Civil parish

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Municipality in Switzerland

The civic community (depending on the canton also civic, local or local community ) is a personal corporation under cantonal  public law that still occurs in around half of the Swiss cantons. Regardless of their current place of residence, it is made up exclusively of natural persons who have the status of citizens and thus the right of home of the (civil) community.

The civil parishes are to be distinguished from the political parishes (also called resident parishes ) and the parishes .

Constitutional law

Distribution and names

Citizens' communities are currently still in fourteen cantons, namely in Bern , Uri , Obwalden (only in the municipality of Engelberg ), Zug , Solothurn , Basel-Stadt , Basel-Landschaft , St. Gallen , Graubünden , Aargau , Thurgau , Ticino , Valais and Law . In addition to the political communities (resident communities), there are now civil communities only in the five cantons of Uri, Zug, Solothurn, Basel-Stadt and Basel-Landschaft; in the other cantons mentioned they are represented very differently.

In some cantons, the civil parish have different names. In the canton of Bern and in the canton of Valais they are called civic community, in the cantons of Uri, Aargau and Thurgau local civic community and in the canton of St. Gallen local community; in the canton of Glarus it was called Tagwen until the municipal reform came into force in 2011 . In western Switzerland, the terms bourgeoisie (in the French-speaking part of the canton of Valais) and commune bourgeoise (in the French-speaking part of the canton of Bern and the canton of Jura) are common; in the canton of Ticino the civic community is called patriziato . In the Romansh-speaking areas of the canton of Graubünden one speaks of vischnanca burgaisa; here the civil parishes emerged from the vicinanze ( neighborhoods ) and are their legal successors.

In the cantons of Zurich (since 1866), Lucerne (since 2005), Nidwalden (never available), Schwyz (never available), Glarus (since 2011), Schaffhausen (since 2000), Appenzell Ausserrhoden (since 1995/2000), Appenzell Innerrhoden (never existed), Vaud (since 1803), Neuchâtel (since 1848) and Geneva (never existed) have no civic communities, in Obwalden (since 2010) only in the Engelberg community . Of the cantons mentioned here, Lucerne, Nidwalden, Obwalden, Schwyz, Glarus and Appenzell Innerrhoden are familiar with corporations organized under public and private law (Rhoden, Ürten, Teilamen and Alpine cooperatives), which represent their own structures within a municipality and which are by nature purely user cooperatives . A special situation prevails in the canton of Friborg , where there are no specifically constituted civic communities, but where citizens' assemblies are held on the civic property, which in turn is administered in trust by the political community. The same applies, albeit strongly marginalized, to the canton of Zurich, where there are also no civic communities, but (as of 2000) there are still separately managed civic property in three political communities, which serve to relieve the political and school communities.


The civil parishes include all persons who have the citizenship of the respective parish. It is primarily a community of people. Unlike the political community, the civil parish neither owns a specific territory nor does it have tax sovereignty, but often has considerable assets.

In matters relating to the administration of their assets, depending on the canton or individual civic community, either only the people residing within the civic community or all persons assigned to them regardless of their place of residence are entitled to vote. The latter applies, for example, in the cantons of Bern (depending on the municipality), Basel-Landschaft and Zug.


As a rule, civil parishes manage the civic property taken over from the time of the Ancien Régime , such as forests or the Alps, unless these tasks are assigned to a corporation or other corporation. True to the diversity of the cantons and their history, there are very large differences in terms of activities, powers and organizational structures. In addition, many civic communities are heavily involved in the areas of culture and social affairs, for example in the cities of Bern and Basel.

In the cantons of Zug, Basel-Stadt, Basel-Landschaft and Graubünden, as well as in the municipality of Engelberg in Obwalden, the civic communities also decide on the granting of community citizenship. In all other cantons, this decision is incumbent on the political communities.

