Report on the Council Meeting and the Congress of the Swiss Abroad in Visp in August 2018

The Valais city of Visp hosted the 2018 Congress of the Swiss Abroad and the Council Meeting of the Swiss Abroad from August 10-12, with the final day excursion to the Ryffelberg–Gornergrat.

The Council Meeting was attended by some 97 members and the debates were lively and animated. The following subjects were decided on or discussed:

It was decided to launch a petition to the Swiss Government to introduce e-voting on a national level as soon as possible. Currently only some Cantons offer this opportunity. Various speakers were asked previously to comment on the security systems built – in the e-voting platforms, whereby the Canton of Geneva assured their system to be proof. The Swiss Post developed another safe system, according to their representative. The petition has also to be seen in the light of some strong opposition to electronic voting efforts by some political parties from the right.

The Swiss victims of the Nazi Regime before and during WW2 should get a memorial in Switzerland: this was approved, and the Committee will make recommendations as to the form and location. In the debate leading to the resolution some members also wanted to commemorate (all) other Swiss victims of other international conflicts.

The Yearly Budget of the Organisation of the Swiss Abroad was approved with the inclusion of the publishing and distribution costs of the Swiss Review – which previously was handled by the Department of Foreign Affairs in Berne. The subsidy from the Government is equal to the previous allocated costs by the Government.

The CSA budget is very tight and not commensurate to the task it has undertaken. Your Delegate has suggested, that in addition to the Federal Subsidy, the committee should look for subsidies directly from the Cantons, as we are also citizens of specific cantons.

On other Budget matters: thanks to a generous donation by Bank Roche, the Delegates are being reimbursed some of their travel costs to Switzerland. Your Delegate received Swiss Francs 400, a first.

The Members of the Council wish to be better informed before national elections as to the position of all political parties and their candidates in regard to matters affecting the Swiss Abroad. Members also want to know of the voting record/habits of the Parliamentarians in this respect. For instance, it would be good to know which political party opposes dual citizenship.

Under this heading figured also a discussion on whether the Council of the Swiss Abroad should issue ‘How to Vote’ suggestions before Federal Elections or Referenda.

Representation of the Swiss Broad in the Federal National Council: the meeting took note of a members group working on various schemes to promote direct representation. No decisions taken.

The meeting acknowledged the efforts of a Swiss Parliamentarian Group formed especially to promote the interests of the Swiss Abroad. In March 2018 the first meeting took place with CSA members at the Parliament House in Berne. The Grouping encompasses 96 members.

Your Delegate made specific proposals. Even for the uninitiated it became apparent, that the CSA achieves its goals and aims only through the help of Swiss Parliamentarians.

The Congress Theme centered about the question ‘Swiss Sovereignty within the European context’. Various speakers tackled the problem. Absolute sovereignty is hardly possible within an integrated and interdependent society. Switzerland alone has signed hundreds of international treaties, is a member of international organisations, adheres to international conventions, all of which have rules re arbitration, reference to international tribunals, etc which limit in an agreed way the range of sovereignty. Some Swiss political activists want to resist jurisdiction of these ‘Foreign Judges’. But, turning the clock backwards will be difficult.

The CSA arranged for a range of excellent speakers on this subject, including a speech by the EU Representative to Switzerland. Switzerland’s economic dependence on some EU neighbouring countries was highlighted, especially the trade with our Northern neighbours such as Bavaria, Baden-Württemberg ,etc.

The next Congress will be held in Montreux 16-18 August 2019.  The next CSA Meeting will be held in Berne on 23 March 2019. The Congress in 2020 will be held in Lugano.

Beat Knoblauch, CSA Delegate,Sydney, September 4, 2018