Swiss president: ‘We must not give up’

Guy Parmelin, the French-speaking economics minister, assumed the rotating Swiss presidency for the first time on January 1. Keystone/ Valentin Flauraud

After a difficult year dominated by the coronavirus pandemic, Switzerland’s new president, Guy Parmelin, has called for national unity to help overcome the many uncertainties ahead.

This content was published on January 1, 2021 - 13:39

“Our country, like so many others, has had a dark year. The health crisis has hit us hard,” Guy Parmelin said in his New Year's Day speech on Friday.

“Many families lost a loved one and were not able to say goodbye as they would have liked. For them 2020 will be forever associated with this painful loss.”

The French-speaking economics minister assumed the rotating Swiss presidency for the first time on January 1.

Guy Parmelin

Guy Parmelin was born on November 9, 1959. He comes from the village of Bursins, on the shores of Lake Geneva in French-speaking western Switzerland.

Trained as a farmer and winegrower, he focused on politics early on. After being president of the Swiss People’s Party for canton Vaud, he joined the House of Representatives in 2003.

In 2015 he was elected to Switzerland’s seven-member government. He was given the defence and sports portfolio. In 2019 he took over at the economics ministry.

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In his online addressExternal link, Parmelin recalled the important work being carried out by health workers in nursing homes and hospitals. He also expressed support for people currently on short-time work and others who have lost their jobs due to the virus.

“The pandemic has changed our lives by putting people out of work, destroying traditional businesses and putting our education and health systems to the test,” he said.

Realism prevented him from making “overly enthusiastic wishes” for 2021, the former farmer from canton Vaud declared.

Getting Switzerland “back on its feet”

As we move into a new year, there are still “numerous uncertainties” and the situation remains “precarious”, the Swiss president said.

But the government is doing its utmost to ensure the country gets back on its feet, he insisted.

He said he was optimistic “out of conviction" and stressed that "the country has resources" to help it recover.

The 61-year-old minister went on to underline Switzerland’s scientific and business strengths, the importance of education and training, and respect around the world for “Swiss-made” products and services.

He ended his speech with a call for national unity.

“United, Switzerland is stronger in defending its interests,” he said. “On January 1, we are opening a new page in our history. The current situation will not improve in one fell swoop. But we must not give up…the time has come to stand together.”

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