The Swiss parliament is again holding a session outside the capital, Bern, but this time in Flims in the southeastern canton of Graubünden.This content was published on September 18, 2006 - 09:11
Many agree that the other sessions, held in Geneva and Lugano, did much to highlight the problems facing other regions of Switzerland. But the Flims move is not without its critics.
Not every politician is happy about having to pack their bags and decamp to the tourist hotspot of Flims for the start of the session on September 18.
The resort, famous for its hiking and skiing, is in an area where the minority Latin-based language Romansh is spoken.
Most of those opposed to the move grumble in private. Not so Christoph Mörgeli, a parliamentarian from the rightwing Swiss People's Party, who is known for his outspokenness.
In a recent article in the Tages-Anzeiger newspaper, Mörgeli compared the session to "a three-week spa holiday".
This is the first time that the sitting has been held in a tourist area. In autumn 1993 the House of Representatives and the Senate met in Geneva, in the French-speaking part of Switzerland. In the spring of 2001, they went to Lugano, in Italian-speaking Ticino.
The idea was to raise awareness of the country's minority language regions, in a country where two-thirds of the population speak Swiss German.
"I think that the sessions away from Bern did much to open people's minds towards the regions where they took place," confirmed Geneva parliamentarian Jacques-Simon Eggly, who is one of the few deputies to have taken part in both sessions away from Bern.
"This was the case with Geneva, which was especially important for the Swiss German deputies. Some of them had never actually been to the city before."
But Eggly admits that it did not leave a long-lasting effect on parliament. "At the end of the legislature many deputies left and we had to start all over again. We shouldn't negate the positive effects of these events, but not overestimate them either."
For her part, parliamentary secretary Mariangela Wallimann-Bornatico says the Lugano session helped build a greater awareness of Ticino's problems.
"For example, many realised just how far away Ticino is from the capital. Even if many parliamentarians are complaining about the distance to Flims, I tell them it's the same distance that Graubünden and Ticino parliamentarians have to travel to get to Bern."
Mark Stucki, spokesman for parliamentary services, recalls how the canton gained greater prominence among deputies and in the media during the Lugano session.
"There was a lot of talk about the Ticino primary school model. Since then this model has remained present [in people's minds] and has become quite well known," he said.
Another politician who has witnessed both sessions is People's Party president Ueli Maurer. But he is less enthusiastic about the experience.
"From the point of view of doing political business, being far away from Bern is not very helpful because the infrastructure is worse," he said.
He also downplays the sessions' usefulness for building new contacts, saying these are rarely long-term.
And Maurer is not convinced that the sessions outside Bern help to raise awareness of minorities.
"I think that if someone is in parliament they should already have a certain awareness of the regional and linguistic questions," he said.
"In any case, the accompanying programme during these sessions away from Bern is more like an exchange between primary school classes than parliamentary work."
swissinfo, Andrea Tognina
The Swiss parliament will be meeting in Flims, in the southeastern canton of Graubünden, from September 18 to October 6.
This is not only designed to pay tribute to the minority and fourth national language of Romansh but also to allow for the renovation of the parliament building in Bern.
In 1993, while parliament was in Geneva, the House of Representatives room was renovated and in 2001 during the Ticino session, it was the turn of the Senate.
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