National Day speeches stress value of democracy and freedom

An audience in Grenchen, canton Solothurn, listens to an August 1 speech by Swiss President Ignazio Cassis © Keystone / Peter Klaunzer

Switzerland’s seven government ministers have completed a marathon of speeches on August 1, Swiss National Day. In the current times of war, they invoked standing up for democracy.

This content was published on August 1, 2022 - 18:42

The ministers made a total of 16 appearances: 14 on Monday and two at early celebrations on Sunday.

The most active was Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis, who holds the rotating Swiss presidency this year. On Monday morning he set off on a train from Lugano in canton Ticino on a “Tour de Suisse” accompanied by Italian-speaking youngsters.

At a brunch on a farm in Knonau, canton Zurich, he said crisis mode was for the time being permanent. “We must fight to preserve our freedom and our prosperity. All this is not free,” he said. “Disputes, including loud ones, are allowed, but reconciliation must be possible.” The train travelled on to cantons Solothurn, Vaud and Lausanne, where his journey ended in the evening at a public festival with fireworks.

Economics Minister Guy Parmelin, also at a farm brunch, declared in Oberwald, canton Valais, that August 1 was “not a time to mope but to celebrate”. However, 2022 was “definitely not an excellent vintage”, Parmelin, a winegrower by trade, admitted. In the evening, he travelled south and spoke in Sessa in Ticino.

Justice Minister Karin Keller-Sutter, speaking at the top of the Moléson mountain in canton Fribourg, called for the defence of freedoms. “Our values are now at stake,” she said, referring to the war in Ukraine.

Defensive democracy

“There are more and more autocratic regimes and anti-democratic tendencies,” said Defence Minister Viola Amherd in Winterthur, canton Zurich, where she argued for a democracy capable of defending itself and putting up a fight.

Energy and Environment Minister Simonetta Sommaruga promoted the energy transition at her appearances in Saas-Balen, canton Valais, on Sunday and in Fribourg on Monday. “This is how Switzerland secures its independence,” she said.

Having spoken in Lucerne on Sunday, Interior Minister Alain Berset addressed crowds in Stein am Rhein, canton Schaffhausen, and in Bellerive, canton Vaud. He said disputes, anger and a strange pride in simple analyses characterised debates in Switzerland. “Space for rapprochement, dialogue and compromise was lacking,” he believed.

Finance Minister Ueli Maurer spoke in Dietlikon, canton Zurich, Neunkirch in Schaffhausen and Marbachegg in Lucerne.

As has been the case for 30 years, farms invited guests to an August 1 brunch. This year 280 farms took part in the event organised by the Swiss Farmers’ Union. Some 150,000 visitors enjoyed local specialities, the same number as before the Covid-19 pandemic.

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