What represents August 1st, the date of the Swiss National Day?
August 1st is the date chosen by Swiss people to celebrate together their values and common destiny.
It was in early August 1291, when representatives of the three founding cantons Uri, Schwyz and Unterwalden met on a meadow, the Rütli, in order to solemnly swear mutual assistance against the “malice of the time”, and specifically against unfriendly neighbours.
The Swiss Confederation was created in 1291?
No, but that was the beginning of a long story. By a perpetually developing network of alliances, the Confederation expanded gradually to other cantons and cities until it reached in 1815 the territory we know today. Since 1848 we have the political framework that persisted until these days.
This slow process did not go without any difficulties or conflicts: civil wars have marked this journey. The last one in 1847 opposed the conservative cantons to the progressive cantons and ended in victory for the supporters of a strong federal state which created the modern Swiss Confederation. It is characterized by a state and an administration at the service of the citizen: as he is taxpayer and especially voter, he has the last word on all questions put to him and to the ones he decides to submit to the electorate by means of our initiative system.
The “Swiss system” seems to function quite well.
Yes, but this daily state management is very demanding. It requires patience, tolerance and above all the will to live harmoniously together with eight million inhabitants (of which about a quarter are foreigners), 4 national languages, four religions, etc.
What are the main issues faced by Switzerland nowadays?
The main debates in Switzerland currently concern (1) our relationship with the European Union (the majority of citizens refuse EU membership, some even question our bilateral agreements), (2) immigration policy and asylum (since several years, Switzerland hosts annually almost 1% of additional population, as if Romania would host 200,000 people -a new Oradea- every year). I would like to mention that the Romanian-born population residing in Switzerland represents about 6,000 people who are perfectly integrated.
How would you describe the quality of the Swiss-Romanian relations?
As every year on the occasion of the Swiss National Day, I am pleased to say that relations between Switzerland and Romania are excellent, both between their authorities and between their citizens and business companies.
On this occasion, I would like to express my gratitude to the numerous individuals and Swiss non-governmental associations who perform an outstanding work in close cooperation with their Romanian partners. In particular, I would like to mention Mr. Peter Maag and his orphanage in Piatra Neamț, all the partners of the “Operation of Swiss-Romanian villages” throughout Romania and its President P. Praz, the “Academia Sighișoara” with its Festival performed since more than two decades by Maestro A. Gavrilovici and friends, the School of organ restorers in Harman (Brasov) created by F. Stemmer and Mrs. B. Dutli, as well as the beautiful project of Mrs C. Fischer in Panatau, the « Children’s Home » followed by the Guest House “Valea Lupului” with the support of Mrs M. Diaconu. I apologize to all those I have not mentioned, numerous and discreet, but whose action is of great value. I hope that the Romanian authorities, at all levels, will recognize the qualities of this cooperation and will ensure its sustainability.
Bilateral economic relations continue their positive development. I can see the quality of work done by Swiss investors and their positive appreciation of the development of their business in Romania. Once the authorities will be able to implement a set of simple measures to promote economic activity and investment climate, Romania is going to experience a period of remarkable prosperity.
Finally, Switzerland contributes 181 million Swiss francs (around 170 million Euros) to Romania through the Swiss-Romanian Cooperation Programme, which is aimed at reducing economic and social disparities within the enlarged European Union. This expression of Switzerland’s solidarity with the new EU member states has been approved by popular vote in 2006. In the case of Romania, it’s a further mark of the long-standing and close relation between Romania and Switzerland at every level, including local governments and civil society. The whole Swiss Contribution to Romania has already been committed. 250 projects of different sizes are currently under implementation, or have already been completed. Today I would like to thank our Romanian partners for the first-rate teamwork in all projects financed through the Swiss-Romanian Cooperation Programme.