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Parliament insists on inquiry into Swiss links with the Stasi

The justice minister, Ruth Metzler, addressed parliamentarians in Lugano on Tuesday about the Stasi's alleged activities in Switzerland

(Keystone)

The House of Representatives are insisting on a proposal to investigate links between Switzerland and the Stasi, former East Germany's secret service. The Senate has already turned down such an inquiry by an independent expert.

During Tuesday's parliamentary debate in Lugano, the House unanimously reiterated its support for a proposal to commission a report by a historian on relations between Switzerland and former East Germany.

Under the proposal, an expert would also look into the activities of the Stasi, East Germany's former secret service, in Switzerland. The mandate for the research is limited to five years and would cost an estimated SFr4 million ($2.3 million).

Speakers said it was important to shed light on a chapter of history that formally came to end with the fall of Berlin Wall in 1989. They said it was common knowledge that the Stasi was very active in Switzerland, notably in the field of industrial espionage.

Speakers in the House pointed out the need to learn lessons from the past but ruled out direct government interference.

The Justice Ministry has already come in favour of the proposal.

However, the Senate rejected it during a debate last year. It said any investigation should be left to universities and individual initiatives.

The proposal now goes back to the Senate for further discussions. If it is eventually approved, it won't be the first time the government has lent its support to investigations into Switzerland's past.

At the height of the dispute over Holocaust assets in Swiss bank accounts, the government set up a commission of independent experts, led by Jean-François Bergier, to investigate Switzerland's role during the Second World War.

Last year, the authorities also approved a financial package for a national research project to investigate relations between Switzerland and South Africa's former Apartheid regime.

by Urs Geiser, Lugano


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