Switzerland

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  • Date: 1/8/2013

Young people can also get enthusiastic about politics 

Interview with: Maya Graf, President of the National Council

What do you think are the two or three single most pressing problems facing Switzerland?

Maya Graf: Definitely the energy transition. The Federal Council has heralded the start of this revolution with the announcement of the nuclear power phase-out and Parliament has pledged its support, and this now needs to be translated into concrete action. Clear statutory regulations should ensure investment security for companies, as well as for private individuals who want to help protect the environment by renovating buildings and installing solar power systems. A second issue that I feel must be addressed urgently is that of urban sprawl: We must build concentrated developments, increase the appeal of cities so that they become attractive places to live and work, and protect cultivated land and our unique natural landscapes at all costs.

Where do you see the major challenges in terms of foreign policy?

Maya Graf: In our relationship with the European Union, which has cooled noticeably in recent years. In this case, the Federal Council must also present the Swiss population with options that do not involve further bilateral agreements. As time goes on, the EU will become less willing to accept our special status.

Relations with the EU are indeed at the center of current discussions in many respects. What developments do you anticipate with regard to the eurozone crisis and the tax debate, and also with regard to significant bilateral agreements?

Maya Graf: As long as the EU remains in this deep crisis, Switzerland will not be at the top of the list of priorities. However, the situation is sure to become even more difficult. The pressure is increasing now that Germany has rejected the bilateral tax agreement. But we can counter this: that is to say, when we eventually wipe the slate clean. In the future, Switzerland must be characterized by a clean money strategy and fair taxation, not by capital flight and tax havens.

In terms of domestic policy, what are the major areas for development?

Maya Graf: As mentioned, these include land use planning and safeguarding our social welfare system, as well as fair taxation in Switzerland too, alongside important decisions regarding the energy transition.

Which reforms are necessary to ensure Switzerland’s prosperity as a center of industry?

Maya Graf: At the moment, I do not see any need for significant reform. We are one of the most innovative countries in the world, and we are economically successful, because we have an exemplary dual education system. It is important that we invest in training and education. We have to place the necessary emphasis on vocational training and train our own specialists not only in an academic context. Qualified, motivated employees form the basis of a successful center of industry.

And as a financial center?

Maya Graf: As a politically stable and prosperous country, Switzerland can safeguard its financial sector if the banks adhere to the clean money strategy and represent it in a credible way.

Which reforms are necessary with regard to the energy transition?

Maya Graf: Hopefully, Parliament will settle on a binding statutory framework for the energy transition during the coming year. This must also include a concrete, well-regulated nuclear power phase-out scenario.

And what does the sustainable safeguarding of our social welfare system entail?

Maya Graf: Safeguarding our social welfare system is important, but this must not be at the expense of those affected.  
The last legislative period has been judged by many as not very constructive. What is your assessment after the first year of the new legislative period?

 

Maya Graf: I am confident. A new legislative period brings new faces into the Council, and new faces bring new ideas. I am certain that more constructive cooperation between the parties will be easier to achieve than in previous years. This is already evident, in my opinion, from the decisions regarding energy, land use planning and agricultural policy.

 

Communication with political stakeholders has changed dramatically. To what extent can the authorities still communicate to sufficient effect with the general population?

 

Maya Graf: In Switzerland, politicians – even those ‘on high’ in Bern – are still very close to the general population and interact directly with them on a daily basis. However, social media are also actively used. For me personally, the quantity of information is less important than the quality.

 

Is politics still capable of reaching young people in particular and sparking their interest in political issues?

 

Maya Graf: I doubt that young people are more apolitical than they were a few years ago. There are many issues that inspire young people – examples include the large demonstrations against nuclear power plants after the Fukushima disaster, or the Pirate Party, which addresses the issue of unrestricted internet access, or online discussion forums such as Politnetz or Vimentis which are moderated by young people. It is important that young people are also represented at every level of our political system. I am pleased that we now have some young and very committed men and women in the National Council. They are the best role models and certainly inspire others to get involved in politics. I myself have been politically active since I was 21 and I still find it exciting.

 

Interview: Simone Glarner, Marketing & Communications

 

Maya Graf

Maya Graf

 

President of the National Council

 

© Béatrice Devènes