The Swiss foreign minister, Joseph Deiss, has said Switzerland could increase its credibility if it decided to join the United Nations in a vote next year. He said the goals of the world body were in line with some of the main pillars of Switzerland's foreign policy.
Addressing a meeting of Swiss expatriates in Davos on Saturday, Deiss said there was no reason for Switzerland to be virtually the only country in the world to stay outside the UN adding that Switzerland's traditional neutrality would not be curtailed by full UN membership.
Deiss emphasisesd that Switzerland would benefit from such a decision and added that UN membership would put the country in a better position to represent the interests of its citizens. He said it would also boost the image of Switzerland as an open-minded country with a long-standing humanitarian tradition.
Nationwide vote next year
The foreign minister called on Swiss expatriates to approve full UN membership in a nationwide vote next year. He told swissinfo he hoped the expatriates would campaign with him for UN membership over the next few months to win the Swiss electorate. In 1986 Swiss voters overwhelmingly rejected a similar proposal.
Deiss' speech to several hundred Swiss expatriates was one of the highlights of this year's Congress of the Swiss Abroad, which was aimed at providing information on the UN and how it affects Switzerland.
Swiss experts, who have been working for international organisations, including the UN and its agencies, as well as the International Committee of the Red Cross, gave personal insights during a series of panel discussions. The debates focused on how Switzerland can improve its position on the world stage by promoting democratic values and what role Swiss expatriates can play in this process.
There are currently more than 591,000 Swiss who have taken up residence abroad. About 60 per cent of them live in countries of the European Union. The Swiss community in the United States, Canada, Australia and South Africa make up just over 20 per cent. But only 13 per cent of all Swiss expatriates are registered voters.
by Urs Geiser