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Christian Democrats say Solidarity Foundation is dead

The Christian Democrats have unexpectedly withdrawn their support for the controversial Solidarity Foundation, a charity for the needy. Party president, Adalbert Durrer (file picture), said the money should be given to the Red Cross instead.

This content was published on March 15, 2000 - 08:26

The Christian Democrats have unexpectedly withdrawn their support for the controversial Solidarity Foundation, a planned national charity aimed at helping the needy both at home and abroad.

The move has surprised the other backers of the seven billion franc fund, the Social Democrats, the Radical Party and the Finance ministry.

The Christian Democrats' president, Adalbert Durrer (file picture), and the head of the parliamentary group, Jean-Phillipe Maitre, say the money should be poured into the International Committee of the Red Cross instead, and that the original idea of such a fund is now dead. They say the Geneva-based ICRC is embedded in the Swiss consciousness and also has an international stature.

Ironically the idea for the foundation was put forward three years ago by the then president and Christian Democrat, Arnold Koller. The idea, to use some of the proceeds from the sales of excess gold in the National Bank for funding humanitarian causes worldwide, was launched at the height of the controversy over Switzerland's role during World War Two.

However, the Christian Democrats now say that idea is too abstract and too bound up in the debate about Switzerland's role during the Holocaust. The party leader, Durrer, said there would also be a danger that solidarity towards other countries would be sacrificed in favour of the priorities at home.

There has been a mixed reaction from the remaining supporters of the Solidarity Foundation. The Radicals say they are taking the surprise move with a pinch of salt. Meanwhile, the Social Democrats' party president, Ursula Koch, said she was sorry that the Christian Democrats had made their decision without consulting any of the other parties. She said her own party was fully behind the project and would wait to see first what the cabinet decided on the future of all surplus gold reserves.

The idea of the Solidarity Foundation has received the backing of many cantons, but is still on the table to be discussed by the government. However, the People's Party is hoping to gather enough signatures to force a People's Initiative against it. Its most prominent politician, Christoph Blocher, who launched the petition, says the 1,300 tonnes of gold designated by the government as surplus, should be siphoned into social security.

At the moment, around 500 tonnes of gold are earmarked for the Solidarity Foundation, while the future of the other 800 tonnes is yet to be settled. The government plans to use another 1,300 tonnes of gold to underpin the Swiss franc.

swissinfo and agencies

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