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Parliament session begins with appeal against extremism

Hanspeter Seiler: A call to fight extremism. Keystone / Lukas Lehmann

The speaker of the House of Representatives, Hanspeter Seiler, has launched an appeal for the Swiss people to fight extremism, in a speech marking the start of the three-week Autumn session of parliament.

Seiler, a member of the right-wing Swiss People’s Party, called on people to oppose all forms of extremism which, he said, had been increasing recently.

He said the attempt by right-wingers to disrupt the National Day speech by the finance minister, Kaspar Villiger, on August 1 should have made people pay attention to the issue, but the incident should neither be exaggerated nor underplayed.

But he added he had witnessed a number of incidents in recent months which had their roots in extremism.

Also on the agenda during the Autumn session are abortion and European integration.

One of the main debates will centre on abortion, still illegal in Switzerland. The government is seeking to legalise the practice, and set a 14-week time limit. The proposal has already been ratified, albeit by a narrow majority, by a Senate commission.

The issue is likely to provoke fierce debate as one of the four government parties – the centre-right, mainly Catholic Christian Democrats – is proposing that abortion should only be legal until the 12th week, and only after a woman has consulted two doctors.

Switzerland’s relations with Europe will be in the forefront of politicians’ minds this week, ahead of a referendum on Sunday, which proposes to curb the number of foreigners in Switzerland to 18 per cent.

The House of Representatives will also be looking at how to respond to an initiative called “Yes to Europe”, which calls for immediate negotiations on Switzerland becoming a member of the European Union.

The government has said membership is a goal, without specifying a timetable, and has made it clear it wants to see the impact of the bilateral accords, which Switzerland has agreed with the EU, before going ahead with full membership.

The House of Representatives will debate whether to put forward an alternative proposal to the “Yes to Europe” initiative.

Parliamentarians are also waiting to see whether the Swiss accept or reject a tax on non-renewable energy in a nationwide vote on Sunday. The outcome will have implications on the liberalisation of the electricity market.

swissinfo with agencies

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR