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Deiss outlines Swiss objectives in UN

Joseph Deiss said problems faced by poorer countries threatened global security

(Keystone Archive)

Switzerland intends to push for peace and a better deal for poorer countries when it joins the United Nations, says Foreign Minister Joseph Deiss.

In an interview with swissinfo at an International Students' Committee meeting in St Gallen, Deiss said Switzerland was seeking to push its foreign policy objectives on to the UN agenda.

"We hope it will be possible to act more efficiently and more immediately in the field of peace promotion and good governance in the greatest number of countries."

He added that corruption, the collapse of state structures, and the lack of jobs, health care and elementary education were not "merely other people's problems".

"They affect us here in safe and secure Switzerland. They affect our export markets and our foreign investments. They can also threaten our internal security."

Deiss told the 1,000 participants at the three-day meeting that it was in Switzerland's interest to continue working to promote peace, to ensure respect for human rights and democracy, to combat poverty, to protect the environment and to safeguard its economic interests abroad.

Swiss foreign policy

"Swiss foreign policy is about pursuing Switzerland's own interests and about making the world a better place," he said.

He emphasised that he saw no fundamental contradiction between self-interest and solidarity. "On the contrary, we are talking about two sides of the same coin."

One of Deiss's main messages was the danger posed by the vast divide between rich and poor nations.

"The potential for crises and conflicts is very real," he said, referring to the wealthy shrinking populations of the North and the fast-growing, younger ones in the South.

He also argued that demand for water would in ten years' time probably exceed that of oil, threatening human health and the economy of countries plagued by shortages.

Global justice

"More justice in the 21st century is therefore not only desirable but necessary. Global justice must be feasible. It is a matter of survival," he said.

Deiss said he was pleased that on June 1, a series of bilateral agreements between Switzerland and the European Union would come into force. He cited the accord on the free movement of people as a major achievement of the negotiations with Brussels.

"As you can see, Swiss foreign policy is moving. Limits are being pushed, the desirable is becoming feasible," he said.

Asked about the future feasibility of Switzerland becoming a member of the EU, Deiss told swissinfo that this was up to Swiss voters.

"I think the government isn't thinking of membership in the immediate future. We think we have now to continue on the bilateral track. From there we have to get facts about real consequences of membership."

by Robert Brookes

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