1st August Celebration: “Let Freedom Reign” - House of Switzerland UK 2012 - Check against delivery

Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear compatriots,
Dear Friends of Switzerland,
Dear guests,

It is a real pleasure to celebrate the Swiss National Day here in Britain, an important neighbour of Switzerland. Yes, you have heard right. In a sense, Switzerland and Britain are neighbours. Not geographically, but because of special relations. This is why I see the United Kingdom as a neighbour of destiny. I feel privileged to speak here - as a neighbour.

It is indeed a very special pleasure for my wife and for me, as England is where we first met 29 years ago on the magnificent south coast. This was the most fabulous meeting of my life and I am grateful to your country for having made this meeting possible.

I am also very happy to have the opportunity to celebrate the Swiss National Day with all of you: Swiss citizens living in Britain, Swiss visitors, Swiss athletes, our British neighbours, and all the friends of Switzerland who have joined us today here in the magnificent House of Switzerland.

Every time Swiss citizens go abroad to live, like the 700,000 Swiss citizens living outside Switzerland, or simply to travel - with 16 millions trips every year, Swiss people travel a lot - they become ambassadors of our country. Some, such as the athletes, are more visible than others, like Roger Federer who recently won the men's singles in Wimbledon for the seventh time.

But all of you, Swiss living abroad, in your individual ways, you are representing Switzerland, its values and ethics. By doing so, you are shaping Switzerland’s image abroad. You are Switzerland. For this, I would like to express the gratitude of the Swiss authorities.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

La diversitad culturala e linguistica è inseparabla dal spiert svizzer.

This sentence in Rumantsch, one of our four national languages, which is spoken by 60,000 Swiss people, means that cultural and linguistic diversity is at the core of the Swiss spirit. Over the years, I have had the opportunity to feel this spirit, for example by celebrating the Swiss National Day in different parts of Switzerland, and so I have heard the Swiss National Anthem in different languages. En l'aurora la damaun ta salida il carstgaun says the beginning of the hymn in Rumantsch.Swiss Germans sing Trittst im Morgenrot daher.
And Switzerland is also a part of “Italianitá”: Quando bionda aurora il mattin c'indora. And finally in French: Sur nos monts, quand le soleil annonce un brillant réveil.

But this is the first time that I will have the opportunity to hear it in English! My wish was to spend my first National Day as Foreign Minister with a Swiss colony abroad. And the Olympic Games with this House of Switzerland was a perfect opportunity. I would like to warmly welcome the people who have extended such a warm and friendly welcome to us here in London.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Swiss foreign policy is based on the principles of “neutrality, solidarity and responsibility”. Our world is becoming more global every day. What happens in one place has consequences elsewhere. A tsunami in Japan, a debt crisis in Greece, instability in Somalia, revolutions in the Arab World: all these events and many others have a direct impact on our societies. In this world, the countries which benefit the most from globalization, such as Switzerland and the UK, have a duty of responsibility and solidarity towards countries which are experiencing difficulties. This is in the interest of the world and of mankind, but also in our own interest.

Responsibility and solidarity

Swiss people cherish these values and I am deeply convinced that British people also embrace these values.
We also share other important values such as freedom, democracy, openness and sovereignty.

Nelson Mandela once said: “Let freedom reign. The sun never set on so glorious a human achievement!” Freedom is the cornerstone of our democratic and developed societies. And the uprisings in the Arab World are one more proof that peace and stability can only be achieved if fundamental rights are respected. A society can only progress and develop if its citizens are free and if freedom of thought, speech, trade, science and technology are guaranteed. So let freedom reign in the world!

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The Olympics and the Swiss National Day must not make us forget that people are being killed every day in Syria fighting for freedom. A few days ago, I was in Lebanon to express Switzerland’s support for the country and the region’s stability. I also received more and better information on the refugee situation. Switzerland is deeply concerned about the recent escalation of violence in Syria. Every day, atrocities are being committed by various actors. Many innocent people are suffering, displaced or being killed, even children! As depository of the Geneva Conventions, Switzerland calls on all the parties to the conflict to fully comply with the provisions of international humanitarian law. This means that prisoners must be well treated and that everything must be done to spare and protect the civilian population. Shelling or bombing of densely populated areas can be defined as a war crime or as a crime against humanity. This must not stay unpunished. Switzerland strongly emphasises that all allegations of violence against civilians, by whoever they have been perpetrated, need to be investigated and that the alleged perpetrators should be prosecuted at the International Criminal Court. We are currently conducting consultations in order to seek the support of a large number of States for a letter to the United Nations Security Council.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Obviously the sister of freedom is democracy, another value that we share and promote in Switzerland and the UK. A society can only evolve and preserve strong social cohesion if everyone is able to participate in the development of public policies – even in a traditional monarchy. So Democracy is at the heart of our set of values. 

We also share a similar destiny: London is successful in the globalized world and so is Switzerland; both are facing big challenges; and both can successfully meet them only if they promote openness and sovereignty. It is a simple fact that openness is a real trump card.

