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Iraqi visitors given insight into federalism

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A visiting delegation from Iraq says Switzerland's federalist system and its multicultural society can serve as a model for their country.

This content was published on February 28, 2006 - 15:55

The group of judges, parliamentarians and other representatives of civil society are spending a week in Switzerland, organised by the Swiss foreign ministry and the Institute of Federalism at Fribourg University.

The 23 visitors from Iraq received an insight into Switzerland's political system, Thomas Greminger of the foreign ministry said on Tuesday.

He said the group was given an introduction into the federalist system, including the structure of police cooperation and financial autonomy of the cantons.

They were also briefed on conflict-resolving mechanisms in Switzerland.

"Our aim is not to export the Swiss system to Iraq, but to provide ideas which can help re-build a state in a different political and cultural context," Germinger told swissinfo.

He added that Switzerland has systematically collected know-how and increased cooperation with national and international experts in this field.

During the week-long visit the Iraqi delegation received first-hand information on linguistic and religious diversity as well as minorities.

Lessons

After decades of dictatorship, Iraq could learn form the federalist and democratic culture of Switzerland and other countries, said Wijdane Michael, an Iraqi parliamentarian from the Christian minority.

She said the visit to Switzerland and to Canada had shown that the constitution depends to a great extent on the trust between the people as well as on the relationship between the provincial and central governments.

"What we have noticed is that both Canada and Switzerland deal differently with the issue of power sharing between regional and central governments. And yet both are successful," she said.

Michael added that there are similarities between Switzerland and Iraq, as both are societies with several faiths and languages.

The Iraqi constitution which was adopted last October defines the country as a democratic Islamic state with federal structure.

The delegation was optimistic about the future of Iraq despite the current unrest.

Iraq had to rid itself of what Iraqi professor Sadoon al Zubaidi said was violence imported into the country.

Vicious circle

It was a precondition to break the vicious circle between terror, political instability, poverty and more violence, he said.

Zubaidi, a former Iraqi ambassador to Indonesia said the Swiss visit allowed him to learn about the major aspects of Switzerland's success.

"We have benefited from this great relationship between the centre and the cantons in all fields, security and police as well as fiscal policies.

"We have learned that you have been careful to ensure that the rich don't get richer and the poor do not get poorer through your new equalisation system. For this we salute you and we hope to emulate you," Zubaidi told swissinfo.

It is the second time an Iraqi delegation has visited Switzerland. Last September 25 Iraqi diplomats came to Geneva to learn about how the international system works.

swissinfo

In brief

The Swiss government has earmarked up to SFr3 million ($2.3 million) worth of humanitarian aid to Iraq this year.

The aid is to focus on the provision of clean water and health projects, as well as supporting non-governmental organisations.

Switzerland is also funding a training programme for Iraqi civil servants and human rights activists.

The Swiss government has waived Iraqi debts to the tune of SFr264 million as part of negotiations with the Paris Club of creditor nations.

The Swiss embassy in Iraq remains closed until further notice but there is a Swiss liaison office in Baghdad. Iraq has no embassy in Switzerland.

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