«Harvesting prosperity and security under the sun of freedom»

Bern, 15.01.2014 - Bern, 15.01.2014 - Address by the President of the Swiss Confederation, Mr Didier Burkhalter, at the President of the Swiss Confederation's reception for the Diplomatic Corps - Check against delivery

President of the National Council
President of the Council of States
Ladies and gentlemen

It is usual for two representatives of the Swiss government to greet you at this New Year's reception – the president and the foreign minister. This year, however, the president and the foreign minister are one and the same. To make up for this I have undertaken to shake twice as many hands as usual. That is why, in addition to your deputy head of mission, I asked you to bring with you the youngest member of your staff. I would therefore also like to welcome all the young diplomats here today, not only as a sign of the good bilateral relations we enjoy with the countries or organisations you represent, but also for the future of those relations. The theme set by the Federal Council for the 2014 (twenty-fourteen) presidency is 'Switzerland and the world: youth, work and opening'. The very essence of political action is to ensure the proper running of the 'polis' – the environment in which we live collectively – and to prepare for the future so that generations to come can benefit from the best possible opportunities.

I would like to thank the doyen of the diplomatic corps for the kind wishes addressed to the Swiss people. I have the honour of extending to you, and the states you represent, the best wishes of the Federal Council and of the Swiss people for 2014 (twenty-fourteen).
Many of you like to discover Switzerland's diversity through its cantons. This year for the diplomatic corps’ excursion (in the summer), I shall be taking you to Neuchâtel. Firstly because it is two hundred years since the canton, along with Valais and Geneva, joined the Confederation. And secondly, because that is where I have my roots, which run deep, like those of the vines that grow upon the slopes by the lake. In order to truly see the world, one has to have firm roots.

Here are a few lines from Neuchâtel's anthem, a patriotic song from the second half of the nineteenth century written by a poet from the canton of Vaud with firm roots in the soil of French-speaking Switzerland, who was able to see Switzerland from the outside, having also lived and worked in Istanbul and the Paris region. The last verse, roughly translated, describes Neuchâtel's republicans of 1848 as follows:

 They were good workers
 who sowed the seed for their compatriots,
 today, in better times, we too sow the seed of hope
 so, at the end of summer, an abundant harvest awaits
 a harvest of love and justice
 under a sun of freedom!

These words are not only beautiful, but have a universal reach and are just as relevant today. To make the 'sun of freedom' and all the other fundamental values shine around the world, nations must find solutions to the immense challenges of our time by working together.
They must act quickly – by being good workers. And in so doing, they must think long term – sow solutions today, so that our children may harvest the fruits in the years or decades to come.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Switzerland is ready. It is ready and willing to contribute to the future by demonstrating solidarity and assuming responsibility.

Switzerland and the world – the Federal Constitution invites us to defend our interests and promote our values, namely freedom, democracy, sovereignty, peace and prosperity, and to display solidarity, responsibility and openness in our dealings with the world.

In particular, this affects our relations with others on our continent: we are bound to our neighbours through our history, our economy, our cultures and languages. We also share the same values as our neighbours, and indeed Europe as a whole.

Thanks to its political stability and economic dynamism Switzerland contributes significantly to stability and economic well-being in Europe. This was recently confirmed by an OECD study. Switzerland is the second largest investor in the EU, the fourth largest trade partner, and it employs a large number of European citizens.

And the European Union is Switzerland's largest trading partner by far; it is the motor behind our job creation, our capacity to innovate and our prosperity. Switzerland is strengthened by its good relations with its neighbours: these are essential ties in terms of prosperity and economic well-being, but also in terms of security and values.

Switzerland is ready to renew and continue along this path because solid and stable relations between Switzerland and the EU are in the interests of both partners. The Federal Council approved the mandate for negotiations on an institutional framework following the positive results of a consultation involving the cantons and the parliamentary committees. We await the approval of a similar mandate by the European Commission which will allow us to jointly shape the future course of this path – a path that has proven to be a win-win for both partners.

An important element of the bilateral path is the free movement of labour. In Switzerland, as in other countries, debate on subjects such as immigration and integration raise emotions. The authorities take these concerns on the part of its citizens seriously and take action on the ground. But we also have to recognise that the free movement of labour and the successful integration of the foreign resident population in Switzerland are essential ingredients in our country's economic prosperity. The Swiss people have voted on the bilateral path on a number of occasions. And they have always supported that path.
The Swiss invariably choose the path of employment and prosperity when votes are held. The bilateral path allows Switzerland to ensure both its prosperity and its independence. That is why the Federal Council and parliament once again invites the people to reaffirm the bilateral path on 9 February.