The evaluation of the free movement of persons in Switzerland shows that this agreement with the EU has brought many more economic advantages than difficulties since 2002. And it was actually a part of the solution for the recovery of our economic growth – the biggest problem Switzerland faced in the 1990s. Openness is a key to prosperity and an engine for economic growth.

Openness to the world and innovation do not mean that we deny our past. Quite the contrary! We can be open and innovative and respect traditions and history. Our location here is a perfect example: within a five-minute walk, we can see one of the oldest buildings in London, Southwark Cathedral, and one of the newest, if not the newest building, the London Bridge Tower or “the Shard”… Both these buildings shape London: the old and the new.

There is also another interesting parallel between Switzerland and the UK when we think about “The Shard”. Both countries are at the top in many areas. For example: “The Shard” is the highest building in Europe – Top of Europe so to speak. But there is another place called “Top of Europe”: the highest railway station in Europe in Switzerland, on the Jungfrau. So it may not be a coincidence that the Jungfraubahn is celebrating its 100th anniversary here today at the foot of the top of Europe!

Our traditions in Switzerland and Britain also drive us toward openness, to stay at the top. This holds true for many areas, but especially for our capacity to innovate. Innovation is a key to the success of a developed society and it is essential for the UK and for Switzerland to be home to some of the best universities in Europe. Universities which cooperate actively, for example the Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich and University College London, which are developing major European projects together.

The success of these universities and Institutes of Technology crucially depends on their capacity to be open and attract the best students and professors. In Geneva, the scientists of CERN, the world's largest particle physics laboratory, have just proven the importance of openness: a few weeks ago, teams of specialists from all over the world solved one of the deepest mysteries of modern science by measuring the Higgs boson. This possibly represents the most important step in physics for decades.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Openness does not mean that we have to sacrifice our sovereignty. On the contrary! Both our countries know this. Sovereignty means a nation’s capacity to decide its future by itself, even if this means choosing to drive on the wrong side, meaning the right side!

An open Switzerland can and must be sovereign. In this spirit, Switzerland has to define its positions vis-à-vis its main partner, the European Union: key is the adaption and the deepening of the relations by ensuring our sovereignty, our freedom and our economic interests. Switzerland has now presented specific proposals for cooperation which respect the sovereignty, the institutions and the interests of both sides.

The UK also faces some questions concerning its role in the European Union. This is another link between the UK and Switzerland, even if one country is a Member State and the other one is not: Both countries want to work closely with Europe and want Europe to be a common project. But both are convinced that this has to be done while respecting the special characteristics and the sovereignty of each nation.

Yes, openness and sovereignty are strong factors in success.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I’ve spoken about innovation. Innovation is an immense source of inspiration. Since the first Olympic Games I attended, as a young man following my father who worked for a team ensuring the precise timing of the competitions – the Olympic Games have changed enormously. They have had to evolve with our society in order to stay attractive and to be inspiring.

Hosting the Games is an opportunity for innovation for the country concerned. London has taken this great opportunity: the Olympics have helped to rejuvenate communities in London, improve public transportation and create jobs. All this is inspiring, and the younger generation needs inspiration and job opportunities.

The Olympic Games also inspire athletes and visitors, giving them the opportunity to discover a country and its culture. In this way they participate in forging a better understanding between peoples and cultures and thereby contributing to a more peaceful world.

The Swiss Federal Council hopes Switzerland will also try to seize such an inspiring opportunity for the Winter Games in future and to present a candidacy that could be a huge opportunity to innovate and develop new, environmentally friendly technologies in many areas.

I am sure that this potential – and in the view of the Federal Council desirable – Swiss candidacy will be inspired by some aspects of the London Games. 'Inspire a generation' says the motto of the London Olympics. I am sure that these Games will be a success – they already are  – and I am sure these Games will “inspire many generations”.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Yes, on the 1st of August, we sing the Swiss National Anthem in our four national languages. In the English version, the song begins with the words: “When the morning skies grow red”. Tonight and during the Olympics this entire zone here South of London Bridge has grown red. Switzerland connects with the world and presents its values, its traditions and its capacity to innovate. This House of Switzerland in London lives the value of openness: it is open to everyone; it has been designed to capture your attention, to represent Switzerland, to facilitate dialogue and contact, and of course to welcome you all in a friendly and warm-hearted atmosphere. And I would like to thank all the partners and the people working here for making this possible.

I hope you will enjoy this small part of Switzerland here, in this “red zone”. I hope you will value the friendship between Switzerland and the UK. I hope you will visit Switzerland soon. We will always welcome you as we are welcoming you here.I hope Switzerland and its House will inspire you.

And finally I hope you will join us now in singing the Swiss anthem. As a sign of openness, you can choose in which of the four Swiss national languages, or in English, you may prefer to sing!

Thank you for your attention. Viva la Svizzera! Es lebe die Schweiz! Vive la Suisse! Vive l’amitié helvético-britannique! And I wish you all a wonderful evening.

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Federal Department of Foreign Affairs

Last update 29.01.2022


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