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President calls for solidarity, courage and optimism

Switzerland is a nation that can be proud of its achievements and should take an active role in helping shape the future both at home and on an international level, Swiss President Adolf Ogi said in his New Year’s message to the nation.

This content was published on January 1, 2000 - 20:30

Switzerland is a nation that can be proud of its achievements and should take an active role in helping shape the future both at home and on an international level, Swiss President Adolf Ogi said in his New Year’s message to the nation.

Defence Minister Ogi, who will hold the largely ceremonial post of Swiss president for one year, said Switzerland should show more self-confidence, courage and optimism about the country’s future.

“We cannot afford to be seen by the international community as tardy, over-cautious or complacent,” said Ogi.

He urged Switzerland to recover its political confidence and courage of the turn of the century, when landmark decisions – such as the then revolutionary decision to build a major trans-Alpine rail tunnel – had helped propel the country forward.

Now, almost 100 years later, Switzerland is again in the process of expanding those major rail connections across the Alps, Ogi said in referring to two major tunnels that played a key role in recent transport negotiations between Switzerland and the European Union.

The transport agreement paved the way for the successful conclusion of comprehensive bilateral accords approved – but not yet ratified – by Switzerland and all 15 EU nations last year.

Ogi, who has also served in the seven-member cabinet as transport minister, is clearly pro-Europe and he was a driving force behind Switzerland’s involvement in Kosovo, where a Swiss unit is serving along KFOR troops to help rebuild the region.

Ogi said that Switzerland, despite its traditional political neutrality, must continue to open up to the world and take an active role in international decision-making.

“If you are optimistic and believe in your ability to solve a problem then you are in a much better position to actually achieve something. Pessimists are only able to see a problem, and then another problem and yet another problem,” Ogi said.

The minister called on the Swiss to be proud of their cultural, political and social achievements, which had brought the country peace, stability and prosperity over the past decades. The Swiss should therefore be grateful and show solidarity both at home and abroad, he said.

Switzerland’s international political involvement had been a hot issue last year, and it became particularly controversial during the Kosovo crisis. The issue of how many refugees should be allowed into the country, and whether (lightly armed) Swiss soldiers should serve in the Balkans proved to be highly sensitive issues.

Outlining its political priorities for 2000, the Swiss government has said it will push for Swiss membership of the United Nations and further steps toward European integration.

Right-wing parties and groups, who scored significant wins in last year’s parliamentary elections, have made clear they will fight any further movement towards the EU and will not tolerate a repeat of the Kosovo deployment.

From staff and wire reports.

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