• Date: 7/27/2011

The future of Switzerland 

As a “nation of intent” Switzerland relies strongly on values. However, looking to the future there are important questions to face for the development of these values. For the Swiss model has only been able to remain successful over all the years by constantly changing. We talk to three people from three generations with different cultural backgrounds about their ideas for Switzerland’s future.

Interview partners:

Kathrin Martelli (59), former member of the Zurich City Council

Kathrin Martelli was an FDP member of the Zurich City Council from 1994 to 2010. Today she is a member of the management of the Migros Cooperative Zurich and the Swiss Council for Spatial Policy (ROR). Since 2002 she has chaired Regional Planning Zurich and Surrounding Area (RZU) and, as of recently, the Zurich Community Center Foundation. She is a member of the Board of the TikK (Task force for intercultural conflicts) and the Zurich Chamber Orchestra. Kathrin Martelli is married with two grown-up children and two grandchildren.


Christoph Stuehn (37), member of the management of the Swiss National Museum, with dual German/Swiss nationality

Christoph Stuehn is an economist (University of St. Gallen), completed basic training in banking in Germany and has been involved in Swiss cultural institutions for some ten years. Previously at the Zurich Schauspielhaus and a member of the management of the Swiss National Museum for four years now. In his spare time Christoph Stuehn plays the violin, practices sport and enjoys traveling.


Laurenz Matter (17), commercial trainee, with dual Swiss/German nationalityLaurenz Matter is completing a commercial traineeship at Compresso AG & stewards.ch in the Services & Administration department, plays American football for the Zurich Renegades and is a passionate reader, at the moment reading “The Stars' Tennis Balls” by Stephen Fry.

KPMGnews: From a personal point of view, what do you consider to be the greatest challenges facing Switzerland?

Laurenz Matter: One of the greatest challenges for Switzerland will come from non-membership of the EU. How will Switzerland position itself in the midst of the EU without being overshadowed by it, economically, socially and culturally? Added to this is the strong franc which has a negative impact on the local export economy and tourism. Switzerland became strong due not least to the immigration of workers from other countries. The numbers must, however, be regulated so that excessive strain is not put on Swiss society and infrastructures.


Christoph Stuehn: Switzerland must succeed in tackling the new challenges of a globalized and dynamically changing world without losing the proven success factors of its culture. Switzerland must, therefore, redefine its relationship with Europe and the world in general. Where does our country position itself between isolation and openness? What does neutrality mean today? What role do we want to play in international state structures? How can we foster our traditions and values and still be cosmopolitan and progressive? How do we maintain national prosperity and cohesion and deal respectfully with the “four plus x” cultures in our country?


Kathrin Martelli: I can endorse what the previous speakers said, these subjects obviously affect all generations. The key for me too is Switzerland’s place in the international context. In addition, with its strong currency Switzerland should not just be a safe haven for foreign capital. Thirdly, with high immigration, social integration is also important to me. The keyword here is “high-density housing.” How do we develop our urban infrastructure without losing the first-rate quality of Switzerland as a location?

How do politics, business and society respond to these challenges?

Laurenz Matter: I consider the route of bilateral agreements and negotiations which has been pursued as a very good and balanced one. On the other hand, I am surprised by political actions, such as the launch of the populist right-wing deportation initiative. Such political programs lack any political reason and only appear to help the election campaign and mislead voters. Switzerland did not become great through using such approaches.


Kathrin Martelli: I still regret that Switzerland did not join the EEA in 1992. Our external relations have been hampered enormously by this. Politics is today searching for a good course within the bounds of what is possible, but this is time and again undermined by disruptive populist and party political actions. The Swiss people are too often seduced rather than guided these days and I think that is a pity and dangerous.


Christoph Stuehn: If political polarization continues to increase in Switzerland and thus makes the traditional ways of finding consensus sometimes impossible we shall lose some of our strengths as a country. In the case of certain political issues, such as that of aircraft noise pollution being discussed between Switzerland and Germany, I would think we would have a greater chance of success if a “solution-oriented, typically Swiss compromise” was strived for earlier, rather than digging our heels in until it is too late. But to do this we first need consensus at a domestic policy level, and in my opinion this is currently in short supply.

Mr. Matter, as the representative of the young generation, can you verify that?

Laurenz Matter: That is a difficult question. In my experience you have to differentiate between different aspects. When it comes to your own education and training, for example when looking for a traineeship, everyone naturally tries to go their own way and get the most out of it. But, in my view, this purposeful egotism is also good and ultimately necessary for competition and thus the economic prosperity of the country. In collaborative projects at school or in sport, however, team spirit is everyone’s top priority. They recognize that their own success depends on the team’s performance. Perhaps this spirit should find its way into politics and social coexistence more.

