Guil­laume Scheurer:

“When there is a feel­ing of sep­a­ra­tion be­tween those gov­ern­ing and those gov­erned, it’s wrong”

The Ukrainian Week - - NEIGHBOURS - In­ter­viewed by Anna Kor­but

The Am­bas­sador of Switzer­land to Ukraine and Moldova spoke to The Ukrainian Week about the per­cep­tions of the EU and NATO in his coun­try, neu­tral­ity as a tool of in­flu­ence in in­ter­na­tional pol­i­tics, con­di­tions pre­vent­ing the ex­ploita­tion of di­rect democ­racy by pop­ulists, and the vis­i­ble im­pact of Swiss in­vest­ment and tech­ni­cal as­sis­tance in Ukraine.

How does Switzer­land see the EU and it­self with re­gard to the EU? Has that per­cep­tion changed over the decades of the EU’s ex­is­tence?

There is no di­rect an­swer as Switzer­land is a very di­verse coun­try. Many dif­fer­ent opin­ions of the EU coex­ist and vary be­tween seg­ments of the pop­u­la­tion – those very much in fa­vor and those com­pletely op­posed to the EU. But there are also many who are more mod­er­ate and want to main­tain a good re­la­tion­ship with the EU with­out be­ing part of it. Over the years, there has been a gen­eral ac­knowl­edge­ment of both the EU’s con­tri­bu­tion to peace, sta­bil­ity, eco­nomic growth and val­ues, as well as of its short­com­ings like its cen­tral­iza­tion, its lack of di­rect democ­racy which is very im­por­tant for the Swiss pop­u­la­tion, the EU’s bu­reau­cracy and some eco­nomic flaws. As a re­sult, the Swiss pop­u­la­tion is not ready to ad­here to the EU, as it has made clear in the past by vot­ing nar­rowly against join­ing the Euro­pean Eco­nomic Area. Nowa­days, talks of ad­he­sion are no longer on the politi­cal agenda as the politi­cians have taken note of the pop­u­la­tion’s op­po­si­tion to Switzer­land be­com­ing an EU mem­ber state. At the same time, we prob­a­bly have the most in­tense bi­lat­eral re­la­tions than at any point be­fore. We have a net­work of strong bi­lat­eral agree­ments; we have had many votes on EUre­lated mat­ters. That’s also an im­por­tant el­e­ment: the Swiss peo­ple were asked on the is­sues of Euro­pean iden­tity, val­ues, prin­ci­ples and reg­u­la­tions at ref­er­enda, - many dif­fi­cult is­sues - and re­mark­ably, they voted yes, un­til 2014

(when Swit- zer­land nar­rowly voted in fa­vor of im­mi­gra­tion quo­tas - Ed.). We are not in the EU, but we are strongly Euro­pean thanks to our shared val­ues. It is some­times dif­fi­cult to un­der­stand for out­siders.

Mean­while, that Euro­pean iden­tity is of­ten ques­tioned in EU mem­ber-states by some as­pir­ing forces. And they push for the frag­men­ta­tion of the EU. How could these changes af­fect Switzer­land?

The EU is po­lit­i­cally, eco­nom­i­cally and fi­nan­cially ab­so­lutely cen­tral for Switzer­land, so we need good re­la­tions with the EU.

I’d like to give you a few num­bers: 55% of the Swiss ex­ports go to the EU and 73% of Swiss im­ports come from there. We are the fourth most im­por­tant trade part­ner of the EU. More­over, 1.3mn peo­ple out of al­most 8mn in­hab­i­tants of Switzer­land come from the EU, mean­ing that the links are not only eco­nom­i­cally im­por­tant, but from the per­spec­tive of hu­man re­la­tions.

What many Swiss have prob­lem with is the lack of di­rect democ­racy and de­cen­tral­iza­tion in the EU. In Switzer­land, we vote on any­where be­tween two to seven top­ics ev­ery three months. This means that ev­ery politi­cal process, from the very early stage, be­gins with broad con­sul­ta­tions and an un­der­stand­ing that some sort of a com­pro­mise will be needed, as the pop­u­la­tion will have the fi­nal say.

You don’t see that too of­ten in other coun­tries. There, you have a ma­jor­ity swing­ing di­rec­tions ev­ery four or five years, and no con­sul­ta­tions in be­tween. As a re­sult, when there is a vote the pop­u­la­tion is less re­spond­ing to the ques­tion, but rather mak­ing a politi­cal state­ment against or in fa­vor of the govern­ment. In Switzer­land, peo­ple are a bit more in­te­grated into ev­ery­day politi­cal life of the coun­try.

Mean­while, di­rect democ­racy is in­creas­ingly be­ing used as a tool by pop­ulists for their ends – and some­times quite suc­cess­fully. In your opin­ion, what does it take to make na­tions vote re­spon­si­bly and make in­formed choices?

I don’t think we’re bet­ter than any other coun­try in that. We’ve just been lucky enough to de­velop our sys­tem for a long time. Switzer­land opted for di­rect democ­racy. But this sys­tem is re­fined by a politi-

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Ukraine

© PressReader. All rights reserved.