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The Congress of the Swiss Abroad

02.10.2014 – Barbara Engel

The varied offering at the Congress of the Swiss Abroad attracted around 320 Swiss Abroad this year as well as several visitors from Switzerland.

Swiss living abroad met up for this year’s congress in Baden, in the canton of Aargau. The theme of “information technology and social media: opportunities for the Swiss Abroad” was discussed by Otfried Jarren, professor of journalism at the University of Zurich, as well as Federal Councillor Alain Berset, head of the Federal Department of Home Affairs. The former pointed out that the systems of nation-state democracies were reaching their limits owing to digitisation in the media society, which can also be referred to as the information society, knowledge society, network society or multi-option society. He also observed that “positive, emotional and personalised content predominates” in the use of social media, whereas content in politics is determined by a relatively small number of players. Jarren said that he did not wish to and could not predict whether this would lead to greater democracy and possibly more revolutions.
Federal Councillor Alain Berset began his address by stating that “the world would be a poorer place without the Swiss Abroad”. He named many institutions worldwide that would probably not exist without Swiss people living abroad. These included the Ritz Hotel, Chevrolet, the Golden Gate Bridge and Madame Tussaud’s. He also emphasised that the 730,000 Swiss Abroad play a significant role as “ambassadors” of Switzerland. He expressly referred to the many Swiss schools abroad which do not just provide education but also create a “cultural, social and emotional relationship with our country”. “The Swiss Abroad understand foreign countries. But they also understand Switzerland and perhaps sometimes better than we Swiss at home. This is because distance allows you to appreciate what really matters,” remarked Berset. “In this globalised world, you have to be able to see things from another person’s perspective because we all know that misunderstandings, misinterpretations and breakdowns of communication occur all the time.”
The Federal Councillor finally joined a group of young Swiss Abroad for a discussion to which journalists were not invited.

Meeting of the Council of the Swiss Abroad

On 15 August, the day before the Congress of the Swiss Abroad, the Council of the Swiss Abroad (CSA) met in Aarau for its second ordinary annual meeting of 2014. The Council adopted two resolutions by a large majority. The first concerned mandatory registration for Swiss Abroad within the framework of the new law on the Swiss Abroad. Through this law, which is currently being debated by Parliament, federal government wishes to dispense with the present obligation for Swiss Abroad to register with an embassy or consulate. The CSA clearly expressed its wish for this obligation to be retained. The second resolution contained the call on the government to oblige the Swiss Post Office’s financial institution, PostFinance, which is run similar to a bank, to give all Swiss citizens abroad the opportunity to hold an account with them. The Council discussion once again highlighted the fact that the Swiss banks are closing the accounts in Switzerland of many Swiss Abroad.
Adrian Beer from Madrid, who holds dual Swiss-Spanish citizenship, was elected by the Council as a new member of the Executive Board of the Organisation of the Swiss Abroad.

Picture  Federal Councillor Alain Berset at the Congress of the Swiss Abroad in Baden