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UN membership seen as success for Switzerland

Switzerland joined the UN in September 2002

(Keystone)

Three years after joining the United Nations, Swiss neutrality is intact and the nation has benefited from membership, says the Swiss economics minister.

Joseph Deiss added that Switzerland's initiatives at the UN had been "successful" and that, despite its small size, the country had made its voice heard.

"Contrary to what opponents of our membership said, Switzerland has not become the puppet of major powers," the economics minister told a meeting of the Switzerland-UN association, near Zurich, on Monday. "We still decide how we want to implement foreign policy."

According to Deiss, Switzerland has taken initiatives to the UN and managed to make other nations pay heed to its views. This has been the case especially with planned reforms of the world body.

"We have proposed solutions with the support of other small nations.

Deiss added that as a significant contributor to the UN's budget – one of the top 15 – Switzerland's views carried more weight than its small size might suggest.

Security Council

Switzerland has been pushing for a larger, more representative Security Council, but without extended veto rights so as not to hinder its work. The Swiss have called as well for the creation of a new Human Rights Council.

According to the economics minister, reforms would help to rebuild confidence in those UN institutions which have lost credibility. But these changes would have to be accompanied by a review of the world body's own administration.

"If the UN wants to be able to act on its own, it needs more space to make its own decisions and to be more responsible for its acts," said Deiss. "This would help to avoid some past management mistakes."

For Deiss, supporting the UN is beneficial to Switzerland's own interests. The Swiss want international relations to be orderly and secure, he said, making it important for the country to make its voice heard.

He also pointed to the economic benefits for Switzerland of having the UN's European headquarters in Geneva.

"Switzerland didn't join the UN to be just a bystander," he said. "That's why we need the support of all Swiss citizens."

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

Swiss voters accepted that Switzerland join the United Nation in March 2002.
Switzerland officially became a member on September 10, 2002.
Until then, the Swiss only had observer status.
In March 1986, a large majority of Swiss and cantons had rejected UN membership.

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