantonal ones: while most cantons are unilingual, three cantons are bilingual (French and German) and one is trilingual (German, Romansh and Italian) (Grin 1998, 3).
  • The constitution was amended in 1999 (it came into effect on 1 January 2000), but no notable changes to the federal structure were introduced.


2. Official language status, either in the region or nationally

   Yes.

TOTAL SCORES
Year: 1980 2000 2010
Score: 1 1 1

Evidence:

  • Language rights are enshrined in the constitution. German, French and Italian have had the status of national and official languages since 1848, whereas Romansh was recognized as a national language in 1938. The constitution was further amended in 1996 so as to grant the status of official language to Romansh, thus allowing Romansh-speakers to communicate in their language with the government (Swissinfo.ch 2006).
  • Article 70 of the constitution states that each canton can decide its official language(s). There is thus no official bilingualism at the local level: four cantons are French-speaking (Geneva, Jura, Neuchâtal and Vaud), three are bilingual in French and German (Bern, Fribourg and Valais), and one is Italian-speaking (Ticino). Romansh is an official language only in the trilingual (German, Italian and Romansh) canton of Graubünden (Swissworld.org 2010b).
  • Establishment of linguistic variety was the central issue at stake in the revision of the constitution in 1999. The new constitution places a larger emphasis on the equality of all national languages (Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe 2003).
  • Changes in the constitution have further led to the implementation of a new law on language, effective in July 2010, which regulates the government’s use of official languages and its support for multilingual cantons, focusing specifically on the protection of Italian and Romansh language and culture. This law replaces and expands on a previous law from 1995 (Loi sur les langues, 2007).


3. Guarantees of representation in the central government or on constitutional courts

   Partially.

TOTAL SCORES
Year: 1980 2000 2010
Score: 0.5 0.5 0.5

Evidence:

  • The Swiss Parliament consists of two chambers of equal standing: the National Council and the Council of States. The 200 members of the National Council are elected according to a system of proportional representation on a cantonal basis (with each canton constituting a constituency and having at least one seat). The Council of States is composed of 46 representatives of the cantons (two representatives for each canton, or one representative for each half-canton), elected according to the rules in place in each canton (articles 149 and 150, Constitution).
  • Because of the language distribution in the cantons, elections guarantee representation of the French-speaking people (for at least four cantons) and the Italian-speaking people (for at least one canton) to the Swiss Parliament. The Romansh-speaking citizens, which are only a minority in the trilingual canton of Graubünden, have no guarantee of representation.
  • While no legal regulations ensure the representation of language minorities to the federal government, linguistic considerations are taken into account in the selection of government’s ministers, and at least two out of seven ministers are usually French or Italian-speakers (Pfaff-Czarnecka 2004).
  • Judges to the Federal Court are elected by the Parliament. While ensuring representation of the German-, French- and Italian-speaking population in electing judges to the Federal Court was obligatory under the Constitution of 1874, this is no longer the case under the new Constitution of 1999. The Parliament, however, still strives to elect judges on the basis not only of competence, but also of language and region of origin (Tribunal Fédéral 2010).


4. Public funding of minority-language universities/schools/media

   Yes.

TOTAL SCORES
Year: 1980 2000 2010
Score: 1 1 1

Evidence (education):

  • Article 62 of the constitution states that cantons are responsible for the system of school education; each canton, thus, makes its own decision about the language(s) of instruction. Public education is available in German, French, Italian and Romansh (Conférence suisse des directeurs cantonaux de l’instruction publique 2010).
  • Because of the principle of territoriality, according to which there is no official bilingualism at the local level, citizens do not have a right to instruction in another national language (for example, a German canton has no obligation to offer public education in Italian or French). According to Grin (1998), however, cantons are usually lenient in this matter.
  • The same principle is applied for higher education: in addition to the German institutions, university-level education is available in French (five institutions) and Italian (one institution) according to the canton where they are based (Federal Department of Foreign Affairs 2010).
  • Traditionally, the second language taught in school was always one of the other national languages, although this has become a controversial issue since 2000 with some cantons giving a predominant place to the teaching of English (Swissworld.org 2010a).

Evidence (media):

  • The constitution states that legislation on radio and television as well as on other forms of public broadcasting is a responsibility of the federal state. However, regional needs are taken into account and every language area is provided with its own media (Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe 2003). As a consequence, there are no significant multilingual media.
  • The Swiss Corporation for Radio and Television (SRG SSR) is charged with the production and broadcast of public radio and television programs. In accordance with the Loi fédérale sur la radio et la télévision (2006, previously 1991), the SRG SSR has to provide complete radio and television programs of the same value in German, French and Italian. One radio program must be broadcast for the Romansh-speaking region.
  • The SRG SSR runs two television channels and four radio stations for the French language part of Switzerland, and two television channels and three radio stations for the Italian-speaking part. The Romansh minority has its own radio program and is allocated some time within the television program of the German-speaking zone (Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe 2003).
  • French and Italian programs from neighbouring countries are also available and increasingly popular in Switzerland.


5. Constitutional or parliamentary affirmation of “multinationalism”

   Partially.

TOTAL SCORES
Year: 1980 2000 2010
Score: 0.5 0.5 0.5

Evidence:

  • Switzerland has historically defined itself as a federation or confederation of territorial cantons (which happen to speak different languages), not as a federation of distinct nations or linguistic communities. In fact, there was no mention of the terms “linguistic minority” or “linguistic community” in the constitution or legal documents before the 1990s, and the distinct language groups have not defined themselves as distinct “nations” or “peoples” (Dardanelli 2010). As a result, there is no constitutional or parliamentary acknowledgement of multinationalism, and the language communities have not sought to be recognized as nations or as component units of the federation.
  • However, in the past two decades, commentators have noted that language is becoming more important as a form of political identity, alongside the older cantonal identities, and some suggest that the distinct linguistic communities are in fact growing apart (Steiner 2001).
  • Whether the Swiss form a single (multilingual) “nation” is a matter of discussion. In some of its documents, Swiss political authorities explicitly state that the country does not form a single “nation,” but rather is a confederation of historically sovereign communities (Suisse 1999). The principle of multilingualism is firmly entrenched, and the coexistence of the four official languages and cultures is described not only as a component of national identity but also as a constituting element of the country’s cultural policy (ibid).


6. Accorded international personality (e.g., allowing the sub-state region to sit on international bodies, sign treaties, or have their own Olympic team)

   No.

TOTAL SCORES
Year: 1980 2000 2010
Score: 0 0 0

Evidence:

  • According to the constitution, foreign relations are the responsibility of the state, which represents Switzerland abroad.
  • The central state is responsible for signing and ratifying international treaties although cantons may conclude treaties on matters lying within the scope of their powers. Cantons are particularly active in cross-border cooperation, but their power to sign agreements with neighbouring countries is always subordinate to that of the federal government. The cantons’ role in cross-border cooperation has been increasingly important since the 1980s (Federal Department of Foreign Affairs 2008b).
  • Even within the Organisation internationale de la francophonie, it is the Swiss state that holds membership and that represents the country, rather than the French minority or French cantons (Organisation internationale de la francophonie 2007).
  • Switzerland became a full member of the United Nations in September 2002, and signed packages of bilateral agreements with the European Union in 2000 and 2004. The national minorities are not granted a separate voice in these institutions and processes (Swissworld.org 2010c).

Kingston, Ontario, Canada. K7L 3N6. 613.533.2000