The Swiss president, Adolf Ogi, has defended the country's foreign policy at a congress of the People's Party. Ogi, who has clashed with his party colleagues before over policy, took on his opponents at a special congress in Unterentfelden.
Right-wingers in the People's Party are unhappy with various directions in Switzerland's foreign policy, including moves to join the United Nations, and plans to arm Swiss soldiers serving abroad. The influential member of the party's Zurich section, Christoph Blocher, is the president of Action for a Neutral and Independent Switzerland, which is strongly against moves, which they believe, would comprise the country's long-standing and strict neutrality.
The People's Party president Ueli Maurer told the extraordinary congress that the party should remember the fairy story by Hans Christian Andersen, and be prepared to point out the emperor with no clothes. "There are plenty of naked emperors around," he said, giving a list of his most disliked government policies: "Expo.02, maternity insurance, army reform, Europe, as well as the UN."
Maurer also said that the party would need to be ready in the next few months to fight to maintain Switzerland's place as a major financial centre, and to protect the country's banking secrecy.
"It's precisely because we are neutral that we should join the UN", Ogi told the delegates. He said that Switzerland, which pays SFr500 million annually into the UN budget, should join what he called the global village, and have a say from the inside.
Despite his appeals, the congress decided to oppose a revision of the law that would allow the soldiers to be armed, and called for a referendum on the issue. Ogi attacked this, saying that the People's Party would lose credibility, because parliament had not yet devised the revision.
He also said that the public supported the change, and that by calling for a referendum the party was heading towards failure.
The delegates also voted massively to oppose any moves towards Swiss UN membership. In both votes, a minority of delegates, chiefly from Ogi's canton Berne section, Graubünden, and French-speaking Switzerland, backed the government line.
swissinfo with agencies
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