Illona Weiss Synagogue
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    Jewish Cultural Center "Arie Livne"
Tuesday, 18 April 2017 15:43


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The guest of Jewish Cultural Center ‘Arie Livne’, 6th of April 2017. was Her Excellence Ambassador of Switzerland in Bosnia and Herzegovina Andrea Rauber Saxer. She held the lecture on the topic ‘Switzerland-Multiculturalism in Unity’. The Ambassador of Switzerland explained to the guests the way Switzerland as a country functions. She mentioned that country consists of 26 cantons, explained how human rights and freedom are regulated and the attitude of Switzerland towards the European Union.

Our political system is designed to hold us together

Andrea Rauber SaxerSwitzerland is a federal republic in western-central Europe. The country is bordered by Germany to the north, France to the west, Italy to the south, and Austria and Liechtenstein to the east. That geographical position has an impact on some issues within Switzerland.
The Ambassador of Switzerland stated: ‘Yes, Switzerland is landlocked country geographically surrounded by countries that are informed about our internal issues keeping in mind that Swiss population come from neighbor countries. As you already know Switzerland consists of 26 cantons and official languages are: German, Italian, French and Romansh-widely spoken at our neighbors.’
Switzerland is a multicultural country and 60% of population is Catholics while 26% is Protestants. Furthermore, there are many people who belong to Islam religion and that’s what makes Switzerland to be diverse and special in terms of religion.
Andrea Rauber Saxer stated: ‘We had few religious wars in the past that lasted for couple of weeks and we found a solution to stop it. When it comes to freedom of religion every citizen has the right to live in his/her religious beliefs. We solved the issues with Muslims and people who came from Kosovo so that their religion is socially accepted. Few years ago at the state level the elections were held regarding the construction of minaret. Many debates were held. People voted whether they wish the construction of the minaret to be forbidden and written in the constitution. Religious group is accepted but the minaret shouldn’t be constructed. Honestly speaking, I still haven’t seen people wearing burka in public. However, that does not exclude democracy. Switzerland is democratic country with national diversity and on our territory there are around 60.000 people from Bosnia and Herzegovina who became citizens of Switzerland. They are very well integrated in Swiss community. I should point out that in my country there are no ghettoized areas.’
When it comes to Switzerland’s attitude towards European Union (EU) the Swiss ambassador Rauber Saxer says that it’s been debated for centuries.
‘We in Switzerland, our government, cantons deal with this question and in which direction Switzerland should go when it comes to European Union. It’s been debated for centuries. We made trade agreements with countries from EU. There is high percentage of import and export of products and our workers are crossing boarders and working in EU countries. 1992 there was held voting for joining European economic areas. However, small amount of citizens voted in favor for joining European economic areas. In meantime we made a huge number of bilateral agreements with EU member countries. There were some initiatives for stopping mass migrations but government denied it. That’s why we still have free movement people agreements.’
Having in mind that Switzerland consists of 26 cantons and that every canton has the right to rule on its own is there any difference regarding the internal agreements of the country? How come so diverse country can survive?
004‘Our political system is conceptualized to keep us together. We promote compromise, census and dialogue. Similar system exists in Republic of Srpska as well as Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Our constitution clearly states what competencies of the country are and what are of the cantons. At the state level are regulated Swiss politics, nuclear energy, customs, and federal taxes while education system and ecology are regulated by cantons. Those canton’s authorities differ in their organization and functioning. In some cantons schools have holidays during spring time while in some during winter time. However, everything is done in order to harmonize life of Swiss so canton’s Ministers cooperate together so that system functions properly. There is a pressure of citizens to work in harmonize. Ministers of cantons are having regular meetings so they achieve compromises and coordinate functioning in social and political life. Cantons have powers regarding external politics. They have the right to modify their politics. As an example, if Zurich canton wants to collaborate with Republic of Srpska then it is up to the canton to bring a decision. In case Zurich canton wants to collaborate with Bosnia and Herzegovina then Switzerland as a country should get involved. It should be emphasized that the government is composed of seven Ministers and that each of them takes a place of the president of federation for one year. Swiss citizens like this political system.’
Functioning between country and citizens is regulated by civil initiatives and referendums.
‘That’s the initiative where citizens affect work of government. One hundred thousand signatures should be collected to start the initiative. That instrument can sometimes be misused by some political parties but the instrument functions properly. One housewife obtained initiative about punishing the perpetrators of the criminal offense of sexual abuse. It resulted bringing the law in which perpetrators would go either in prison sentence or mental health institution. That is case from area of human rights. Apart from the initiative there is another way to regulate the relationship between the state and the population and it is referendum. It is government’s regulation to ask a question about something that is crucial for the country so residents can vote. Some examples of referendum are: change of the constitution, whether Switzerland will join EU, NATO. In that case it is not important that majority of people say ‘yes’ but the majority of cantons. 50.000 votes are optimally needed to bring the new law. It is very important that while referendums are happening debates are organized as well. Four times a year resident have the right to vote about different topics. It happens that some initiatives don’t get accepted. Last year there was a call for referendum about construction of the long railway tunnel across the mountain because the trip from north to south lasts too long. The question arises: what will happen if it comes to the high frequency of transportation due to tunnel construction. People are still debating about that issue. Swiss citizens voted for tunnel construction and the government promised that it will not bring high frequency traffic. Then there a story about corporate tax reform. We were under the EU pressure. The citizens voted for ‘no’ so that issue should be reconsidered’.
It is a fact that Switzerland is a neutral country regarding military issues. The Swiss Ambassador in Bosnia and Herzegovina said it is called ‘active neutrality’ and she explained this in depth.
023‘Our political neutrality is important for our people. The ‘active neutrality’ means that we shouldn’t be distant from the problems that concern the EU countries and we strive to participate in them in a certain way. Very often we were the bridge between two sides, the host of peace agreements and that cannot be called ‘passive neutrality’.
The Swiss government is engaged in Bosnia and Herzegovina through humanitarian projects, education of medical personnel.
‘The engagement of Switzerland in Bosnia and Herzegovina is based on diplomatic relationships that last for 25 years. This long tradition is based on solidarity and devotion in order to help every person to live decent life in dignity and safety. Our engagement in Bosnia and Herzegovina is divided in few segments. We are active in functioning local authority of Banja Luka municipality. Furthermore, we are active in segment of economic questions and fight against unemployment. It is well known that Switzerland has the lowest rate of unemployment. When it comes to Banja Luka we are collaborating with engineering and technology universities. We also bring machines that young people can use and in order to learn their future occupation. We also collaborate with Bureau of Employment. Moreover, there is also medical segment. Swiss oncologist is working in educating nurses in Bosnia and Herzegovina and he will visit Brčko, Mostar and some other cities in order to show how it works Swiss health system. We also have a plan to organize conference about mental health in Sokolac. In short, we are active in whole country.’
At the end of her presentation the ambassador of Switzerland Andrea Rauber Saxer emphasized that for survival of community the most important thing is respecting the principle of cooperation. Furthermore, having agreements within the country and between other countries are important factors of social-political environment in order to function as a happy family.

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Read 5614 times Last modified on Wednesday, 05 July 2017 15:48