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Solidarity Foundation - the road to the vote

The Solidarity Foundation could be used to help the victims of natural disasters Keystone

Swiss voters are set to decide how to spend the proceeds from the sale of the country's excess gold reserves.

This content was published on September 23, 2002 - 10:52

The government's proposal for a so-called Solidarity Foundation first came to light in the mid 1990s.

Ahead of Sunday's poll, swissinfo takes a look back at the major political events which have led up to the vote.

1995

The World Jewish Congress begins a campaign aimed at forcing Swiss banks to reveal full details of dormant accounts belonging to Holocaust victims, and to repay the funds to survivors or their relatives. Over the next two years, the controversy grows to include criticism of Switzerland's treatment of Jewish refugees during the war, its business dealings with Nazi Germany, and its possible possession of Nazi gold.

1997

Swiss President Arnold Koller tells parliament of his plan to set up a new Solidarity Foundation, using money derived from the sell-off of Switzerland's excess gold reserves. The Foundation should benefit victims of poverty and violence around the world, in particular Holocaust survivors. World gold prices fall following the announcement, and the rightwing Swiss People's Party denounces the Foundation as a blackmail payment.

1998

Switzerland's largest banks, UBS and Credit Suisse, reach an out-of-court settlement worth $1.25 billion in a class-action suit brought by the World Jewish Congress and Holocaust survivors.

2000 - May 2nd

The Swiss National Bank begins selling off its gold reserves. In a gradual process, 1,300 tonnes of the country's 2,590 tonnes of gold reserves will be sold.

2000 - May 11th

The Swiss government puts forward its plan for the division of proceeds from the sale of the gold reserves: 500 tonnes of gold, worth SFr7 billion, will benefit the Solidarity Foundation, while the remaining 800 tonnes would go to the cantons and the state pension fund.

2000 - October 30th

The Swiss People's Party gathers the 100,000 signatures necessary to force a referendum on its own Gold Initiative, which proposes that all the money from the gold sales should be invested in pensions.

2001

The Solidarity Foundation and the Gold Initiative are discussed in parliament. The Gold Initiative is eventually rejected by both houses, and a fund which divides the money equally between the cantons, pensions, and a Solidarity Foundation which will benefit victims of violence and poverty both within and outside Switzerland is approved. The draft law to set up the Foundation, however, makes no mention of using the funds to benefit Holocaust survivors.

2002 - September 22nd

Swiss voters must decide between the two proposals: the Gold Initiative, or the Solidarity Foundation.

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