According to the Bern municipal law, the civic communities are the civil associations organized as communities. The civic communities are entitled to the assurance or granting of community citizenship rights in the form of civil rights, then the fulfillment of their other traditional tasks, further the administration of their assets and finally the handling of tasks that are assigned to them by special regulations. You can take on additional tasks as long as these are not already being carried out by the municipalities or subdivisions thereof. (Art. 112 GdeG-BE)

Citizenship and hometown

Every Swiss citizen has a place of citizenship , he is a citizen (or citizen) of a municipality. This communal citizenship also exists where there is no separate civil parish. Apart from new citizens, it is also independent of a person's place of birth or place of residence. Usually the place of origin is inherited from the father to the children. In the past, the wife took over the husband's civil rights as a dual citizen right at the time of marriage, but since the new naming and civil rights came into effect on January 1, 2013, marriage no longer has any influence on the wife's civil rights; this retains its old citizenship as the only citizenship.

Municipal citizenship plays an important role in acquiring Swiss citizenship : Anyone who is a citizen of a municipality in Switzerland is also a citizen of the canton in which the municipality is located, and thus automatically a Swiss citizen. You cannot become a Swiss citizen without being a citizen of a municipality (Art. 37 Para. 1 of the Federal Constitution).

The place of origin (or hometown) kept a family register for a long time, which among other things confirmed that someone is a citizen of a certain municipality. The family register was replaced in 2003 by the electronic civil status register “ Infostar ” with a central database and a nationwide network of civil registry offices.

Up until the 20th century, the civil parish was obliged to support citizens who had become obese . Taking care of the guardianship was also the task of the community. Therefore, occasionally homeless people, e.g. B. Travelers, forcibly naturalized by a cantonal resolution in a municipality (e.g. in Vaz / Obervaz ).


In the Ancien Régime there were, on the one hand, full-fledged, long-established citizens in the municipalities and, on the other hand, so-called backers without rights . When all residents of Helvetic Republic were legally equated, the question arose who should own the civil goods. As a result, in most cantons, in addition to the new "resident communities", which include all those living in the area and form the electoral and voting bodies as political communities, "civic communities" were created, which brought together the long-established local citizens and to which the use of the community property was reserved . In the cantons of Appenzell Innerrhoden, Nidwalden and Schwyz, however, there was never any establishment of civil parishes, as here on the one hand the introduction of the resident community was delayed by several decades (Schwyz 1848, Nidwalden 1850, Appenzell Innerrhoden 1872) and, on the other hand, there was already a strong tradition of local user cooperatives who administered the estates of the long-established residents; in other cantons (such as Lucerne, Obwalden, Uri, Zug), civil parishes took place alongside the existing, often more powerful corporations (see also the article corporation community ).

In some cantons there have been and are efforts to merge the civil parishes into the political parishes. In the cantons of Bern, Obwalden, Solothurn and Jura, communities exist side by side where residents and civil parishes are separate, as well as those where residents and mayors are amalgamated (so-called “ mixed communities ” or “ unified communities ”) and in the canton of Friborg the civil goods are administered by the political community. More recently, the civil parishes in the canton of Appenzell Ausserrhoden have been repealed by the new cantonal constitution, in the canton of Glarus by means of a partial revision of the cantonal constitution and in the canton of Schaffhausen by the new municipal law, whereas the process in the cantons of Lucerne and Obwalden was on a voluntary basis; see above .

Of mergers of political communities Bürgergemeinde are affected in different ways: For example, while in the canton of Grisons go under the existing civil communities in the formation of a political community and a new one is formed, in the canton of St. Gallen, the old local communities can decide their survival.

Today there are still almost 2000 civic communities and corporations in Switzerland.

