Publications - Guest articles
Ignazio Cassis, Federal Council, Head of the DFA
The turn of an era and Switzerland's role in Europe
For the general assembly of scienceindustries
Speech of Federal Council Ignazio Casssis
The Spoken Word Applies.
After the fall of the Berlin Wall, Francis Fukuyama announced "the End of History", arguing the final ascendancy of the West. Today it's obvious that the equilibrium remains fragile. Western values are being questioned. Competition between the major powers and their social systems – democracy versus autocracy – is gaining momentum again.
Russia is trying to regain its former strength, but its revisionist foreign policy had the opposite effect: the country is increasingly isolated, Europe has united and NATO has become stronger.
China is siding with Russia, but hasn't intervened militarily in the war. In accordance with the ancient saying "divide and conquer", China is expanding its geostrategic influence and is massively upgrading its military capacity. While pretending to be a peace power, it is increasingly turning its military attention to Taiwan.
The US has been the undisputed number one world power since the Second World War. But Sino-American rivalry has taken on global dimensions. By urging the other countries to take sides, the Americans are exerting increasing pressure on all of them. At the same time, however, the US is more self-absorbed than ever before.
Europe has ensconced itself over the past thirty years. Russia's military aggression towards Ukraine has destroyed the European security architecture and called the Western value system into question. The continent has been forced to recognise its dependence on the major powers: Russian gas – Chinese goods – American weapons.
The world is thus becoming less global, less Western, less democratic. It has become less safe. The solidarity dynamics of the post-War period are subsiding, and the systems put into place to prevent a new global conflict – primarily those of the UN – are in upheaval. This isn't good news for the West – and for democracy.
Given the world situation, can Switzerland really afford to have unregulated relationships with its neighbours and most important trading partners?
We can't lose sight of the big picture. This is why the war has brought the members of the EU closer together. And Switzerland has followed suit.
The Federal Council adopted its plan for consolidating and furthering the bilateral path in February last year. Health, electricity, research, trade, traffic, finance: regulated relationships are necessary everywhere in order to strengthen the export-oriented Swiss economy and increasing its affluence. We're currently working very hard to achieve these objectives. It will be important to dovetail domestic and foreign policy: new negotiations can only be started after a solid foundation has been mutually established.
There's an African saying: "If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together."
The road is long and winding, let us go together.
This is an abridged version of the speech by Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis, presented at the General Meeting of scienceindustries in Basel on 26 May 2023.
For the full speech, please click here.
Christian Hofer, Director of the Federal Office for Agriculture (FOAG)