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Swiss youth believe in politics

Valentin, Simone, Stefania and Ursula came from Winterthur to the youth session in Bern

(swissinfo.ch)

Young people growing up today will inherit a range of problems, some old, some new. But it's a challenge they cannot avoid.

swissinfo spoke to four Swiss teenagers about their fears, anxieties and hopes for Switzerland and the world at large.

"I'm a little anxious about the future," says Simone Woodtli, a 17-year-old high school student who lives in Trüllikon in canton Zurich. Besides the financial crisis, she is also worried about youth violence: "We can't continue in this way; something has to change."

Her sentiments are echoed by Stefania Marasco, 19, who is concerned about the integration of immigrants: "Everything is very asocial. We need greater cohesion, agreement and a system that is more social."

It might be a little surprising to find that the Swiss youth today are troubled about their pensions, but understandable considering the global economic crisis.

"There are far fewer young people today entering the job market than there are old people leaving it," says 17-year-old Valentin Rohner, getting to the heart of the matter.

"That means that a young person must pay more. We should consider raising the retirement age," he continues.

"There's no point in coming to terms with issues that only affect you at the moment," counters Ursula Naef. She says it is important to find ways to support every member of society.

Politics

What Simone, Stefania, Ursula and Valentin have in common besides going to the same school in Winterthur is the fact that their interest in politics has led them to take part in the annual youth session of the Swiss parliament.

They do not display any signs of political apathy. "Politics is meant to solve problems," says Ursula.

Stefania could even imagine a career in politics. She is considering studying social sciences, the humanities, or even international relations and therefore going abroad to work for a while.

Change

The students see the election of Barack Obama as president of the United States as confirmation that change is possible. "The US will have a more humane foreign affairs policy with Barack Obama," thinks Valentin.

But Simone is wary of the high expectations placed in Obama, even if she is confident he can bring improvements. "Just the fact that he is so young can cause change. His election is a step towards a better future."

The youth have dreams and visions but few have the power to implement them. But what would happen if...?

"I would do away with the army," says Simone, shooting straight from the hip. Stefania laughs in agreement: "That would be my aim too."

Ursula would act to protect the climate and work for a more social market economy. The same goes for Valentin, who wants to see greater financial regulation. "I'd like to cut the giant of capitalism down to size."

Ambitions

But first, the four youth have other plans – finish school, travel and study. All are certain they will start a family someday except Simone. "I'm not sure yet, it's important to complete my studies first and learn a profession."

Despite crises, terrorism and natural disasters, the young people want to see the world. Stefania is interested in Latin American culture and therefore wants to discover Central and South America. She is also interested in having a better understanding of Islam.

Valentin would first like to visit countries in the west, "so-called rich nations", including the US and Australia.

"I'd also like to go to crisis regions to see for myself the problems there, but only when I'm a little older and more mature – maybe as a journalist, representative of a humanitarian organisation or as part of a government mission."

swissinfo, Susanne Schanda

In brief

About 200 people aged 14-21 take part in the annual federal Youth Session of parliament in the capital Bern. In 2008, it was held in November.

The first such meeting was organised in 1991 to coincide with the 700th anniversary of the founding of Switzerland.

It is organised by the Swiss council for youth activities.

Regional youth parliament sessions have also been held.

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