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Beliefs unshaken Swiss feel safe in their homeland

A guard at the airport prior to French President François Hollande's arrival in Bern, Switzerland

(Keystone)

Nine out of ten Swiss say they feel safe and almost 80% are positive about the future – despite some concerns about how the world political situation will develop, a report has found.

A majority of the population had trust in their institutions, was willing to cooperate internationally and believed in their army, according to the “Security 2015” study, carried out by the Center for Security Studiesexternal link and the Military Academyexternal link, both part of the Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (ETH Zurich).

The polling for the report, which went over five weeks, actually started a day before the attack on the French satire magazine Charlie Hebdo at the beginning of the year. But this seems not to have shaken Swiss beliefs in their homeland.

“This generally high feeling of security is mirrored in the low danger perception among the Swiss population. They perceive themselves generally as only a little under threat and believe that the possibility of a threat for Switzerland is rather low,” a statement on behalf of the Defence Ministryexternal link said.

But when it came to the world political developments, more than half (55%) felt that the situation would be “darker and more tense” in five years’ time - this is up by 14% on last year. Those who thought the situation would be better and more relaxed fell to an all-time low of 5%. Just over three-quarters said they would not rule out war in Europe in the future, and a majority said they would therefore favour an army ready for service.

“Didier Burkhalter” effect

A new development was the increase in willingness – the highest ever recorded - for international cooperation: those polled felt Switzerland should mediate in conflicts (78%, up by 8%) and play a more active role in international conferences (also 78%, up 5% on last year).

The authors said this could be attributed to the “Didier Burkhalter” effect, who was Swiss president in 2014 and at the same time served as head of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), leading it through the start of the Ukraine crisis. His work met with much approval at home and abroad.

Most people also favoured a more active role in United Nations’ affairs and a seat on the UN Security Council. But there was no change of heart on joining the European Union and NATO – both firmly off the agenda with only one in five in favour.

The ETH Zurich study was released on the same day that the Federal Office of Police (Fedpol) issued its annual report.external link It said its focus in 2014 had been on the fight against terrorism, although it noted that Switzerland itself was not a primary target for terrorists.

One of Fedpol’s priorities was to keep the nation safe from attack while preventing it from supporting terrorist activities in any way – either financially or logistically. Since last year a “Task Force Terrorist Travellers” has been in existence. The number of jihadist fighters travelling from Switzerland have doubled in the last year to 40, the report said, confirming the trend announced in October 2014.

Other target areas in 2014 were cybercrime, organised crime and money laundering.

swissinfo.ch and agencies

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