Swiss racism watchdog fears rising anti-German sentiment

28th March 2009, Comments 0 comments

The growing perception of Germans as "unwanted rivals" had a negative impact on daily behaviour in the home, at the workplace and in public places, said the statement.

Geneva -- Switzerland's official anti-racism watchdog said Friday it was concerned about growing anti-German xenophobia in the wake of tensions over banking secrecy.

"The resentment, which clouds relations between Germans and Swiss, is growing," said a statement issued by the Federal Commission Against Racism. "This type of collective rejection harms people of German origin who live in Switzerland and affects social peace."

The growing perception of Germans as "unwanted rivals" had a negative impact on daily behaviour in the home, at the workplace and in public places, said the statement.

Anti-German sentiment, especially in German-speaking parts of Switzerland, was becoming more prevalent in the media, on online chatrooms and blogs, Commission President Georg Kreis told AFP.

While there was "no single trigger" for the resentment, the row over German Finance Minister Peer Steinbrueck's trenchant remarks about Switzerland and banking secrecy had amplified the trend, he added.

Steinbrueck had said Saturday that the threat of Switzerland being placed on an international tax haven blacklist was a deterrent comparable to the cavalry scaring the "Indians."

The minister subsequently reported he had received hate mail and one Swiss deputy compared his attitude to that of the Gestapo, Germany's Nazi-era police.

"We've been following it for two years with the rise in immigration in Swiss-German areas, especially in the Zurich region, and that's what you see with the media reaction as well in blog and chatroom discussions," Kreis said.

Many Germans have taken up jobs in eastern Switzerland after immigration restrictions with the European Union were eased in recent years.

More than 63 percent of Switzerland's population are native German speakers, while one-fifth in the west of the country are French-speaking and Italian is prevalent among six percent of the population in the south.

AFP/Expatica

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