Shift from Neutral?

From the December 2003 Trumpet Print Edition

Until recent times, Switzerland was reputed as a bastion of political neutrality, and a haven of tradition, social and economic stability and general prosperity.

Two events during the past decade have changed that image. First there was the exposure of Swiss support given to Hitler’s Third Reich by the Swiss acting as bankers for much of the Nazi administration. Second, the Swiss last year approved their country joining the UN.

Now, a Swiss mood swing to the right has been exposed through the strengthening of the nation’s right‑wing party in the recent general elections. “The ground may be shaking in Switzerland …. The tremors began October 19 when the Swiss People’s Party (svp)—led by the ‘Swiss Haider’ [a reference to right‑wing Austrian politician Jörg Haider], Christoph Blocher—came in first in the national election for the first time …” (Prague Post, Nov. 6).

Who is Christoph Blocher? He is a 63‑year‑old Germanic Swiss, a technocrat who made his $1.4 billion fortune largely via the purchase of a giant Swiss plastics and polymers company in 1983. He maintains his base of operations in Zurich, the German‑speaking heartland of his right‑wing svp.

Blocher’s political career took off in 1986 with his staunch anti‑UN membership campaign, which then succeeded but on which issue he was narrowly defeated in 2002. Apart from one other narrow defeat last year on his stand to limit immigration, Blocher has had a dream run in politics.

He has campaigned successfully against the abolition of the Swiss Army, to prevent Swiss military involvement in UN peacekeeping missions, and to keep the Swiss out of the EU, all for political expediency. Blocher has developed a reputation as a fiery orator and almost single‑handedly translated the svp from a “hayseed” lobby group into an isolationist, nationalistic political force. Intent on provoking response by highlighting the fears and aspirations of the average Swiss, Blocher prides himself on saying that which others dare not speak. In the process, he has attracted extreme right‑wing support in addition to a more general across‑the‑board following of Swiss genuinely concerned about their place in the world.

The Germanic Blocher is a man to watch. Over the past several years, the Trumpet has warned about the right‑wing swing underway in Europe. Though Blocher may tout for Swiss neutrality now, which way will he swing when the true nature of the German‑dominated EU emerges?