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New cabinet minister says he will not be neutral

Ueli Maurer, the newly elected defence minister, says he will not only tackle military issues but try to influence Switzerland's foreign and finance policies as well.

In an interview with the SonntagsZeitung newspaper, Maurer – a member of the rightwing Swiss People's Party – said he would "take a close look" at any issues concerning Swiss neutrality.

He also said he would try to initiate a debate within the cabinet about demographic change in Switzerland and the consequences for the country's social security system.

However, Maurer, who was elected by parliament on Wednesday, said he would show consideration for his cabinet colleagues before getting involved with other portfolios.

He said it would be impossible to be effective if one "opposes everything and everyone".

The former People's Party justice minister, Christoph Blocher, was often accused of meddling in the affairs of other departments – and going public with his views.

Blocher's apparent disregard for cabinet's collegiality principle was one reason parliament voted not to re-elect him last year.

In a statement that might surprise some, Maurer – a hardline member of the People's Party – said his role model was not Blocher but former Social Democratic cabinet minister Willi Ritschard.


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