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Blocher looks back on first year in office

Blocher addressed Swiss media in Biel on Monday Keystone

Justice Minister Christoph Blocher says Switzerland is still grappling with the problems of illegal immigration and crime.

This content was published on December 20, 2004 - 15:01

Blocher, a member of the rightwing Swiss People’s Party, was speaking at a press conference to mark his first year as a cabinet minister.

He joined the government in December 2003 after successfully ousting one of two ministers from the centre-right Christian Democratic Party.

During a media briefing on Monday, Blocher said he had received a “huge number” of appeals for help from members of the public concerned about rising crime and the state of public finances.

He told swissinfo that he had succeeded in putting asylum high on the political agenda.

"The problem of asylum was largely taboo [when I arrived], but now we are able to discuss this issue openly," he said.

The justice minister, an advocate of tougher asylum laws, added that his first year in office had shown him that the federal authorities were out of touch with the reality of life on the streets in Switzerland.

He also warned that the civil service in Bern was overstaffed and that public spending was still a long way from being brought under control.

Not isolated

When he took office at the end of last year, many analysts predicted that the maverick People’s Party figurehead would not feel at home within a consensus-led cabinet.

But Blocher used his appearance before the media to deny speculation that he felt isolated in government.

“The worst-case scenario did not come true when I joined the cabinet,” said Blocher.

“People thought that I would find myself isolated and that all my ideas would be rejected, but this is very far from the truth.”

Settling in

Blocher admitted life in government had been "difficult" at first.

"When I first arrived, I thought [the other cabinet ministers] wouldn't accept me or any of my policies, but I was proven wrong," he said.

As a cabinet minister, Blocher is expected to abide by the principle of collegiality and support government policy.

But in the 12 months since becoming justice minister, he has made no secret of his opposition to many government policies, including closer ties with the European Union.

Two weeks ago Blocher sparked controversy in parliament when he warned that the extension of a Swiss-EU accord on the free movement of people would lead to more unemployment “in the short- to long-term”.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

Christoph Blocher joined the Swiss cabinet as justice minister in December 2003.
He is a member of the rightwing Swiss People's Party and a supporter of tougher asylum laws.
He used a media briefing on Monday to deny speculation that he felt isolated in the seven-member Swiss cabinet.

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