See also


Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Andreas Auer: Constitutional law of the Swiss cantons. Stämpfli, Bern 2016, ISBN 978-3-7272-3217-6 , p. 135. In Auer's compilation, St. Gallen is missing in the canton list, but not in the associated note 54.
  2. ^ A b c d Andreas Auer: Constitutional law of the Swiss cantons. Stämpfli, Bern 2016, ISBN 978-3-7272-3217-6 , p. 135.
  3. Georg Kreis , Arlette Schnyder , Sibylle Meyrat, Birgit Stalder, Martin Stuber: From Berners and Burgers - tradition and reinvention of a civic community. here + now, Baden 2014, ISBN 978-3-03919-333-2 .
  4. In the canton of Zurich, the tasks of the civic communities were transferred to the civic departments of the political communities with the municipal law of 1866, which in turn were repealed with the new cantonal constitution, which came into force in 2006. For more information on the former Zurich civil parishes and the civil estates, see Isabelle Häner, Markus Rüssli, Evi Schwarzenbach (eds.): Commentary on the Zurich Cantonal Constitution. Schulthess, Zurich 2007, Art. 83 N. 3 ff. As well as in H. R. Thalmann: Commentary on the Zurich Municipal Law [from 1926]. 3rd, revised. Ed. KDMZ , Wädenswil 2000, p 383 f.
  5. ↑ In the 20th and early 21st centuries, the Lucerne civil parishes all voluntarily united with the respective resident community (political community), the last being that of Ufhusen (Grand Council resolution on the approval of the unification of the civil community Ufhusen with its resident community of June 20, 2005) .
  6. In the canton of Nidwalden, the tasks that were assigned to the civil parishes in other cantons were carried out on the one hand by the "Ürtenen" (corporations) and on the other hand by the "poor communities" that existed between 1877 and 1978. In order to obtain cantonal citizenship, it was (and is still today) a prior assurance of community citizenship by one of the “district communities” (now “political communities”) created in the cantonal constitution of 1850, and an assurance of the “poor rights” in the 19th century. See Karl von Deschwanden : The municipal system of the canton Unterwalden nid the forest. In: General description and statistics of Switzerland. Edited by Max Wirth. 1st volume. Orell Füssli, Zurich 1871, pp. 131–167; Civil code for the canton Unterwalden nid dem Wald. First part: Personal law of 1852, §§ 26–31; Eduard Amstad : Brief historical overview of the community in the canton of Nidwalden. around 1965, Mskr. in the Nidwalden State Archives.
  7. In the canton of Schwyz, the cantonal constitution of 1848 introduced the unified community responsible for all political, ecclesiastical, school and civic matters . Before, the situation differed depending on the part of the canton; a historical review of the topic is still missing today.
  8. The Glarner Tagwen were repealed on the basis of a partial revision of the cantonal constitution that was passed in 2006 and came into force in 2011.
  9. The Schaffhausen citizens' communities were repealed by the new municipal law that was passed in 1998 and came into force in 2000.
  10. The Appenzell-Extra-Rhodian civic communities were abolished on the basis of the new cantonal constitution of 1995. The repeal had to be carried out within five years.
  11. ↑ In the canton of Appenzell Innerrhoden, naturalization (granting of “land rights”) has been done by the canton (formerly by the rural community , today by the Grand Council). Only the Oberegg district has its own municipal citizenship rights, the other citizens are those of the «Inner Land». However, in the ancien régime those wishing to naturalize had to be guaranteed first of all the «Rhodsgenossenschaft», ie membership in a [[Rhode (Switzerland) |]], since this was responsible for the poor, among other things Inner country passed over. For more see Johannes Gisler: Innerrhoder Familiennamenbuch. In: Innerrhoder Geschichtsfreund 15 (1969–1970), pp. 38–96, here especially p. 41 ff. ( Digitized version ).
