1291-1991 Switzerland, Swiss Radio International 12 13

1291-1991 Switzerland, Swiss Radio International 12 13

1291-1991 Switzerland, Swiss Radio International

700+1 - Switzerland and the Great European Challenge of 1992

(Photo) EC Headquarters in Brussels (picture by Ringier)

One of SRI's special 1991 Sunday features will examine Switzerland's place in the “new Europe“, after the creation of the “single European market" which will be a reality by the end of 1992- if the executive body of the European Community in Brussels has its way.

Switzerland has a longstanding policy of neutrality. Its political system relies heavily on “direct democracy" - the electorate decides on key issues at the ballot box - and on a high degree of sovereignty for each of the twenty-six cantons and half-cantons which form the Swiss confederation. The concept of national independence, although sometimes an anachronism in an age of ever-growing global interdependence, is one of the country's most jealously guarded political values. These are the main reasons for Switzerland's having stood quite aloof to the evolution that led to the foundation of the European Economic Community in 1957; they also explain why the government and a majority of the population still feel that Switzerland's place is not (yet) within what is now the European Community (EC).

But apart from being neutral and fiercely independence-conscious, Switzerland is also a country whose economic well-being depends very strongly on its capacity to sell its wares abroad: revenue from exports accounts for one out of every two francs Switzerland earns! So, while striving to uphold political neutrality the government must simultaneously do everything in its power to avoid economic isolation. That explains why, in 1959, Switzerland was among the founding members of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) whose aims were purely economic, as opposed to the economic and political ambitions of the EC. But in 1973 EFTA suffered a major setback when Great Britain and Denmark pulled out to join the EC. Although EFTA has managed to survive so far, people have been asking (more or less openly) ever since whether the European Free Trade Association is not ultimately doomed to disband. The question has become particularly acute in the past few years, with Austria officially applying for membership in the EC and Sweden about to do so.

The European Community has stated quite bluntly that it will not be willing to consider new candidacies for membership before 1993- at the earliest. For the time being, the main topic of discussion (and negotiation) between Europeans in- and outside the EC is the creation of a so-called European Economic Area (EEA) which would embrace the EC as well as EFTA. Neutrality and national sovereignty are not at stake in these negotiations - and yet, such an Economic Area confronts Switzerland (and, indeed, the other members of EFTA as well) with more problems, albeit of a different nature. To become part of the EEA, Switzerland would have to compromise on a number of issues it considers delicate and essential. - Switzerland's place in the new Europe: one of the many topics we will deal with in our special 1991 Sunday features.

1291-1991 Switzerland, Swiss Radio International

...the numerical majority of the Swiss population will be the topic of a further SRI feature programme during the anniversary year. A majority which is no longer quite as silent as it was throughout the centuries. Swiss women, who now make up more than 51 percent of the population, did not seriously begin to question their traditional role in society until the country was well on its way into the second half of the twentieth century. Even today, the idea (emanating from the value system of an agrarian society) that a woman's place is basically in the home is accepted by tens if not hundreds of thousands of Swiss men - and women. But despite such vestiges of traditional thinking the attitudes of the majority and the position of women in society have definitely changed considerably during the past twenty to thirty years. It is no longer taken for granted that upon leaving school a young woman will become either a secretary, a saleswoman or a nurse, find herself a husband and live happily (i.e., drop out of professional life) ever after. The number of young women who attend university or other institutions of higher learning has increased by several hundred percent since the end of World War II. The right of equal pay for equal work regardless of sex, although not yet an everyday reality, is laid down in the Federal Constitution. Women are still under-represented in some fields, particularly in the top ranks of business management. but from chimney-sweep to astrophysicist practically all professions are now genuinely open to both sexes. Under-representation of women in politics, in the regional and national parliaments, is a further acute problem - a problem Switzerland shares with many other Western nations.

So, to put it in a nutshell. the position of women in society has changed profoundly - and it continues to change. As these changes have come about within a comparatively short period of time, Swiss women and Swiss society as a whole are still very much in the process of seeking a new, viable definition of women's role(s) in the world of 1991. It is upon this process that our feature on the challenges facing the Swiss women of today will focus.

Other "700th Anniversary" Programmes :

As we note elsewhere in this brochure, there will be lots of information on the countless aspects of Switzerland's anniversary celebrations not only in SRI's Sunday feature programmes but during the week, in “Dateline”, as well. The last days of July and the first of August - Switzerland's national holiday — will mark one of the local points of anniversary-related activity. We'll tell you all about these celebrations... On SRI - Swiss Radio International!

1291-1991 Switzerland, Swiss Radio International
Short wave transmissions of Swiss Radio International

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Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem!
Behold, thy King cometh unto thee; He is the righteous Saviour, and He shall speak peace unto the heathen.