Politicians appeal for Swiss unity on National Day

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Politicians appeal for Swiss unity on National Day
Andrew Bossi

Politicians celebrated the August 1 National Day with speeches urging the Swiss to unite in the face of expected economic hardships. The soaring value of the Swiss franc means there could be trouble ahead for many businesses.



With national elections twelve weeks away, Swiss politicians lined up over the weekend to use the occasion of National Day to get an early start on their campaigns.

Speeches focussed on a common theme – the Swiss sense of community and how it was going to be needed in the near future. Fulvio Pelli, head of the Free Democratic Party – the third biggest party following the 2007 elections – said that cross-party accord was vital to the stability of the country.

"The FDP will work to maintain the accord, even if it loses one of its two seats on the Federal Council," Pelli promised on Saturday. "A system of government against oppositions damages direct democracy."

Christophe Darbellay, president of the Christian Democratic People's Party (CVP) called on the National Council to "wake up" to the problems in many of the countries industries, including tourism. Darbellay claimed that 500 Swiss hotels were currently facing closure because of the climbing value of the Swiss franc.

Johann Schneider-Ammann, who heads the Federal Department on Economic Affairs in the National Council, used his speech to appeal to the Swiss sense of community in order to overcome "these troubled economic times."

Schneider-Ammann said he wanted to continue in his post after the election, but said he would avoid "trying to please the people with populist or dangerous decisions." 

Several politicians also used their speeches to touch on relations with the European Union and with foreign communities in Switzerland. Pelli said negotiations with the EU had to be "hard but polite, combative and clever," and added that asylum laws needed to be better implemented.

Finance Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf, of the Conservative Democratic Party (BDP), said Switzerland's many national communities needed to find a compromise, and added that the National Day, which celebrates the signing of the Federal Charter in 1291, demonstrated that compromise was a very Swiss trait.



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