The new Swiss government has set its priorities. Some goals, however, seem unattainable in light of the vested interests.
The Swiss government, which has a different set-up since the election of two new federal councillors last December, announced its guidelines and priorities on Wednesday.
Some of the four strategic thrusts are worth listening to. But there also seems to be a lot of wishful thinking for the coming years.
EU and free trade
Logically, Switzerland wants to secure its prosperity first and foremost and take advantage of the opportunities offered by digitization. One of the goals formulated by the Federal Council is that Switzerland wants to renew its relations with the EU and secure access to international markets for the Swiss economy.
This is particularly noteworthy because the relationship with the EU has been virtually on ice since Switzerland’s harsh rejection of negotiations, and there are difficult domestic political hurdles to overcome in order to even enter into a reasonably dynamic negotiation process with the EU again.
At the same time, Swiss farmers are likely to insist on their sinecures – as they have in the past – and thus make access to international markets by means of free trade agreements more difficult.
AHV, BVG and health
The Federal Council has set itself the second goal of securing the social security system. According to the list of the Bern administration, it has in mind security for future generations as well as financially sustainable health care.
However, all of these have been permanent construction sites for years, and in view of the hardened fronts between left and right on these issues, changes are difficult to get off the ground.
Thus, the Swiss health care system often benefits the sick rich, i.e., rather the bourgeois, who force the healthy and the young to redistribute. The young and the poor, i.e. rather the clientele of the left, can hardly afford the premiums. But they are simply given money via premium reductions in order to solve the problem but not to have to change anything.
It’s difficult to make big decisions. And hardly any service providers are willing to give up anything at all.
Redistribution of money
The second pillar, i.e. occupational pension provision, will be similarly difficult as the health care system, since the entire system would have to be put on a new footing.
The structure of the BVG dates back to a time when the man spent his entire life working full time for one company and the woman took care of raising the children and tending to the household.
If changes are proposed here, it is always a question of distributing a lot of existing money in banks and insurance companies, and this is not likely to be so easy to accomplish.
Solving migration issues
Thirdly, Switzerland wants to get involved internationally, and this includes a stringent asylum policy. This is also likely to be an arduous path, because the major parties around the SVP and SP have completely different ideas of what ‘stringent’ means.
Switzerland wants to tackle the migration issue by means of “efficient European and international cooperation.” But this mostly contradicts significant domestic political forces.
Environment and planning
Last, but not least, the Federal Council intends to ‘save the climate’ and conserve natural resources as well as to secure energy supplies.
The focus would be on productive agriculture as well as a resilient food supply (Goal 19), an appropriate spatial planning policy (Goal 20) and the stability of the energy supply (Goal 23).
This alone makes it clear that the issues surrounding the use of pesticides, the overbuilding upon beautiful landscapes or the use of nuclear and wind energy will boil up and have to find a consensus in the country within a very short time.
However, the composition of the committees in the Federal Council already makes it clear that the responsible DETEC has nothing at all to say on the front line of economic issues, for example.
Test for the system
The policy framework is intended to provide the roadmap for the next four years and strengthen Switzerland’s resilience to crises. If all the tricky challenges of the future are indeed fully resolved within four years, one has to give the committee credit.
The complex issues surrounding the EU, agriculture, building, immigration, the climate, free trade, energy supply, the AHV, the BVG and health all involve trench warfare, each of which is in itself a test for the country.
However, the people can probably be satisfied if the Swiss government achieves only half of their projects within the deadline.
Nailing yogurt to the wall
In the next step, all the goals will now be supplemented with concrete measures and linked with indicators to make them measurable within the framework of monitoring, the Federal Council wrote in its communiqué.
It is precisely these indicators that will enable the public to see how tough the government’s targets will be on individual issues or in which direction the journey should go.
Or whether Switzerland simply wants to nail a yogurt to a wall with all this.