This version is for browsers with a low level of support for CSS, and is des
Home Content Area
President of the National Council
President of the Council of States
Ladies and Gentlemen
I am delighted to welcome you all in the newly refurbished Parliament Building. As you can see, we want our members of parliament to feel at ease. After all, we expect them to pass good laws!
Since 16 October 2008, Switzerland has been an official member of the G-14. You're not familiar with the G-14? Well, these were the 14 States that came up with massive funds to recapitalise banks last autumn to an extent never seen before. Switzerland, for example, provided UBS with six billion francs in the form of a mandatory convertible bond. Additionally, the Swiss National Bank granted a loan to UBS up to a maximum of 54 billion dollars. This course of action was not without cause as the international banking system came close to collapse in the autumn.
The financial crisis has now reached the real economy. Growth forecasts are negative and we find ourselves on the brink of recession.
As such the outlook for 2009 is somewhat bleak. What we have to do know is think about how to digest this crisis and prevent the next one. I would also recommend that all "G-14" countries be included in any discussions on global measures. If important financial centres are missing from these discussions, it is like having keys missing on your computer keyboard. It may still work, but the words will be incomplete. Depending on which letters are missing, your texts will be hard to decipher. If, for instance, the letter "S" for Switzerland is missing, it will be difficult to type words such as "stability", "solvency", or "security".
The financial crisis should not lead us to forget the other crises and conflicts around the world where far too much blood is still being shed, where there is far too much hunger and suffering. It is with great concern that I am following the situation in the Middle East. Violence - whoever is at the root of it - does not solve any problems. Switzerland calls on all parties in the conflict to respect international humanitarian law. As a neutral country, Switzerland is far from centre stage in terms of global power, but we are not merely extras. We demonstrate our solidarity through our commitment to peace policy and our "good offices". We do this, for example, through our various mandates to represent the interests of third countries, whether in Iran, Cuba, or most recently in Russia and Georgia.
The current economic situation may tempt some States to focus their budgets on domestic policy issues. That is not the Federal Council's intention. Switzerland stands firmly by its international commitments! We cannot neglect the long-term, global problems of our time - democratisation and human rights, the fight against poverty, global warming, and - as the Nuncio mentioned a moment ago - the food crisis - due to short-term thinking.
This year, Swiss voters will be called upon to decide on several international questions at the ballot box. The vote on 8 February is particularly important as it concerns the prolongation of the free movement of persons with the EU and its extension to Bulgaria and Romania. I am not particularly worried in this regard, however, as the Swiss people have always supported the bilateral path taken by the Federal Council and are convinced of the benefits of this cooperation.
It is also likely that we will be called on to vote on a popular initiative against the construction of minarets that was submitted last summer. The fact that sufficient signatures were gathered to submit the initiative shows that we will have to actively address the question of Islam in Switzerland as part of our political discourse. Let me reaffirm that the freedom of religion is guaranteed in Switzerland. We want to live in a culturally diverse and open Switzerland. That is why all religious groups should be able to actively practise their faith.
In closing, I am glad to say that fortunately not all international events revolve around crises and catastrophes. As was the case last year, Switzerland will again host a major sporting event this year: the ice hockey world championships will be held in Bern and Zurich in the spring. As a longstanding ice hockey fan, I am particularly looking forward to some exciting sporting moments. The coming year will also see cultural highlights with the 40th edition of ART in Basel, the Lucerne festival, the comedy festival in Arosa and for pop fans, concerts by Tina Turner and Bob Dylan.
By reporting to your governments on the situation in Switzerland, by creating understanding for our concerns, you play an important role. On behalf of the Federal Council, I would therefore like to thank you!
I wish you and your families a happy and successful New Year, and - above all - good health!