Swiss Interior Minister Alain Berset has warned against the dangers of nationalism in Europe during a seminar in Paris to mark the 500th anniversary of the “Eternal Peace” treaty signed between Switzerland and France.
In his opening speech at the French Senate, Berset said politicians should refrain from calling into question longstanding European agreements. He highlighted the damage caused by nationalist ideas, alluding to the recent vote in Britain to leave the EU and remarks made ahead of the French and German elections next year.
“The desire to denounce legal texts that led to the creation of Europe only serves the cause of nationalists,” he told a 100-strong audience of officials, professors and historians on Tuesday.
It may seem strange for a Swiss minister to be so openly attached to international EU agreements, despite Switzerland’s political refusal to join the EU, he declared.
“But despite not being married to the European Union, Switzerland and the EU live together like husband and wife,” Berset said. “We are perhaps not fiery lovers but serious people looking for a stable relationship. Every time Europe bleeds, it’s as if our heart is broken a little bit.”
Foundations of peace
During his speech, Berset also recalled the historical context of the peace treaty signed on November 29, 1516 in his home town of Fribourg.
The accord followed the bloody battle of Marignano between France and the Old Swiss Confederacy, in which up to 20,000 soldiers died and which brought an end to Swiss expansion into Italian territory and a peace settlement binding the Swiss never again to take up arms against the French.
Berset said he was convinced that the 1516 treaty foreshadowed those that led to the creation of the EU.
“Europe owes its peace today due to the fact that its foundations were built on the cement of previous agreements signed between states,” he said.
During his visit to the French capital, Berset also signed a framework agreement with French Health Minister Marisol Touraine to improve cross-border healthcare cooperation.
swissinfo.ch with agencies