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Swiss feel safe at home, worried about world

Professor Karl Haltiner (right) and Professor Andreas Wenger from Zurich's Federal Institute of Technology swissinfo.ch

A year after the September 11 terror attacks, the Swiss say they feel as secure as ever.

This content was published on September 3, 2002 - 20:15

However, a survey - published on Tuesday by Zurich's Federal Institute of Technology - shows that they remain worried about conflict in the rest of the world.

The study, which involved some 1,200 Swiss, shows that public sentiment remains largely positive.

Nine out of ten Swiss say they feel safe and secure in their homeland, despite last year's attacks on the United States.

World still a scary place

What the survey confirms is that the attacks fuelled only a brief dip in people's sense of personal security.

By contrast, fears of a war in Iraq, along with ongoing instability in the Middle East, have tempered views about how safe the world is.

Only 41 per cent of those surveyed believe the international environment will remain stable over the next five years.

Professor Andreas Wenger, from the Institute, says the recent hardening of US foreign policy has contributed to the bleak outlook.

Wagner says talk of a war on Baghdad appears to encouraging the Swiss to turn inwards.

Many are articulating a sense that they are better off not getting involved in international affairs.

Along with a boom in support for the concept of neutrality (some 89 per cent of the population back Switzerland's time-honoured stance on international relations), many Swiss remain staunchly opposed to joining Nato.

Paradox

The apparent recent-upswing in public sentiment towards isolationism ironically comes at a time when the Swiss are opening up to the rest of the world as never before.

Next week Switzerland joins the United Nations, while the country has recently embarked on a fresh round of talks with the European Union aimed at strengthening economic ties.

Andreas Wenger says the explanation for this paradox lies in the Swiss public's own particular threshold for international cooperation,

"The Swiss population is eager to join the UN, but now it's about defining what we want to contribute," says Wenger.

"They will support humanitarian operations and broad civilian projects, but certainly we will not be involved in what the UN calls peace enforcement."

But far from leaning towards absolute isolationism - as in the past - the study confirms that Switzerland's public realizes that security depends on the security of its neighbours.

swissinfo, Samantha Tonkin

In brief

The Swiss public remains concerned about world events, according to a new survey of people's attitudes.

But despite nervousness about a potential war with Iraq, and insecurity in the Middle East, many Swiss feel safe about their general security.

The study's authors say the Swiss are prepared to engage with the world, but not in United Nations peace enforcement operations.

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