Right wingers stage National Day protest

Leuenberger's appearance in Interlaken was marked by heckling from right-wing extremists Keystone

Right-wing extremists staged a protest at a National Day event addressed by the Swiss president, Moritz Leuenberger. At least 60 right-wing extremists booed and whistled following a speech made by Leuenberger at an international Scout camp in Interlaken.

This content was published on August 2, 2001 - 08:02

However, the President's speech was not disrupted with observers saying the police had the situation under control.

There were also fears of disruption at the Rütli meadow, Switzerland's historical birthplace. Last year more than 100 right-wing extremists attempted to disrupt the festivities, heckling the finance minister, Kaspar Villiger, during his speech.

But despite the appearance on the meadow of a small number of extremists, this year's Rütli celebrations passed off peacefully.

Leuenberger used his speech in Interlaken to address the issue of worldwide climate change, saying it threatened the lives of millions of people around the world.

As a cabinet minister in charge of the Swiss environment portfolio, he issued a strongly worded criticism of the United States' decision not to ratify the Kyoto Protocol on reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

"How often do the economic giants intervene at the last minute to curb environmentally friendly concepts?" he asked.

"We need only look across the ocean where the USA wants to release itself from its commitments to reduce CO2 emissions."

Leuenberger has on a previous occasion also attacked Washington's climate change policy.

There is still a long way to go, Leuenberger argued, before the international community "agrees on effective tools to counter the threat of climate change."

Leuenberger also outlined his vision of a world in which there is "no top and no bottom" and which is "not divided into first, second and third world".

Globalisation "not a spectre"

Turning to globalisation, an issue recently in the headlines following riots between anti-globalisation protesters and police at last month's G8 summit in the Italian city of Genoa, Leuenberger said it was not a "spectre that we should be afraid of or have to fight."

But he also suggested that globalisation should be driven forward "as a political and cultural vehicle," and called on the scouts present at the meeting to ensure that the motto of the camp, "Building world citizenship", does not just apply "for the duration of a week's holiday."

Separate televised address to Swiss people

In a separate televised address to Swiss citizens on Wednesday, Leuenberger said he receives many complaints about the condition of Swiss streets, traffic, trains and postal service. But he said those who complain do so because they love the country.

Leuenberger said he understands the issues raised by citizens, but Switzerland aims to be more than just a well-organised country.

People who live in this country should feel at home in Switzerland, and feel free to express their views, he said. A homeland is for some, he argued, the place where one spent childhood. But the concept varies from person to person. For others, it is is where friendships developed.

Switzerland is a place where political and cultural differences should be respected, he said, adding that he wanted to see more openness and integrity in political discussions. Political opponents should be able to thrash out differences of opinion without resorting to spite or ridicule.

"We must never deviate from the truth and should not stoop to putting each other down," he said. "Any democracy worthy of its name requires discussions to be frank and to the point."

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