Ladies and gentlemen,

This year, in 2014 (twenty-fourteen), it is important to remind ourselves that neither peace nor prosperity can be taken for granted. This year marks the anniversaries of numerous events which altered the face of the world. It is a hundred years since the start of the First World War and seventy-five years since the outbreak of the Second World War; two global catastrophes on a scale the likes of which had never been seen before. They wiped out generations, resulted in the deaths and suffering of tens of millions of men, women and children and devastated the very fabric of nations – their industries, cultural heritage and landscapes. Two disasters for humanity.

But twenty-five years ago, the Berlin Wall came down allowing millions of people to once again bask in the sun of freedom. It also heralded the start of a new era, that of a multipolar world. The memory of these events underlines the fact that security, peace and cooperation form the foundations upon which our well-being is based. The shared commitment of all states is essential to consolidate those foundations and safeguard our future.

It is in this light that Switzerland's chairmanship of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) this year should be seen. We consider it an honour to hold the chairmanship, but also a duty.

Switzerland is ready to strengthen its commitment to security and stability in Europe and the neighbouring regions. We want to ‘create a security community for the benefit of everyone’. There are three primary values and goals:

First, security and stability – we wish to work towards reconciliation and cooperation in the Western Balkans and on dialogue and confidence building in the Southern Caucasus.

Second, freedom to improve people's lives. This involves reliable management of natural disasters and the fight against terrorism, which will be the theme of a conference in Interlaken.
And third, responsibility, by strengthening the OSCE's ability to act, as well as its further development (keyword 'Helsinki +40') and by strengthening its mediation capabilities.

The consecutive chairmanships of Switzerland and Serbia - with a joint working plan and the nomination of special envoys for a two-year period - provide an opportunity to plan activities on a more lasting basis and strengthen the OSCE. We hope that this approach will serve as a model for future chairmanships.

Switzerland is also ready to continue its commitment to the United Nations. The international role played by Geneva is an important pillar of this commitment. We wish to contribute to a more peaceful and more just world. We are proud and glad that, in Geneva, Switzerland is able to provide a safe and discreet platform for negotiators on Iran to seek solutions to serious challenges. In the same spirit, Switzerland is also ready to host the second Syria conference due to begin in a few days' time. We hope that it will contribute to paving the way for a return to peace and reconstruction. Yes, we want International Switzerland – through Geneva – to be a place where the great challenges of our world can be addressed and resolved; a place with the necessary infrastructure and know-how – buildings to welcome its guests and encourage intellectual exchanges – and thus contribute to finding solutions to our planet’s problems.

The inauguration this year of the Maison de la Paix and the work under way to renovate the Palais des Nations and the headquarters of several other organisations are a clear indication of the desire for Geneva to continue to play a leading role for the benefit of the global community. 

Switzerland is also ready to contribute to security, peace and stability in the world through international cooperation. In unstable situations it is essential for development cooperation, security policy, peace policy and good offices to be linked. An interdisciplinary approach is particularly necessary to ensure access to clean drinking water. Water scarcity is increasingly becoming a cause of conflict.
The issue of water has therefore been made one of Switzerland's priority action areas. More broadly, we have decided to strengthen our international cooperation efforts and increase credits in that area. This strong measure, supported by parliament, is intended to open up perspectives for people in need and reaffirm Switzerland's solidarity. In the same manner, we also affirm our willingness to act as a bridge builder and assume the role of committed and credible mediator where necessary and desired.

Switzerland upholds its values and keeps alive its traditions. These values include a desire for independence – the sun of freedom. At the same time we are a welcoming and open country with strong international ties. Both of these aspects – our sense of values and openness – are reflected in our foreign policy, as symbolised in the magnificent fresco behind me. We defend our freedom and independence – symbolised by the cradle of our nation rooted on the slopes by this majestic lake. At the same time we are aware of our responsibility; we are open and show solidarity. At the horizon, the Alps and the sky meet to create new perspectives. Bridges were built, routes opened up over the Alps becoming major European trading routes, all for mutual benefit. It was like that in Roman times and the Middle Ages, and today Switzerland is building the world's longest railway tunnel for the same reasons.

This region, this country, has strengthened its identity and its character, reaffirmed its beauty by means of this well-managed openness.
This, combined with the desire for independence, has become one of the keys of Switzerland's success - keys which we will guard for future generations.
Ladies and gentlemen, you work to ensure constructive and positive relations for the future between your home countries and Switzerland. You too act as bridge builders to foster better understanding between countries and to promote exchanges and trade. Your role is an important one. Switzerland and the world: together we seek to open up new perspectives, join horizons and create mutually beneficial relations.

For the good of all, for the good of generations to come: through work, youth and openness. So that at the end of summer, an abundant harvest awaits, a harvest of love and justice – a harvest of prosperity and security - under a magnificent sun of freedom!

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