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Swiss urged to open up in National Day speeches

The Swiss president, Pascal Couchepin, calls on Switzerland to come out of its shell Keystone

Switzerland’s ministers have marked the country's National Day with a range of speeches calling for the population to play a greater role on the international scene, particularly in Europe.

They also said Swiss people must move with the changing times and that there should be more unity among the different regions.

The Swiss president, Pascal Couchepin, said he hoped Switzerland would have a greater presence in European affairs over the next few years.

“It is important that we assert our presence and our solidarity, particularly with the new members of the European Union and with those who hope to join one day,” he said in his broadcasted address.

Couchepin also called on the Swiss to avoid looking to the idealised past for answers and instead find ways to adapt to change.

The foreign minister, Micheline Calmy-Rey, and the economics minister, Joseph Deiss, also called for Switzerland to open up more to Europe.

“There is nothing Europe decides that doesn’t affect us,” Calmy-Rey said in a speech to Swiss nationals in Paris, adding that a closer alignment with Europe does not threaten Switzerland’s national identity.

More cohesion

Greater unity between Switzerland’s different cantons also featured in Couchepin and Deiss’s speeches.

“The Swiss forget that they are a confederates, and too often egoism and individualism prevails,” Deiss said, adding that regional interests must come second place to national concerns, especially in the current period of economic uncertainty.

Meanwhile, Samuel Schmid, the defence minister, used his address in Zurich to remind the Swiss how privileged they were to live in a peaceful country.

But he also acknowledged the country did have some problems on home soil and said it was important to tackle them head on.

“People for whom unemployment had previously only been something they heard about in the news are losing their jobs,” he said. “Others who had always considered protesters to be a bit suspect are now taking to the streets.”


Fireworks and parties are planned throughout Switzerland to celebrate National Day, including the traditional gathering on the Rütli meadow in canton Uri, considered to be the country’s geographic and spiritual centre.

In the German capital, Berlin, the Swiss embassy presented a giant version of the “Basler Leckerli”, Switzerland’s traditional cake. The Swiss ambassador to Berlin, Werner Baumann, cut the cake, which was 4.50 metres long and 1.40 metres wide.

The festivity in Berlin is the biggest National Day celebration outside Switzerland.

While last year the rain threatened to dampen many outdoor parties, the recent spell of hot and dry weather has forced a number of cantons to cancel fireworks to avoid the risk of spreading fires.

Cantons Vaud, Geneva, Valais, Fribourg and the two Appenzell cantons are among those forced to call off all firework displays.

swissinfo with agencies

August 1 marks the day, in 1291, on which three Alpine states swore the oath of confederation, later considered to be the founding of Switzerland.
Schwyz, Unterwalden and Uri pledged to act together to defend themselves from outside attacks.
Today, the Swiss celebrate national day by setting off fire works and lighting bonfires.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR