What makes Switzerland attractive for the Baltic States?

The French novelist Chateaubriand wrote in Lucerne in 1832:

What does Switzerland want? Freedom? She has enjoyed it for centuries. Equality? She has it. A republic? That is her constitution. A reduction of dues? She pays hardly any taxes. What does she want, then? She wants change that is the law of living things.

At that time Switzerland was in the midst of a revolution. But the country took its time, the revolution went on for fifty years. And it had an outcome, the new federal state of 1848.

Turbulent times have come and gone since the original oath was sworn on the Rütli in 1291. The decisive step from an alliance of states to a confederation came in 1848. Nowadays, the Swiss electorate has a direct or indirect say in all sectors of political life.

The Swiss Democracy

Still, Switzerland had experience of democracy for a few centuries. Its history shows, that is was finally possible, after long disorders and acts of violence, to combine unity and multiplicity, the coherence of the whole and the independence of the constituent parts, within narrow confines.

The Swiss Cantons govern themselves independently. The citizens elect their cantonal authorities and take part in cantonal decisions. By participating in the local Commune Assembly, and by voting, the citizens themselves elect their communal or municipal authorities and run their own affairs. The responsabilities of the Communes are wide-ranging: administration of publi property, such as forests, water, gas and electricity supply; bridges, roads and administrative buildings; schools; the police, fire service, healthy departments and civil defence, etc.; also social, cultural and military concerns and the implementation of certain economic measures imposed at times of war crises. The Communes also collect direct and indirect taxation. The administrative autonomy of the Communes and the Cantons allows every citizen to play an active part in the democratic aspect of public life and in local affairs.

for more information about the Swiss state see the following websites

High Tech Economy

The amazing technological and social evolution from Old Ston Age clubs to today’s highly developed systems is not the only revolution Switzerland has experienced; there also been a spectacular increase in land consumption. Although Switzerland has none of the raw materials which constitute the basis of industrial development in many other industrialized countrys, its assets include highly skilled manpower with superior technological expertise. Swiss industry concentrates on highly developed specialized products which demand considerable maufacturing skills. Worldwide famous swiss procucts like swiss watches, high tech measuring instruments and machine tools are exported throughout the world. Internationally standardized mass production is the exception rather than the rule.

Switzerland’s service industry also operates worldwide and now employs well over half the working population. Swiss banks and insurances rank among the international leaders. Furthermore, Switzerland’s marvellous scenery makes tourism a major industry. As in all other industralized countries, the major sectors of the Swiss ecnomoy depend on open world markets for their survival.

Foreign Trade

It is an undisputable fact that there is hardly a country in Western Eruope which compares with Switzerland for its dependemce on foreign trade. This applies to both imports and exports. From tiome immemorial Swiss policy has been based on free-trade. It is characterised by low import duties and virtually no import quotas, with the exception of agricultural produce. This means that Switzerland has one of the highest per capita foreign trade figures as well as one of the highest standards of living.

The engineering, electrical and metal industry is the major contributor to Switzerland’s national economy and accounts, on the longer-term average, for 45% of her total exports. It is also Switzerland’s largest industrial employer with almost half the total workforce.

Today the Swiss have caught up, being the second most important exporter of paper-processing equipment and the foruth most important exporter of textile and packaging machinery. The chemical and pharmaceutical industry has enjoyed a twofold growth.

Cheese and chocolates don’t have to be considered as gifts for tourists only: there are milk products you can find in every Swiss apartment or kitchen.

In the conquest of space or major sporting events - where time has to be measured to a millisecond - it is Swiss watches and chronometsr that are relied upon. This reputation did not come about by chance, but by the combination of Swiss inventiveness and the accuracy of their work.

for more information about Swiss foreign trade see the following websites

Forestry

Forests, the natural habitat of many species of animal and plant life, are being increasingly attacked by man. For centuries the forests in Switzerland have supplied replaceable supplies of wood as a raw material and a source of energy. In recnt times Swiss people has realised the value of forests as protection against avalanches, floods, erosion and landslides. In 1993 new legislation was introduced concerning the protection of forests. One of the aims of Swiss policy concerning forests is to maintain and promote healthy and permanent forests.

for more information about Swiss forestry see the following websites

Education and Science

Economic and social success cannot be achieved in any country without a solid, well-organized educational system - something the Swiss realized a long time ago. Education at primary, middle and advanced school level, however, is first and foremost the Canton’s responsability. Thus Switzerland has 26 different syytems, based on differing education laws and satisfying the varied cultural and linguistic needs of the country. The two Institutes of Technology in Zurich and Lausanne are entirely run by the Confderation. Switzerland has nine cantonal universities. The Swiss Conference of the Cantonal Ministers of Education is the committee, which on the base of the Agreement on the Coordination of Education dated October 1970, executes these tasks. Switzerland faces the new challenges in training and education on the threshold to the 21st century by playing an active role in international organization (Council of Europe, Unesco, Oecd) and in exchanges with neighbouring countries. In 2002 Switzerland becames a member of the United Nations.

