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Swiss cross stands for unity

The Swiss cross symbolises unity and agreement, according to Leuenberger (centre) Keystone

The 2006 federal president, Moritz Leuenberger, has issued a call for unity and consensus within the government and among the Swiss people.

In his New Year’s Day address, Leuenberger said the country’s strength lay in its commitment to the state and public services.

Referring to an official photograph of the cabinet grouped around a Swiss cross, Leuenberger said this symbolised the unity and agreement which should be at the heart of the state.

“We are working together for your future. The Swiss cross is a symbol of this concerted effort,” the new president said.

To illustrate how the Swiss could pull together and help one another, Leuenberger mentioned last August’s severe flooding in Switzerland and the huge contribution made by volunteer helpers.

He said the different cultural, linguistic, social and political minorities in the country meant that the government had to constantly seek a balance and make compromises.

“This is what produces consensus, a subject which is currently widely discussed and questioned, but for which we have a lot to be thankful.”

Leuenberger pointed to Switzerland’s old age and health provision, its railways, post office and roads, schools and cultural provision as examples of what consensus had produced.

This infrastructure and social provision had to be retained and preserved for future generations. “The Swiss cross also stands for this,” Leuenberger added.

Protecting the disadvantaged

The Swiss president said there was a big debate about the role of the state, with many people seeking to reduce its role and allow more private enterprise.

“But competition does not solve all our problems.” Leuenberger warned. “It doesn’t just create victors, it also creates losers.”

While society favoured the strong, it was important to protect the weak. “That is why we need the state, to care for those who are on the margins of society. That is what makes our country strong.”

The president said that while there were many things in society which needed to change, it was important to hold on to what had been achieved: “the strong cohesion, the balance between the regions, the same rights for all and a strong, democratic state to guarantee all those things”.

Leuenberger called on the Swiss not to be insular but to be open to the outside world. He pointed to the problems of global warming and environmental disasters, and spoke of the need to combat hunger and poverty.

“People in the world should not just survive, they should be able to live in peace. This is the responsibility of every one of us.”

swissinfo with agencies

Moritz Leuenberger was born on September 21, 1946 in canton Bern.
After studying law in Zürich he ran a legal practice there until 1991.
In 1979 Leuenberger was elected to the House of Representatives.
In 1995 he was elected to the cabinet where he took over responsibility for the environment, transport, energy and communciations ministry.
In 2001 Leuenberger served as president for the first time.
Leuenberger is married to the architect Gret Löwenberg. He has two sons.

The federal president is elected by both chambers of parliament from among the seven-member cabinet for a period of one year.

The federal president chairs government meetings and represents the cabinet at official functions.

Transport and environment minister Moritz Leuenberger is the federal president for 2006. His predecessor in 2005 was Defence Minister Samuel Schmid.

Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey is expected to take over in 2007.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR