Switzerland won’t be neutral during the World Cup
“I am a Reds fan,” Christian Hauswirth said, laughingly pointing out that red was the Swiss national soccer team’s color as well as the official color of the South Korean supporter group, the Red Devils.
As a citizen of a country that hasn’t gone to the World Cup since 1994, he was excited about this year’s tournament, although the ambassador’s favorite sport is golf.
“We are all proud to participate. The last time it was in 1994 so we think it’s a good chance to show what we can do,” the ambassador said. “Without doubt, football is the most popular sport in our country.”
Mr. Hauswirth said he was planning to put a big screen TV into the garden of the embassy’s residence in Jongno and invite people over to enjoy the game, which is scheduled to be played in the early morning hours of June 23.
Because Switzerland is located next to Germany, the ambassador expressed hope that the influx of tourists would spill over.
“It would be nice of some of the Koreans to stop over at Switzerland,” said the smiling ambassador, who pointed out that the Swiss had launched various special travel packages including one called the “Alternative Ladies Programme,” a program aimed to lure female tourists.
Mr. Hauswirth said that starting last year, the Swiss had recruited South Korean actors and actresses to promote the Swiss image. Cho Han-sun, a male actor, is currently featured in the ads.
Asked how being a diplomat from a neutral country affected his work, Mr. Hauswirth said it had no special bearing on him but stressed that the essence of the word “neutral” meant “keeping out of war.”
“Even before the establishment of the international law on neutrality in 1907, the Swiss had developed the idea of neutrality. It’s a small country. There was always the fear of being taken over by someone bigger,” Mr. Hauswirth said.
Nevertheless, he conceded that said neutrality does not protect the country from terror attacks or environmental problems. Mr. Hauswirth, himself a reserve force officer in the Swiss artillery, added, “The Swiss’ neutrality is an armed neutrality.”
In a country well known for its gadget knives, luxury watches and chocolate, the ambassador said the secret to keep harmony among the German, Italian and French-speaking population is employing what he called a semi-direct democracy.
“The fact that the Swiss people can vote on virtually any kind of law is important. In some cases it’s obligatory. We have a parliament but the highest order are the people,” Mr. Hauswirth said. “When we have a referendum, we have the political maturity to accept the result.”
He said everything was on the table to vote, citing past examples in which Swiss nationals voted on various issues such as the abolishment of the Swiss military or the issue of joining the UN.
Furthermore, making sure that all minorities are protected by law is the cornerstone of the country, Mr. Hauswirth said. “The Swiss constitution promotes the diversity of the country to give different groups the chance to have their own political life. This political concept is how the Swiss are kept together,” Mr. Hauswirth said.
As for improvement in the bilateral relations between the two countries, the Swiss ambassador said he would like to see more exchange on the academic side, pointing out that the Swiss had excellent scientific institutions on the higher college education level.
by Brian Lee