Unions have criticised the rightwing justice minister, Christoph Blocher, for presenting his first annual report at a location synonymous with the labour movement.
They accused Blocher, whom they branded “an enemy of the workers”, of provocation – a charge denied by the justice ministry.
Blocher took stock of his first year as a government minister at the Assembly Hall in the city of Biel in western Switzerland on Monday.
The building, which opened in December 1932, was financed and built by the labour movement.
“The decision [had nothing to do with] being provocative. It was a practical choice as [the other venues] were [either] booked out or too far from the station,” ministry spokesman Livio Zanolari told swissinfo.
Zanolari added that the Assembly Hall was “a symbol of openness and it would be absurd if a government minister could not speak in such a place”.
The fact that Biel was a bilingual town was also a factor in its favour, said the spokesman, who added that the ministry wanted to hold the press conference outside Bern.
Others were not so understanding.
The country’s largest union, Unia, in an interview with a Swiss-French newspaper, “Le Matin”, was blunt in its disapproval.
“Blocher go home! He’s coming to Biel not as the justice minister but to provoke!” it said.
But Biel’s Social Democratic mayor Hans Stöckli took a more diplomatic view of Blocher’s visit.
“We did not invite him, but a city that prides itself on being open and tolerant has to welcome [the likes of] Christoph Blocher,” Stöckli told Le Matin.
Rightwing justice minister Christoph Blocher is taking stock of his first year in government during a conference on Monday.
The event is being held at the Assembly Hall in Biel in western Switzerland.
The building was financed and built by the labour movement.
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