Switzerland votes to ease citizenship rules

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Under the constitutional amendment, people under the age of 25 who were born in Switzerland will now find it easier to become citizens, but they must still pass through a variety of hoops under the country's stringent laws.

About 25 percent of Switzerland's population is foreign but fewer than 25,000 people qualify as third-generation immigrants, meaning at least one of their grandparents was born in the country or acquired residency and of those almost 60 percent of are Italian. They rejected a complex tax reform initiative aimed at getting Switzerland in line with worldwide standards.

The government had lobbied for the measure helping many young foreigners born and raised in Switzerland after their grandparents moved here.

"In one or two generations, who will these third generation foreigners be?" he wrote in an opinion piece on the SVP website.

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Many domestic companies, meanwhile, could see their tax rates go down.

The government as well a majority of lawmakers and political parties support the proposal.

Fewer than 25,000 people in the country of about eight million were affected by the proposal and 60 per cent were Italians, followed by those with Balkan or Turkish roots.

Supporters of the plan to simplify the process argue that it is ridiculous to ask people who were born and have lived all their lives in Switzerland to prove that they are integrated.

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Guignard said mainstream politicians and journalists view the poster as "a violent attack against Muslims".

The "third-generation foreigners" initiative strikes at a Europe-wide dilemma about how best to integrate newcomers, but generally involves people from elsewhere in Europe or Turkey whose families have been in the Alpine nation for decades - not migrants and refugees from Africa and the Middle East who have poured into Europe in the last several years, sparking a backlash among many on the political far-right.

The issue in Sunday's vote, the latest in Switzerland's direct democracy system, is whether the grandchildren of immigrants should be able to benefit from an expedited citizenship process. Four years ago, the region rejected a similar referendum about the 2022 Winter Games, which were eventually awarded to Beijing.

Swiss voters cast their ballot in Obersaxen, Switzerland, Sunday Feb. 12, 2017.

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