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Swiss president calls for unity in pandemic times

Cassis
Ignazio Cassis, as seen in parliament on December 15, 2021 Keystone / Anthony Anex

Switzerland’s new president Ignazio Cassis has underlined the need to stay united, while also maintaining the country’s diversity, in his speech to mark the New Year.

The coronavirus pandemic had driven people in Switzerland apart, Cassis said, “but it has not divided us, we will not let ourselves be divided”. Although the masks hid smiles, “we can look each other in the eye and listen to each other”.

Unfortunately, the pandemic was still there, with all its challenges, but the president said that the Swiss government (Federal Council) was “listening to everyone in the country. It understands your concerns and fears. The government always bases its decisions on the overall interests of Switzerland and its population”.

The foreign minister assumed the rotating Swiss presidency for the first time on January 1, 2022. Cassis is the first president from Switzerland’s Italian-speaking region of Ticino this century.

The country is currently in the grip of a strong wave of coronavirus infections, with new cases topping 19,000 last Thursday. The government has decided for the time being not to introduce any new pandemic measures after those of December 17.

Diversity

Diversity – of languages, religions, political leanings – made Switzerland strong, said Cassis in his address on Swiss public television and onlineExternal link, which was delivered in four languages for the first time.

But diversity was also a constant challenge as it also required commitment, putting oneself in the other person’s shoes, renouncing things and making compromises. That was also what made Switzerland strong, Cassis underlined.

The president said he wished for the coming year that people would approach each other and respect other people’s opinions “even if we do not share them”.

In this time of increasing polarisation, it was only by reflecting on the country’s cohesion, while also maintaining a passion for diversity, that the country could master the challenges of the upcoming year, he said.

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Handover

Cassis succeeds the economics minister Guy Parmelin as president. The handover took place on Friday via telephone, it was announced on Twitter.

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Cassis, who is 60 years old, worked as a medical doctor before starting his political career. He was elected to the Swiss government in 2017. 

As is traditional, the incoming president has also chosen the Swiss government photo for 2022.

government photo 2022
The official Swiss government photo 2022 Keystone / Stefano Spinelli

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