  12. In 1803 such conditions were established in the canton of Vaud as they still exist today in the canton of Friborg, namely that the civil property is administered by the political communities; see Denis Tappy: Communes d'habitants et communes bourgeoises à l'époque de la Médiation. Les examples of the cantons de Vaud et du Ticino. In: Revue historique vaudoise 2004, pp. 119–234. Art. 179 para. 9 of the cantonal constitution of Vaud from 2003 stipulates the following with regard to civic privileges that still exist here and there: “Les droits coutumiers des bourgeoisies, fondées sur l'art. 81 de la Constitution du 1er mars 1885, sont réservés, sous l'arbitrage du Conseil d'Etat. Les personnes concernées par l'abrogation de cet article sont informées par publication officielle ”(“ The customary rights of the civil parishes based on Article 81 of the Constitution of March 1, 1885, the arbitration of the Council of State remain more correct: the (totality of) community citizens] Subject to, reserved. The persons affected by the repeal of this article will be notified by official communication »). In the course of the 19th and 20th centuries, the privileges enjoyed by local citizens almost completely disappeared; According to Tappy (see above, p. 230 f.), Article 179 KV essentially affects the communities of Grandcour and Payerne .
  13. The Neuchâtel mayors were repealed by the revolution of 1848 and the new cantonal constitution issued in the same year. The two still existing Catholic corporations Saint-Maurice in Le Landeron and Saint-Martin in Cressier have similarities with the former civil parishes .
  14. The municipal system in Geneva differs from that of the rest of Switzerland, as it is strongly influenced by France, to which the former city-state belonged from 1798 to 1815. On the 25th prairial of the year VI (1798), the French government commissioner issued a provisional ordinance, which established an independent municipality for the city of Geneva, separate from the state, and the law of the 28th Pluviose of the year VIII (February 17, 1800) each parish a parish council. Geneva had already introduced the equality of all residents in the edict of December 12, 1792. Cf. Bernard Lescaze, Françoise Hirsch (eds.): Les institutions politiques, judiciaires et militaires (= Encyclopédie de Genève. Volume 4). 2nd updated edition. Association de l'Encyclopédie de Genève, Geneva 1991.
  15. The six civil parishes in the “old canton part” of Obwalden were all dissolved between 1985 ( Lungern ) and 2010 ( Sarnen ).
  16. Neither the Freiburg cantonal constitution of 2004 nor the Freiburg municipal law of 1980 know the term "Bürgergemeinde". Articles 104 to 106 of the Municipal Law state that in such (political) municipalities where at least ten local citizens live, there are citizens' assemblies that are convened by the municipal council (the political municipality). The term 'Bürgergemeinde' appears, however, as a translation of the French bourgeoisie, which is of course ambiguous , in the new law on municipal finances (still under discussion in 2018).
  17. a b Martin Schuler, Thérèse Huissod, Christophe Jemelin, Suzanne Stofer: Structural Atlas of Switzerland. Atlas structurel de la Suisse. Edited by the Federal Statistical Office. Neue Zürcher Zeitung, Zurich 1997, p. 256.
  18. Citizens' estates, which were formed in 1866 from the then civil usable goods, still existed in 2000 in the political communities of Dietikon , Schlieren and Kyburg (the latter today in Illnau-Effretikon ); In the city of Zurich, for example, the “Foundation for the Civil Usage”, consisting of the civil properties of the incorporated suburbs, was abolished in 1983. In the municipal law of 1926, section 130 was dedicated to civil property; in the municipal law of 2015 (in force since 2018) there are no longer any relevant provisions. For more on the former Zurich citizen estates, see Isabelle Häner, Markus Rüssli, Evi Schwarzenbach (eds.): Commentary on the Zurich Cantonal Constitution. Schulthess, Zurich 2007, Art. 83 N. 3 ff. As well as in H. R. Thalmann: Commentary on the Zurich Municipal Law [from 1926]. 3rd, revised. Ed. KDMZ , Wädenswil 2000, p 383 f.
  19. ^ A b c Andreas Auer: Constitutional law of the Swiss cantons. Stämpfli, Bern 2016, ISBN 978-3-7272-3217-6 , p. 136.
  20. ^ Basil Sieber: Bürgergemeinde. In: Historical Lexicon of Switzerland .
  21. ^ Website of the Association of Citizens' Communities and Corporations