As the football World Cup kicks off in Russia, the Swiss finance minister tells swissinfo.ch about the “difficult situation” concerning sanctions between the two countries and why he doesn’t support a boycott of the tournament.
While Alain Berset, who holds the rotating Swiss presidency this year, and Sports Minister Guy Parmelin will both watch the Swiss team in action – Berset is also trying to sit down with Russian President Vladimir Putin – Finance Minister Ueli Maurer says he is still trying to make room in his diary.
swissinfo.ch spoke to Maurer at an official reception at the Russian Embassy in Bern for the opening ceremony of the World Cup on Thursday.
swissinfo.ch: When was the last time you visited Russia?
Ueli Maurer: For the Olympic Games in Sochi four years ago. I haven’t been since.
swissinfo.ch: When you think of Russia, what’s the first thing that springs to mind?
U.M.: Sport, literature and music. I’m a big fan of Russian literature. Tolstoy, for example.
swissinfo.ch: Are you going to the World Cup?
U.M.: I still don’t know if I’ve got the time. I could only make it for one match and would then have to fly back to Switzerland straight away. I’m still working it out.
swissinfo.ch: Is it a political decision?
U.M.: Yes, but I’d look at it as a positive decision. As a neutral country, Switzerland can and should make an appearance in Russia. But I’m in the minority on that in Switzerland…
swissinfo.ch: So as not to endanger relations with Russia?
U.M.: We’ve also imposed sanctions against Russia. In such a difficult situation for both countries I think it makes sense if we don’t destroy relations on a personal level. At some point we’ll speak and do business again, and it’s then good if the networks still exist.
swissinfo.ch: You haven't got any understanding for people in Switzerland who are calling for a boycott of Russia during the World Cup?
U.M.: You have to separate sport and politics. Switzerland can absolutely show itself to be political, but you have to keep talking.
swissinfo.ch: Russia has just beaten Saudi Arabia 5-0. What’s going to happen on Sunday between Switzerland and Brazil?
U.M.: I stick to my prediction that Switzerland will win 2-1!
(Translated from German by Thomas Stephens), swissinfo.ch