Cabinet takes justice minister to task

The government's meeting room will now remain empty until next year Keystone Archive

The government has taken Justice Minister Christoph Blocher to task over comments he made about the civil service at a press conference on Monday.

This content was published on December 22, 2004 - 20:51

The topic dominated the last cabinet meeting of 2004 and brought to an end a year in which the seven ministers spent 130 hours debating issues.

Speaking at a press conference in Biel on Monday to mark his first year in office, Blocher - a member of the rightwing Swiss People’s Party - said the civil service was overstaffed, out of touch with reality and not sufficiently aware of financial problems.

His comments sparked an outcry among government workers and were condemned by the civil-service union.

After Wednesday’s cabinet meeting, Swiss President Joseph Deiss reaffirmed the government’s confidence in the civil service and its ability to reform.

He said cabinet ministers were of the opinion that certain attacks on the service were “unwarranted”.


But Deiss also said Blocher had expressed regret that his views on the civil service had not been correctly interpreted and that the justice minister had not intended to undermine the principle of collegiality.

The Swiss cabinet is a consensus-led body, with its seven members from four parties expected to take collective responsibility for government policy.

“The government thought it necessary to remind Christoph Blocher that it is necessary to respect the principle of collegiality,” said Deiss.

On Wednesday, Deiss also took Blocher to task for not following the government line on the financing of pensions and the question of compulsory health insurance.

It is not the first time that Blocher has been accused of failing to respect collegiality. In the 12 months since he became justice minister, Blocher has made no secret of his opposition to many government policies, including closer ties with the European Union.


Deiss also used a press conference on Wednesday to give an overview of the cabinet’s work as a whole for the year.

He revealed that the cabinet had met 45 times during 2004 for a total of 130 hours, 20 hours more than the previous year.

He also said that one of his regrets was that the government had not spent more time debating international policy.

Wednesday’s meeting was the last before the Christmas break.

According to officials, Deiss is due to spend the holiday period at his home in Barberêche in canton Fribourg.

Most of his colleagues will also be staying at home, except for Interior Minister Pascal Couchepin, who will be dividing his time between Switzerland and an undisclosed location abroad.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

How the seven cabinet ministers are spending Christmas:

Economics Minister Joseph Deiss: at home.
Defence Minister Samuel Schmid: with family.
Justice Minister Christoph Blocher: at home.
Finance Minister Hans-Rudolf Merz: at home.
Environment Minister Moritz Leuenberger: not known.
Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey: not known.
Interior Minister Pascal Couchepin: Switzerland and abroad.

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