Keen on travel and outward-looking

Migration and mobility are the predominant issues of the present day. Tens of thousands of Swiss leave their native country every year and around the same number return. The Swiss are amongst “the keenest travellers in the modern day”, according to Rudolf Wyder in the foreword of his book “Globale Schweiz: Die Entdeckung der Auslandschweizer” (Global Switzerland – the Discovery of the Swiss Abroad). It was not so long ago that the state was pleased to see as many people as possible leave and never return. Government promotion of emigration was still being used as a means of combating unemployment in the 1930s.

Wyder explores this and many other fascinating facets of Switzerland’s relationship with its diaspora in his book published to mark the centenary of the Organisation of the Swiss Abroad (OSA). It does not focus on emigrants’ adventures. The author, who was the Director of the OSA from 1987 to 2013, writes history in a traditional fashion, adopting a chronological and thematic approach.

It is the first time the political preferences of expats have been documented in such depth based on representative surveys and analysis of voting patterns at elections and referenda. “Their greater receptiveness to specific foreign policy issues and proposals concerning the role and image of Switzerland in the world” is clearly evident, according to Wyder. For example, the approval of the first package of sectoral agreements with the EU in 2000 and of accession to the Schengen and Dublin agreements in 2005 was well above the average. Particularly noteworthy is the fact that “the initiative against mass immigration in 2014 was rejected by the Swiss Abroad with two thirds voting against it on average in all eight cantons that disclose how they voted”. Voters abroad vote in favour to a much greater extent than the Swiss average on issues concerning Switzerland’s openness and international commitment. What is more, “parties favouring international presence and participation fare better amongst the Swiss Abroad at elections. Voting patterns amongst citizens abroad at elections and referenda are almost completely in line with those of urban areas in Switzerland,” writes the author.

Rudolf Wyder has written a standard reference work on Swiss emigration history and has raised awareness about the great importance of Swiss emigration during the 20th and at the start of the 21st century.

JÜRG MÜLLER

Rudolf Wyder: “Globale Schweiz: Die Entdeckung der Auslandschweizer”, Stämpfli Verlag, Berne 2016, 256 pages, CHF 34

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