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Swiss feel safe but worry about welfare

A majority of Swiss still feel secure and protected in their country

(swissinfo.ch)

The Swiss appear to feel secure in their country, despite the threat of international terrorism, according to a survey.

But the report also highlights concerns about unemployment and social security, and suggests that young people are becoming disenchanted with the armed forces.

The study by the Military Academy at the Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich found that the feeling of security had increased slightly since the last report was carried out a year ago.

“Eighty-five per cent of the Swiss surveyed said they felt somewhat or very secure,” said the authors of the study on Friday.

“But after the terror attacks in [the Spanish capital] Madrid [in March], 25 per cent believe that their security is more threatened than before,” they added.

The survey was conducted mainly in February and is based on interviews with 1,200 people in the country’s three main language regions.

Security of employment and pensions was considered to be very important. But up to 12 per cent of those polled said they felt that both were “very strongly threatened". Nearly 60 per cent want the authorities to take a more leading role in both areas.

Foreigners

A majority of those surveyed said they thought it was important to maintain controls on the number of foreigners living in Switzerland. Currently just over 20 per cent of the Swiss population are foreign.

The survey found that only a minority of Swiss support attempts to ease citizenship procedures.

When interviewed last February, one in three came out in favour of facilitating naturalisation of foreigners.

However, another survey by the GfS Bern polling and research institute, published earlier this month ahead of a nationwide vote on the issue on September 26, found that up to 75 per cent of those surveyed supported proposals to ease citizenship regulations.

Army and police

The study by the Military Academy shows that the Swiss armed forces are losing support among the population.

A 58 per cent majority – down 12 per cent on a year ago - believe in the need for a Swiss army.

“Support, especially among 18- to 19-year-olds, has faltered. Only a minority [41 per cent] of them consider that the military is necessary,” concluded the survey’s authors.

However, the Swiss continue to have a high level of trust in the police, while confidence in the economy picked up after dropping to its lowest level in 2003.

Opening up

On the political front, only one in three people said they were in favour of Switzerland becoming a full member of the European Union.

But six out of ten believe that the country should seek a seat on the United Nations Security Council, after Switzerland joined the world body in 2002.

The Swiss were found to be still very much in favour of the country’s traditional status as a neutral state.

“Nine out of ten Swiss voters want Switzerland to remain neutral… Nevertheless, more than half of the respondents are of the opinion that neutrality can no longer be credibly protected by the military,” said the report.

Optimism

Overall, the survey found that the level of optimism remained roughly the same as a year ago. More than two-thirds said they were optimistic about Switzerland’s place in the world five years from now.

But even though nine out of ten people surveyed said they felt at home and sheltered in Switzerland, the sense of national pride appears to be on the decline.

The percentage of Swiss voters who said they would not mind becoming a citizen of another country has shot up to 52 per cent in 2004 from 29 per cent in 1983.

The latest study is the sixth of its kind by the Federal Institute of Technology, which first published its security report in 1999.

swissinfo, Urs Geiser

In brief

The latest survey shows that 85% of Swiss voters feel secure in their country, but many people would like to see the state taking more of a role in social and economic matters.

The armed forces appear to have lost support, but an overwhelming majority of those polled said they wanted to maintain Swiss neutrality.

The study by the Federal Institute of Technology is the sixth of its kind since 1999.

end of infobox

Key facts

68% of those polled say they are optimistic about the future
89% are in favour of safeguarding Switzerland’s neutral status
58% believe the army is necessary
48% want to maintain banking secrecy
34% are in favour of Switzerland joining the EU

end of infobox


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