'Don't succumb to fear': President Sommaruga
Swiss President Simonetta Sommaruga joined 59 world leaders at a march on Sunday in solidarity with victims of terror attacks in Paris that attracted an estimated crowd of more than one million people.
Sommaruga participated in a who’s who cast of politicians from Europe and around the world who came to pay their respects at the request of French President François Hollande after a week of bloodshed that left 17 dead.
“It was very impressive,” said Sommaruga, who told Swiss media she was “personally touched” by the historic march led by relatives of the victims of attacks last week at the Charlie Hebdo magazine and a kosher supermarket.
She chatted with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, among other leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, UK Prime Minister David Cameron, Israel PM Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, who walked arm in arm down the Boulevard Voltaire with Hollande in the middle.
All of these leaders personally “stood up to defend our common values that are important to us,” Sommaruga said, according to a report from ATS.
She added that she felt “a mood of openness” amid the huge but peaceful crowd, who crammed streets and squares in the centre of the French capital.
Similar marches were held in cities big and small across France, including those near Switzerland, such as Ferney-Voltaire, bordering the canton of Geneva, where an estimated 10,000 people participated — more then the village’s population.
In Switzerland, solidarity events were held in the cities of Lausanne and Nyon in the canton of Vaud and in La Chaux-de-Fonds in the canton of Neuchâtel.
In an interview with Schweiz am Sonntag, Sommaruga said she was very concerned by the two acts of terrorism in Paris but she warned people in Switzerland against being paralyzed by fear.
She told the newspaper she would continue to take public transport.
“I will continue to take the bus and I will continue shopping at the market,” said the Socialist party member who doubles as federal justice and police minister.
She added that the vast majority of Muslims in Switzerland are well integrated and it would be a “fatal mistake” to attribute horrific terrorists acts to the Muslim faith as a whole.
Meantime, Swiss defence Minister Ueli Maurer said in the wake of the terror attacks in Paris nothing had changed for the security risks to Switzerland.
“The evolution (of events) corresponds to scenarios that were envisioned some years ago,” Maurer told German-language broadcaster SRF.
“For us, that indicates that we must be ready everywhere and at all times to ensure security while keeping aware of all the insecurity that reigns around us.”
But Maurer said there was “never absolute security in an open and free society”.
However, Geneva cabinet minister Pierre Maudet, responsible for police, said Switzerland was failing to do enough to boost security.
The country needed to provide more funding, as well as change outdated legislation to improve the exchange of information about terror risks, Maudet told French-language broadcaster RTS.