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Foreign minister wants Switzerland to step up international role

Swiss Foreign Minister Joseph Deiss said Saturday that Switzerland should take a more active political role in Europe and step up its commitment at the United Nations.

This content was published on August 7, 1999 - 08:38

Swiss Foreign Minister Joseph Deiss said Saturday that Switzerland should take a more active political role in Europe and step up its commitment at the United Nations.

Addressing a congress of the Organisation for the Swiss Abroad in Lausanne, Deiss said Switzerland should be a member of those political bodies which were now shaping the world of tomorrow – such as the European Union and the U.N.

Switzerland is not a member of either organisation.

Such a political commitment, Deiss said, was in Switzerland’s own interest since it would contribute to the country’s security and sovereignty.

He called on the Swiss abroad – most of whom live in EU member states -- to make their voices heard in the political debate about Switzerland’s future.

“You have to show your compatriots the advantages of active participation in European and world affairs. You have to make your voices heard,” Deiss said.

Looking back to Switzerland’s political reorientation after World War II, the foreign minister said that now, in the post-Cold War era, the government and the Swiss themselves again had to redefine their international standing.

Deiss did not call for Switzerland to abandon its neutrality but he urged the nation to redefine it.

“Following the collapse of communism, Switzerland must find its position in the process of globalisation and regional integration,” he said.

Switzerland’s integration in Europe and the country’s bilateral accords with the EU are the key issues dominating the Lausanne conference this weekend.

The accords were signed earlier this year but still have to be ratified by the parliaments of all 15 EU member states and Switzerland.

The Swiss-EU agreements cover economic and technical cooperation, public procurement, mutual acceptance of diplomas and licences, agricultural trade, aviation issues, road and rail traffic and the free movement of people.

With regard to the latter, there is a clear discrepancy between the Swiss abroad and those living in Switzerland.

While the Swiss expatriate community at the Lausanne conference again fully supported European membership and the free movement of people from one member state to another, the idea has caused some concern among the people within Switzerland, since many fear the country will be flooded by foreigners willing to work for lower salaries.

Such an influx, many Swiss fear, could lead to job losses and a lowering of living standards.

From staff and wire reports.



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