New Year address 2001
1 January 2001
The first year beginning with a 2 has come to an end. Before we entered upon the year 2000 some believed that this would be a particularly difficult transition, and that the world would almost succumb to disaster. Others began this year with tremendous euphoria. In actual fact, nothing very remarkable happened!
This means simply that the course of events is not governed by our attitudes – and that is probably a comforting thought.
If we contemplate the past year, we can observe with gratitude that, all in all, Switzerland fared well economically. We now have full employment such as we had no longer had in recent years. Economically, there have been many improvements in Switzerland.
If our circumstances are now better than those of the surrounding countries, if we have the lowest unemployment of all industrial countries, if the prosperity of our people has increased, it is because Switzerland’s approach – to stand on our own feet and make the most of what we have – has stood the test of time.
Euphoria gives way to disillusionment
For us this must mean continuing on the same path. Of course there are some dark clouds gathering again – on the economic horizon, too. I think of the tidings of gloom from America. But I also think of those from Switzerland and from Europe. I think of companies which have merged in recent years and ventured forth with bold plans. Now there is a sense of disillusionment: restructurings and redundancies are on the agenda.
Wherever nothing was done for too long, or else a false achievement was forced prematurely – only in order to reach a certain size – the outcome is bound to be bad. This is cause for concern – in Switzerland, for instance, regarding the news about companies such as Sulzer and Feldschlösschen. These are companies which have shown no enterprise for too long. This then results in painful adjustments. It is, however, a source of comfort that companies which have done good and serious work over the years also have secure progress to show.
Even the great powers are not infallible
If I look at the past year from a political point of view, the American elections made one thing clear: even the great powers are not infallible! A certain amount of modesty is in order, for great nations and small ones alike. If you have followed the major, high-profile conferences – in the EU; in Nice: in the morning one saw the sleepy faces of these ministers and in the end, after they had wrestled for days with the various issues, one did not know: have they decided something now or not? Something positive or not? What has actually been the result of these debates? – Virtually nothing was achieved. With such large structures, this is often the case. If over the past year you have observed what happened in Austria, a small country within the EU, one could see that the large countries were of the opinion that they should boycott this country – although it was supposed to be a friend! This shows that it is better to stay alert and be true to oneself!
Important decisions lie ahead
This should also be the motto for the new year! In 2001 major political decisions are due for consideration. They concern the independence of our country: an EU referendum will be held. In this case it is advantageous for us Swiss to vote no. By doing so, show the Federal Council that in Switzerland we must continue to be able to determine our own destiny. In a further referendum we will have to decide whether Swiss soldiers, the Swiss armed forces, should be deployed in new theatres of conflict abroad and become involved in major conflicts, and whether they should participate in NATO. We have to decide whether something which has ensured our peace for 200 years – that is, permanently armed neutrality – should now be given up. There is also a referendum about the UN as a political entity, in which the question is whether we are to subordinate ourselves to the will of the Security Council. In every direction, the Swiss people are being called upon to respond. The Parliament and the Federal Council have unfortunately taken the wrong decisions. Now only the people themselves can influence the outcome in the ballot box!
Guaranteeing social welfare
In the new year I believe that we in Switzerland will fare well economically and in terms of jobs – provided we go about things in the right way. The exorbitant tax increases, levies and fees which have been decided on over the past 10 years in Bern, but also in the cantons and in many communes, must be reversed. This will give citizens greater freedom. Many people are – rightly – concerned about retirement benefits being secured, or about the high level of medical insurance premiums.
On the AHV: Importance should be placed on the money being well managed. Then there will be enough for everyone. The National Bank’s gold reserves must be paid into the AHV. The funds which were decided on for the AHV must actually be paid into it. They must not be diverted into the Federation’s coffers. If at last the AHV is well managed, we can maintain the AHV pension for everyone without new levies and fees. This is the key: the right management of the resources we have!
On medical insurance premiums: The Federal Council and the Parliament promised that if we accepted the new medical insurance law this would result in premiums being reduced. Now that the law is in force, the contrary has proven true: premiums are continuing to rise steadily. This must be corrected! The range of healthcare services provided cannot continue unchanged. If it is redefined with an appropriate scope of services, premiums can be adjusted in the right direction. This will also mean, however, individuals taking more responsibility for themselves. The State should support those people who are really in need of help. This is the path we must follow. Slowly and gradually, even those who are most behindhand will awake.
Next year you will once again have the chance to vote and to chart the right course on the key issues. I believe that if Switzerland remains on its present course, concentrates on what is essential, and makes a success of its day-to-day work, that we will come through the year 2001 in good shape. We must rely on our resources and our strengths. We Swiss should approach the future with self-confidence. It has served us well.
I wish you a good new year – a good 2001!
Christoph Blocher, Member of the National Council (SVP)