Published: 11 Sep 2012 17:34 GMT+02:00 | Print version
Updated: 11 Sep 2012 17:34 GMT+02:00
UN chief Ban Ki-moon hailed Switzerland as a champion of human rights as he visited Bern on Tuesday to celebrate the country's ten-year anniversary of its membership in the world body.
"During the short period of ten years, you have made your mark in so many ways," Ban said in an address to the federal parliament, a decade after Switzerland voted in a referendum to become the 190th member nation of the UN.
He congratulated Switzerland in all four of its official languages -- French, German, Italian and Romansh, drawing thunderous applause from the packed national council.
Ban hailed the small country of nearly eight million people for, among other things, being "such a champion in protecting human rights", saying Switzerland was "forever linked with two of the world's greatest symbols of compassion" -- the Geneva Convention and the Sign of the Red Cross.
On March 3rd 2002, 54.6 percent of the electorate voted in favour of joining the world body, despite fears voiced by some that the move might jeopardize the country's cherished neutrality.
The UN General Assembly then welcomed Switzerland into the fold on September 10th of that year.
Swiss Foreign Minister Didier Burkhalter said his country's "neutral status at the heart of the UN has allowed it to preserve its autonomy".
During the past decade, Switzerland had "strengthened its sovereignty and its international recognition," he said in a statement.
The UN secretary general said "it would be a mistake to interpret (Switzerland's) famed impartiality as indifference", instead lauding the country for its "passion for compassion".
During a ceremony in Geneva on Monday, Burkhalter gave the UN chief an unusual gift to mark the anniversary: 10 productive beehives decked out in the red and white of the Swiss flag and named after UN objectives such as "Peace", "Human Rights," and "Environment".
The beehives, placed in the lush park surrounding the UN's European headquarters in Geneva, are part of a plan to produce up to 700 kilos of honey by next year.
Ban said he was thrilled by the gift, which also was an incitement to halt the disastrous decline in bee colonies in many parts of the world.
"On this 10th anniversary of Switzerland's membership in the United Nations, let us celebrate the country's enormous contribution to a better -- and sweeter -- world," he said.
Swiss champion football team FC Basel may be in danger of losing one of its top players, striker Jacques Zoua. READ () »
Students at one of Zurich’s largest secondary schools were sent home on Tuesday after seniors trashed parts of the building in what was described in news reports as a “graduation prank”. READ () »
The last mountain pass highway route in Switzerland was finally cleared of snow on Tuesday as most of the country continued to swelter in a heatwave with record-breaking temperatures. READ () »
Britain's Serious Fraud Office on Tuesday said that former UBS trader Tom Hayes had become the first person to be charged in connection with its probe into the Libor rate-rigging scandal that has rocked the banking sector. READ () »
Switzerland’s lower house of parliament has voted against debating a secret deal between Bern and Washington aimed at settling a legal battle over Swiss banks’ alleged complicity in tax evasion by American citizens. READ () »
A 19-year-old man who punched his mother several times in the face received a 16-month prison term from a Zurich district court on Monday. READ () »
A snap of a finger, a handful of scattered microphones and a computer algorithm are all it takes to create an accurate three-dimensional map of a room, Swiss and US researchers said on Monday. READ () »
A 72-year-old Swiss man died on Monday after the motorcycle he was driving collided with a van in a Jura Mountain pass. READ () »
After a cool spring, torrential rains, flooding and wind storms, Switzerland is now sweating it out through a heatwave. READ () »
Foreign banks based in Switzerland called on Monday for a rapid resolution of a dispute with Washington over Swiss banks' role in tax evasion by Americans, warning the prolonged uncertainty was putting entire financial institutions at risk. READ () »