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Corridors of power analyse federalism

Federalism goes beyond flying the cantonal flag

(Keystone Archive)

Organisers say that the first national conference on Swiss federalism was a success and are hoping to arrange a second gathering.

Justice Minister Christoph Blocher was among the 300 participants at the meeting, where all concurred that federalism had to be put under a spotlight but not all agreed on the methods.

There were a number of issues tackled during the two-day event including the limitations of the Swiss model of power-sharing and looking to the future.

In his speech to delegates, Blocher criticised the so-called cooperative model of federalism, which divided up responsibility among the federal government, the cantons and the communes.

This, he said, had the effect of weakening competition among the cantons.

The way forward in Blocher's view was to make the cantons more independent, freeing them from the status quo where their current fields of competence were limited.

Round tables

In round-table discussions, some argued that federalism was alive and working well.

One such voice was Luigi Pedrazzini,the president of the conference of cantonal governments, who said that federalism was not a "nostalgic luxury" but "very much alive".

Others warned against the tendency to centralise political decision-making, such as local parliamentarian Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf.

This, she said, led to federalism losing its substance.

The national conference was organised by the federal government, the conference of cantonal governments and the canton of Fribourg.

swissinfo with agencies

In brief

The first national conference on federalism took place in Fribourg on September 15-16, 2005.

Its organisers included the federal government, the conference of cantonal governments and the canton of Fribourg.

The assembly discussed a number of issues relating to the division of power in Switzerland.

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