The Organisation of the Swiss Abroad (OSA) has reacted angrily to the recent remarks of a politician that questioned the role of expat pensioners.
An apology: this is what the OSAexternal link have demanded of Petra Gössi, the Radical Party politician whose “unacceptable” remarks about the pensions of Swiss abroad provoked a flurry of reaction last month.
Interviewed by the newspaper Blick on 21 June, Gössi stated that proposed pension reforms currently under review, which would see payments increase by CHF70 ($72), were “helping the wrong people”.
By this, it turned out, she was referring to retired Swiss living abroad: “those who do not generate any added-value in Switzerland,” she said.
The remarks were controversial both inside and outside the country, and on July 11 the OSA, which represents the interests of the 760,000 Swiss living abroad, sent a letter in response demanding that Gössi “renounce her statement and apologize.”
War of words
“The Swiss abroad feel hurt by this, and feel treated like second-class citizens,” explained OSA Director Ariane Rustichelli to swissinfo.ch. “We have thus underlined in the letter the importance of the Swiss abroad, the fact that liberty of residence is guaranteed by the federal constitution, and that naturally one can’t go around making such statements.”
“It shows that Petra Gössi is not on top of the dossier,” Rustichelli said.
For her part, Gössi has not yet replied to the letter, but it is likely she will do so; she has already shown some signs of backing down from her initial remarks.
“I can understand the irritation that resulted from a somewhat clumsy and insensitive communication," she told swissinfo.ch. "I take responsibility for that as leader of the party.”
Speaking on Swiss public radio, SRF, the Radical politician also said that she was “sorry if the impression was given that I think retirees should not move abroad.” “I apologize for having given this impression.”
Pension payments made to Swiss citizens living abroad make up 4.69% of the total, an amount which comes to CHF123,364 ($127,414) per month.
Of those living abroad, Swiss nationals receive on average CHF1,151 per month, while non-nationals entitled to a Swiss pension take an average of CHF491.
Most of the pensions go towards Swiss expats in neighbouring France and Italy: 25,000 and 9,500 payments respectively.
swissinfo.ch/dos, with input from Christian Raaflub