Applause is not enough

In the Swiss city of Basel, a number of non-E.U.musicians are struggling to obtain indefinite leave.

The Swiss city of Basel is the most important center for early music in Europe and possibly the world but it is about to lose some of its best musicians.

The city of Basel is investigating the cases of some 55 non-E.U. musicians who have been based in the Swiss city for a number of years but do not possess indefinite leave because they do not have permanent work contracts. This makes it impossible for them to register as citizens in Basel.

The musicians earn little, even if they can live off the money they earn quite well.

Up until this point, a generous administrative assistant in the local authority had illegally issued them with permits like they are common for guest artists or seasonal staff, effectively making them stay illegally. But now, the administrative assistant is now being charged for abuse of office.

The musicians are referred to as "Third-State-Citizens" - they are not Swiss and not part of an E.U.state.

One Israeli tenor of the Jewish ensemble “Profeti Della Quinta”, Dan Tenor, is happy that finally there is more clarity for himself and the other musicians.

“The old permit was unsatisfactory,” He said. “One could not change one’s phone provider or rent out a flat. We don’t know what the future will bring but at least we have a situation that is clearer now.”

We want the best people worldwide. They should come to us. We offer them a great country. Patrick Hafner, Politician with the Swiss People's Party

The Israelis have asked on the German border town of Weil am Rhein if they could reside there. the chances are not bad but the problem remains the same. The appropriate visa is only issued to E.U. citizens. Going back to Israel is also no alternative as life is too expensive there and the music scene is relatively small.

Antonia Stoll, who heads the employment agency AWA Basel is in favor of culture from abroad. With the current laws, it is almost impossible to get more permanent stay in Switzerland.

Basel is known as a city that is open to other cultures, something that shows in the way the city has responded to the problematic around the stay of the musicians. The parliament of Basel is adopting a common resolution pushing for better work conditions for foreign musicians. Even Basel politicians from the conservative corner of the country have initiated a petition which is calling for allowing talent from abroad to remain in Switzerland.

“We want the best people worldwide. They should come to us. We offer them a great country," Patrick Hafner, of the national conservative Swiss people's party, said.


This article first appeared in Der Tagesspiegel. To contact the author: [email protected]