Interior Minister Alain Berset has highlighted the experience and expertise of Swiss citizens living around the world and pointed out the truth behind Swiss clichés.
“Switzerland doesn’t lose anything if its citizens go and live in another country, on the contrary,” said Berset in his keynote address to the Congress of the Swiss Abroad in Basel on Saturday.
Switzerland benefits from its expats and the world benefits from them too, he said in a speech to nearly 400 participants of the annual gathering.
He said it’s crucial to have an organisation which makes the link with the expat community and understands its special perspective on Switzerland.
He also pointed out Switzerland’s traditions, its assets and its values, including its political diversity.
Referring to next month’s nationwide vote on a reform of the old age pension scheme, Berset highlighted a key political value: The ability to find compromises and seek a consensus between different groups.
The Congress of the Swiss Abroad brings together Swiss expatriates living all over the world. The theme of the two-day meeting in the city of Basel is: Living in Switzerland or abroad: one world. Government representatives, experts from the world of tourism, science and culture discuss topics of interest to the Swiss Abroad community.
There are about 775,000 registered Swiss expats, mostly in neighbouring European countries – notably in France, Germany and Italy, but also a sizeable Swiss community in North America.
Most Swiss expats have dual nationality. About 160,000 Swiss Abroad have registered to take part in votes and elections in Switzerland.
The annual congress was preceded by a meeting of the 140-member Swiss Abroad Council on Friday. It focused on the policy of Swiss banks towards expats, a forthcoming nationwide vote on Switzerland’s old age pension scheme, e-voting as well as an overhaul of electoral system for the council.