Switzerland’s image is far from perfect

Interior Minister Pascal Couchepin defended his country's honour Keystone Archive

The Swiss may not be perfect, but they are not bad – that was one opinion aired at a debate on Swiss identity, held alongside the WEF summit.

This content was published on January 30, 2005

Political movers and shakers from Switzerland, including Interior Minister Pascal Couchepin, took part in an "Open Forum" in the presence of the public.

One of the other speakers, Peter Ulrich, director of the Institute for Business Ethics at St Gallen University, accused Switzerland of having traded in its traditional bourgeois liberalism for a narrow form of economic liberalism.

“The country is on the verge of becoming the realm of money-grabbers,” Ulrich complained.

It was Couchepin who tried to defend Switzerland’s reputation by saying: “We may not be perfect but we are not bad.”

He also rejected the charge that Swiss aid to developing countries was less than generous.

“Our markets are open,” Couchepin said.

He added that Switzerland had “sacrificed” its textile industry for the benefit of poor countries.

Dubious honour

Peter Brabeck, the chairman and CEO of the world’s largest food company, Vevey-based Nestlé, also took part in the debate.

He argued for more market liberalisation, particularly in agriculture.

Earlier this week, the anti-globalisation organisation, Public Eye on Davos, “honoured” Nestlé for its “irresponsibility” in the field of human rights.

Brabeck, in an attempt to defend his company’s reputation, revealed that Nestlé had refused to do business with the regime of Iraqi dictator, Saddam Hussein, within the framework of the United Nations’ “Oil for Food” programme.

It tendered its refusal after the Iraqis asked it to pay a bribe into a Swiss bank account.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

The WEF organised the Open Forum with two Swiss organisations: Bread for All and the Federation of Swiss Protestant Churches.
This is the third time that this event has taken place alongside the WEF meeting in Davos.
Some 300 members of the public took part in the debate on Switzerland.

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