for more information about education and science in Switzerland see the following websites

Development cooperation, Humanitarian aid and Cooperation with

Eastern Europe

Switzerland is involved in international development cooperation through technical aid, financial aid, commercial and economic measures and by providing support for economic reform through social programmes. Switzerland also supports developing countries thorugh multilateral projects, i.e. involving international organizations (e.g. UNDP, Unicef).

for more information about Swiss development cooperation see the following websites

National Defence

Since the end of the Cold War the Swiss Army has been changed, rejuvenated and reduced in size. Under the “Army 95” plan the present Swiss Army comprises barely 350 000 men and women, of whom 3500 are professionals (instructors, security guards and pilots). The Swiss parliament has allotted three duties to the army: preventing armed conflict and defending the nation, providing aid in the case of disasters and crises, and helping to promote peace in an international context. In conncetion with economic security the army works to clear avalanche debris, for example, repairing flood damage, dealing with refugees and guarding foreign missions.

From 2003 on the “Army 95” format will be gradually replaced by the “Army XXI” format. Further reform has become necessary in view of the change in military threat, the drop in the birth rate and sweeping cuts in the military budget.

The corner-stone of the Swiss Army is general conscription for all males. Women may join the army as volunteers and all posts are open to them. At the age of 20 each conscript is called up for a 15-week basic course for new recruits. Subsequently, he must attend a 3-week revision course every two years. Total military service amounts to 300 days and should be completed by the age of 42. Officers serve for considerably longer and can be called up until they are 52.

for more information about Swiss national defence see the following websites

Tourism

By virtue of its geographic location, Switzerland has always welcomed travellers - refreshed them and guided them on their way across the mountains, whether they were merchants or pilgrims en route for Rome. The nature of tourism in Switzerland ist extremely varied. Every corner of the country has developped its own chracteristics. Winter or summer sports restors, villages which are popular all year round, thermal spas, all have their own particular attractions. Over the years one could make useful observations on which kind of people go to which type of resort.

It is important that, in its efforts to develop the economic growth of tourism, the country does not lose sught of certain basic regional problems. Certainly, tourism has helped to redress the balance in the less privileged regions of the country and has also slowed down the depopulation of mountain areas.

But tourism has suffered from the recession almost as much an other sectors of the economy. The Swiss Tourism Federation looks after - above all - the economic interest of the sector, devoting itself mainly to planning and devising a tourist policy.

Switzerland’s position vis-à-vis European Integration

In view of the pronounced leading role and growing attraction exerted by the European Union (EU) in Europe, the question of Switzerland’s joining the EU has become a major challenge for internal and foreign policy, not only for economic reasons but also with regard to Switzerland’s future political and cultural position in Europe.

After the Swiss electorate and the cantons rejected membership of the European Economic Area (EEA), submitted in May 1992, but shifted the emphasis to gaining acceptance of the bilateral agreements with the EU. Negotiations have started concerning

Free Movement of Persons, Air Transport, Overland Transport, Agriculture, Technical Barriers to Trade, Public Procurement Markets, Research etc.

The bilateral agreements of June 1999 between Switzerland and the EU entered into force on Saturday, 1 June 2002. These agreements strengthen Switzerland’s position as an economic centre and facilitate access to the integrated market of the European Union. The revised EFTA Convention, which extends the main provisions of the new bilateral agreements to the EFTA member countries, also took effect on 1 June 2002, as do several Federal laws and ordinances with a bearing on the new provisions. The bilateral agreements of June 1999 represent the biggest package of contractual measures adopted with the European Union (EU) since the Free Trade Agreement of 1972.

for more information about Swiss integration in Europe see the following website

Switzerland’s embassies in the Baltic States

For the Baltic States:

Embassy of Switzerland

Schweizerische Botschaft Elizabetes Str. 2 LV-1340 Rīga
Tel. 00371 733 83 52,
00371 733 83 53
Fax 00371 733 83 54

E-Mail: vertretung@rig.rep.admin.ch

WWW: http://www.eda.admin.ch/riga

Weitere Baltikum-relevante CH-Adressen können wir Ihnen auf Wunsch zur Verfügung stellen.

For further Swiss addresses in the Baltics please contact us.

Swisslinks