Tuesday, August 24, 2004

POLITICS: Swiss Foreign Policy Focuses on UN Reform

BERNE - The Swiss foreign minister, Micheline Calmy-Rey, has called for reform of the United Nations and explained how Switzerland should conduct its relationship with the European Union.

Opening the annual gathering of Switzerland’s top diplomats, Calmy-Rey said she regretted cuts to the country’s development aid budget, which would freeze spending at 2004 levels for the next four years. This meant Switzerland would likely miss its target of contributing 0.4 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) to development aid by 2010.

The cuts are part of a wider savings package aimed at bringing the federal finances into balance. The overseas development aid budget has already been cut by SFr 57 million this year, and will be trimmed further by SFr 81 million in 2007 and SFr 66 million in 2008.

Calmy-Rey also warned the ambassadors that tight financing meant that some of the country’s offices abroad might have to be closed.

Calmy-Rey said Bern’s spending cuts would limit what Switzerland could do to help reach the United Nations Millennium goal of halving poverty by 2015. She described that target as “simply unreachable”.

She hinted that Switzerland’s ability to influence foreign affairs was limited. “We react to events which are beyond our control,” she told the 100 ambassadors present.

Calmy-Rey also reminded the ambassadors of Switzerland’s opposition to the war in Iraq, and its implications for international security.

She said that conflict, which the United States-led coalition pursued in the face of United Nations opposition, “caused a crisis of collective security… and as one can see, the result is anarchy”. She added that reform of the UN was necessary and that the objective must be to make it an instrument that is both “respected and effective”.

Copyright: swissinfo with agencies


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