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UN membership is a must, say Swiss all-stars

Comedian Emil Steinberger (left) and balloonist Bertrand Piccard add their voices to the UN debate Keystone

A group of well-known Swiss personalities, ranging from politicians to the nation's favourite balloonist and comedian, has come out publicly in support of Swiss membership of the United Nations. A national vote on the issue is expected next March.

The group of about 20 personalities held a news conference in Bern to publicize the campaign for Switzerland joining the UN.

The head of the Radical Party’s parliamentary group, Christine Beerli, said Swiss membership was long overdue, and would not compromise the country’s neutrality. She said the UN and Switzerland shared the same goals of peace, human rights, health care, protection of the environment and justice.

Switzerland’s round-the world balloonist, Bertrand Piccard, told the news conference that it was unacceptable that Switzerland should be involved with UN agencies and pay contributions, but had no voice or vote in the General Assembly.

“Like people without any self-esteem, we seem to be evesdropping through closed doors,” said the country’s best-known comedian, Emil Steinberger.

The Swiss people rejected membership of the UN when it last came to the vote in 1986, but it is recognised that many people’s attitudes have changed since then.

Switzerland currently works within many UN agenciers and is home to the organisation’s European headquarters in Geneva.

The campaign ahead of next year’s referendum is getting underway. The government has made UN membership one of its priorities.

However, opponents say the move would compromise Swiss neutrality.

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