What are the most important values that Swiss politics needs in order to reach that?

Kathrin Martelli: Certainly a crucial attribute is hard work and our working structure which allows and even calls for efficient working at all levels. That is a typically Swiss virtue that we must continue to foster. In addition we – and above all politics – must increasingly act in a solution-oriented way with pure party interests taking a back seat. The third point I want to mention is modesty. This is an attribute that the generations before us grew up with and helped lay the foundations of this country. And if we look back at the history of Switzerland it was time and again the tolerance and integration of foreign cultures and languages that allowed us to make economic and social progress. From this point of view certain debates today surrounding immigration and integration sit awkwardly.


Christoph Stuehn: Working at a historical museum I have looked back to see what made Switzerland so successful over the centuries. For most of its history Switzerland was a poor country with no natural resources, difficult climatic conditions and impassable terrain. A will to be able to, or rather to have to, achieve something special arose out of this situation. In the small area of Switzerland we also always had to come to terms with other people and neighboring cultures and find solutions. These basic principles still exist today, but they must be adapted as the world has probably changed more rapidly in the last few years than in other periods of our history.

As a young citizen of this country what values must you contribute to enable Switzerland to have a successful future?

Laurenz Matter: I currently consider my personal contribution to be in obtaining a good training. Only well-trained workers will bring knowledge, innovation and progress to the country and its economy.

Mrs. Martelli, you earlier mentioned the subject of growth, the concentration of housing and integration. Is Switzerland on the right track here?

Kathrin Martelli: As is so often the case in Switzerland our ideas, laws, spatial planning and the like are developed perfectly and point in the right direction. However, we are not world champions at implementing the ideas we have developed. This often requires other people, not just pure intellectuals who plan and work out everything down to the last detail. It also requires courage and foresight, heart and mind, to tackle problems pragmatically and in a solution-oriented way. Democracy subsists not only on formal participation, new laws and initiatives, but also on an understanding of the bigger picture in which individual interests must sometimes take a back seat in favor of collective objectives.


Christoph Stuehn: Have people become more irresponsible or the issues more complex?


Kathrin Martelli: The complexity has increased disproportionately, despite – or perhaps because of – the much greater transparency that affects our everyday life. The information society has not made debates simpler per se, problems are discussed on many more levels, and every citizen has access to more information, which they can make use of for more activities, such as appeals, objections, and so forth.

Is transparency of the Internet and information society a curse or a blessing now?

Christoph Stuehn: As a representative of a cultural institution I welcome the greatest possible access to information for the world’s people. However, when I talk to my family doctor he complains that nowadays his patients are becoming ill through doing their own research on the Internet and are virtually getting their symptoms straight from the web. We must learn to filter and prioritize the huge amount of information and perhaps sometimes even distance ourselves somewhat from the newly acquired transparency.


Laurenz Matter: I obviously grew up with the Internet and can easily find everything I’m looking for there. The problem is, however, that many people don’t make enough use of this facility. They allow themselves to be taken in very quickly by deliberate campaigns by political parties or other opinion leaders without analyzing the messages and information critically. Forming your own opinion is time-consuming and demands commitment and discipline. The apathy of many young and older people is ruthlessly exploited by various interest groups.


Are you confident about the development of Switzerland?

Christoph Stuehn: Even during my childhood, which I spent in Germany, I looked at Switzerland from outside enthusiastically. If we manage to adapt Switzerland’s traditional values for the future, then I’ll be extremely confident.


Laurenz Matter: Personally I am very confident of being on the right path. As far as the future of Switzerland as a country is concerned, that’s difficult for me to judge.

Kathrin Martelli: Yes, I believe in our country, our values and our potential. When I look around at other – even neighboring – countries and see what real fear of losing one’s livelihood means, then I have a renewed sense of the vigor and strength we have here in Switzerland, even if the future is not going to be easy.


Kathrin Martelli: Yes, I believe in our country, our values and our potential. When I look around at other – even neighboring – countries and see what real fear of losing one’s livelihood means, then I have a renewed sense of the vigor and strength we have here in Switzerland, even if the future is not going to be easy.

If you could wish for one thing what would it be?

Kathrin Martelli: A brave, consensus and solution-oriented government.


Christoph Stuehn: I wish that Switzerland remains a place of political and social stability and solidarity in the future, and is able to continue to maintain its position on the global market through reliability, innovation and quality..


Laurenz Matter: My wish for Switzerland is that every person in our country has the same opportunities for education and personal development. We can thus maintain Switzerland’s competitive strength in the future.



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