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Arms exports Ex-foreign minister differed from government on ‘fundamentals’

Didier Burkhalter in parliament

Didier Burkhalter resigned from the government last year, citing personal reasons


Former Swiss foreign minister Didier Burkhalter felt he differed from cabinet colleagues on “fundamental values”, including arms exports and equal pay for men and women, he has told the Swiss public broadcaster RTS.

Burkhalter resigned from the government in June 2017, citing personal reasons.  

As part of the seven-member Federal Council, it is not unusual to be in the minority on an issue, says Burkhalter. But, he told RTS, it is problematic when you feel that “the collegial authority in which you work is no longer in step with your fundamental convictions”. 

One of the examples he gave was arms exports to conflict zones. “I think we should be very clear and refuse them,” Burkhalter said. 

After two years of decline, Swiss arms exports rose by 8% in 2017. Switzerland exported to 64 countries. The main customers were Germany, Thailand and Brazil but buyers also included Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which are both involved in the war in Yemen, and Turkey, which is involved in the war in Syria. 

+ Read more about Swiss arms sales 

Burkhalter says he was also frustrated by government failure to act on closing the gender pay gap. "If I were a woman I would have had a lot less patience,” he told RTS. 

Burkhalter, a member of the Radical-Liberal party, was replaced in November 2017 by Ignazio Cassis, also from the same party.


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