New Year Address 2002

1 January 2002

Dear Citizens of Switzerland,

Once again we stand at the threshold of a new year, the second year of the third millennium. Many of you will long remember the first year of this millennium as one of distress and disaster. We still see only too clearly the horrific pictures of the World Trade Center collapsing in New York after terrorist attacks. And still painful is the demise of our flagship Swissair, submerged from one hour to the next under an enormous burden of bankruptcy; without any of us having been informed, and without anyone having even noticed. Then the Gotthard tunnel, our vital north-south link, suddenly had to be closed because a foreign truck driver without a proper licence, and probably drunk as well, collided with another truck in the middle of the tunnel. And what about the tragic conflict between Palestine and Israel, or the indescribable situation in Afghanistan? Never will any of us forget these pictures.

However, let us take a closer look. Was last year really so bad? All in all, we managed quite well again, except for these individual disasters. But why were we so shocked that they happened at all? Because there is a message behind them: pride goes before a fall! We thought everything was just fine.

For a good many people the twin towers of the World Trade Center symbolized a single city as the centre of world trade. Trade goes on all over the world and it is trade which keeps the global economy alive.

In the USA, seemingly invulnerable before, nobody ever thought their country could be attacked. Now they have had to learn that power and might are of little avail if others do not like it.

Another lesson to learn in this connection is that of Swissair, a debacle involving debts in the billions. Just to be as big as possible, fourteen insolvent airlines were purchased. The idea was to build up Europe’s fourth largest airline group. But nobody really knew how to run such a monstrous undertaking, because our strengths in Switzerland are quite different ones.

And as clearly shown by the Palestine-Israel conflict, no peace is possible if the UNO, whose job is to keep order, has to bend to the will of the big powers.

We in Switzerland can draw some important conclusions for the future from these lessons. As a small country, so far we have traditionally concentrated on our real strengths: quality and specialization rather than power and size. Switzerland, with her unique form of political neutrality, has to uphold her independence and self-reliance. She has to be open to the world, but not bound to the world.

The events of last year have made us very conscious of all this, and we must steadfastly stick to our principles.

We will also face difficulties in 2002. The economy will be weaker than in 2001. In line with the recession in America and Japan, Europe will also suffer a downturn. But so far we have always survived such problems very well, because we can rely on our strengths.

We sell something special, something different, something better. We offer better services and greater efficiency. Whoever does this, on a serious and dependable basis, must offer superior products rather than just ideas, if they are to survive. Despite experiencing the demise of our flagships, our country will have good employment in the coming year.

And the new year will also challenge us to show our strengths politically. Right at the beginning of 2002 we shall be voting on UNO membership, on joining politically now as well. We have long been a UNO member. Wherever there is a cause for humanity, education, environmental protection or other important matters, we always play our role. Indeed, we already contribute 470 million Swiss francs each year.

But now we are required to join the UNO politically. In other words, to bend to the will of the Security Council. We are supposed to join an organisation where the five big powers USA, Russia, China, Britain and France can dictate because they have veto rights. Our Federal Council wants us to join, despite the fact that ever since the Second World War, we have always pointed out that this would infringe our neutrality and draw us into international disputes.

I sincerely hope that Switzerland will have the strength in 2002 to say NO to political UNO membership, YES to independence, YES to neutrality, YES to our strengths, and YES to the Swiss integrity of our small country.

During this coming year we must pay particular attention to stopping financial wastage by our politicians. We must urgently prevent the state from overloading our citizens more and more with fees, dues and taxes.

By reducing this financial overloading, we shall again create a solid basis for full employment and greater prosperity. Then we shall all have more in our pockets for a fuller life. We must ensure that our politicians allow us to be ourselves and uphold what we have built up. Last year has taught us some lessons for the new year: uphold the well-proven, both economically and politically!

As you can see for yourself, a good many people have no idea what terms like “globalisation” mean. They are wary of changes without even knowing what they are all about. Here again, we must uphold our well-proven strengths.

Not long ago, we heard that our primary school children can no longer read or write. So let us teach them to read and write again. Where would we be without reading and writing? Action is required – not just plans!

We have learnt an important lesson in economics: most of the companies who went out of business were not managed properly. They did not heed a simple rule: never spend more than you earn! Every housewife has to abide by this rule. So why don’t we all do the same?

We have also learnt an important lesson in politics: we must stand up for ourselves and our well-proven strengths; we must stay open to the world without being tied down; and we must uphold our independence and the right to determine our own future. We must stay neutral! After all, that has served us very well over the last few centuries.

With these few thoughts, I sincerely wish you all a happy and successful 2002. If we continue to master our challenges, we shall indeed be able to look back on a good year next new year.

Thank you.

Christoph Blocher, National Councillor, SVP

← Back to: Articles