by Amna El Tawil
Nancy Holten has been denied a second application for a Swiss passport because local residents find her extremely annoying. Holten is a vegan who constantly campaigns and objects the traditions that most Swiss residents find the dearest to them.
Holten was born in the Netherlands and moved to Switzerland when she was eight. She’s fluent in Swiss German and a mother whose children are Swiss citizens. According to the Local, a vegan, and supporter of animal rights, she gained a reputation in her community of Gipf-Oberfrick, in the canton of Aargau, after campaigning against cowbells, claiming they were damaging to cows’ health.
She has also objected to hunting and piglet racing and complained about the noise of church bells in the village, campaigns that have seen her regularly interviewed in the Swiss press over the past few years.
She said: “The sound that cowbells make is a hundred decibel. It is comparable with a pneumatic drill. We also would not want such a thing hanging close to our ears? The bells, which the cows have to wear when they walk to and from the pasture, are especially heavy. The animals carry around five kilograms around their neck. It causes friction and burns to their skin” according to Daily Mail.
The residents’ committee turned down her second application in November 2016, despite the fact she meets all legal requirements and the municipal and cantonal authorities having no formal objection.
The president of the local branch of the Swiss People’s Party, Tanja Suter, told the media that Holten has a “big mouth”. The commune did not want to give Holten the “present” of Swiss citizenship “if she annoys us and doesn’t respect our traditions”, said Suter.
In fact, many residents wonder why Nancy Holten wants to be a Swiss citizen in the first place since she objects the country’s traditions and doesn’t want to accept them.
Under Swiss law, citizenship applicants are required to speak a national language, respect Swiss law, and order and be well integrated into the community, a requirement that appears to be a matter of opinion in some cases.
In May 2016 a Kosovan family who were long-term residents in the canton of Basel-Country had their application for citizenship opposed by the residents’ committee, in part because they wore jogging bottoms around town. And in 2014 an American expat who had lived in Switzerland for 43 years had his citizenship application turned down as it was judged he wasn’t sufficiently integrated – he could not name lakes in his canton or the largest employer in his town.
It is important to bear in mind that only 20% of the Swiss population is foreign. Most of the foreigners have been in Switzerland for many years, and around a third of them were born in Switzerland. It is still very difficult to be granted Swiss citizenship and being born in the country does not give the children or even the grandchildren of immigrants the automatic right to be Swiss.
On her Instagram profile, Nancy Holten usually posts photos of vegan foods and her lifestyle, but she did make a political statement saying: “Trump’s victory shows the reflection of the intellectual development of today’s American population.”
Holten said she won’t give up campaigning for a Swiss passport.