The Council of the Swiss Abroad wants to increase its presence in Switzerland. At its meeting in the town of Zug on Friday, it also came out in favour of Switzerland joining the United Nations.This content was published on August 18, 2000 - 18:04
The president of the Swiss Abroad, Georg Stucky, said the Swiss expatriate community had an increasingly important role to play. "Every year, an additional 10,000 Swiss opt to live outside their country of origin", Stucky said in his opening address to the 100 delegates.
The meeting unanimously came out in favour of Switzerland joining the United Nations. A nationwide vote is expected in 2002. The vice-president of the council, Jacques-Simon Eggly, said the UN had become a truly universal organisation over the past two decades.
Eggly pointed out that Switzerland had already developed close links to numerous UN institutions and was hosting the UN's European headquarters in Geneva. Eggly also said the international community could not understand why Switzerland was still staying outside the UN.
Next year's congress of the Swiss Abroad in the mountain resort of Davos will be devoted to the government's plan for Switzerland to become a member of the UN. In 1986, Swiss voters overwhelmingly rejected UN membership in a nationwide ballot.
The Council of the Swiss Abroad also agreed to step up its presence in Switzerland. It is planning special events at the National Exhibition, Expo 02. The theme will be "Swiss identity abroad". Among the proposals for put forward for Expo 02 was the creation of a national anthem for Swiss expatriates.
The council president, Georg Stucky, called for increased political participation of expatriates in Switzerland. Stucky pledged to increase efforts to encourage expatriates to take part in nationwide votes.
There are currently about 580,000 Swiss expatriates all over the world. However, only 70,000 of them (about 12 per cent) are registered voters.
Most of them cast their ballots by mail. Moves are underway to set up voting system using electronic mail.
Rudolf Bärfuss of the Swiss Foreign Ministry briefed the delegates on the setting up of a new organisation, called Presence Switzerland. It will replace the current Coordination Commission and is aimed at promoting Switzerland's image abroad.
It has annual budget of about SFr15 million.
The council welcomed a decision by the Swiss parliament in June to set up an optional state pension scheme for Swiss expatriates. However, it criticised that the number of beneficiaries is limited.
The council called for measures to ensure that Swiss citizens in the European Union countries are not excluded from the scheme. It said that those who do not have a regular income, particularly Swiss women living in Italy, could no longer benefit from the Swiss social security system.
The council meeting came ahead of this year's Congress of the Organisation for the Swiss Abroad. An estimated 500 people are expected to attend the event. On Saturday, several panels of politicians and experts will discuss the challenges the Swiss education system is facing in the new century.
The panels are expected to focus on the need to adapt education systems in the light of the global economy in an increasingly international environment.
One the traditional highlights of the congress will also be by a speech by the Federal Chancellor, Annemarie Huber-Hotz, who will address the meeting on behalf of the Swiss government.
by Urs Geiser
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