Army vote seen as sign that Switzerland is opening up

swissinfo.ch

The Swiss press has welcomed the positive outcome of Sunday's vote on army reforms. The papers said the "yes" votes for greater military cooperation abroad were a victory for good sense and a sign that Switzerland was ready to open up to the world.

This content was published on June 11, 2001 - 09:59

But the papers were mindful of the slight margin of the government's victory - 51 per cent in favour; 49 per cent against - and cautioned against triumphalism. "Setting Switzerland on a course of opening up gradually to the world will entail much hard work in the future," the Zurich-based "Tages Anzeiger" said.

For the French-language newspapers, "Le Matin" and "Le Temps", the approval of army reforms - allowing the arming of peacekeepers abroad and permitting joint military exercises with other countries - was a personal victory for the new defence minister, Samuel Schmid.

But other papers chose to interpret the result as a defeat for the rightwing parliamentarian, Christoph Blocher, who spent millions of francs on a campaign to keep Switzerland's concept of neutrality intact.

In a commentary entitled "Blocher's Defeat", the Tages Anzeiger said outward-looking Swiss men and women would be breathing a sigh of relief.

"At last the mighty Christoph Blocher has been defeated in a vote on the so-called 'opening-up' of Switzerland," the paper commented. "At last the country's concept of neutrality, which has appeared set in stone since the Second World War is showing signs of movement."

The Bern-based "Bund" agreed. The vote was a "sign of changing attitudes, of generational changes, marking the end of our traditional concept of neutrality", the paper said.

The French-language "Tribune de Genève" commented that "neutrality as such is no longer a taboo subject" in Switzerland. In the paper's opinion, Sunday's "historic decision" paved the way for Switzerland to join the UN when a referendum is held on the issue next year.

But the Bund cautioned against getting carried away. "The result of the vote is no more than a hint at opening up," it said. "The much more important vote next year on UN membership has still to be won."

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