In the summer of 2015, National Councillor Oscar Freysinger launched a motion (see box), which is to oblige the Federal Council to start negotiations immediately with Russia for a free trade agreement. In the following interview, Oskar Freysinger explains what motivated him to take this step.
Current Concerns: Mr National Councillor Freysinger, what motivated you to launch this parliamentary motion?
National Councillor Oskar Freysinger: If you look at the developments of the last 25 years, it becomes obvious that for decades we have aligned ourselves with the United States. We believed that the friend was in the West and that our relationship was economically beneficial for us. In terms of economy, that might be partly true, but the price we paid is very high. For example, we had to give up the banking secrecy, and therefore suffered many disadvantages, as for instance the UBS deal, because we have aligned ourselves wholly with the American system.
What do you mean?
This bonds system creates an artificial wealth, based only on the act of constantly printing paper money. Thus, one runs into debt with no limitations. Unfortunately, the Swiss banks have been increasingly intertwined with this system.
Are there no alternatives?
I was wondering about that, too. Actually I though that we should once take a look to the East and do away with the old myth that our enemy is situated over there. Historically Russia has always had a friendly relationship with Switzerland. Russia played a very crucial role with respect to the independence and neutrality of our country after the Napoleonic Wars, namely at the Congress of Vienna. Neither have we had any cause to complain about Russia since 1992. There is not a single matter in which this country has decided any-thing that was negative for our country.
What do you conclude?
The future of Europe will not be without Russia. We should make sure that we ally ourselves with Russia. It is quite incomprehensible to me, that Ms Merkel has not noticed this up to now.
How do you explain this?
I wonder why the US exert such a strong influence on Merkel, because an alliance between Germany and Russia would be the foundation for an incredible economic boom. However, the Anglo-Saxons fear this. If Germany collaborated closely with Russia, in a short time these two would become the leading economic power in the world. They would outdo the Americans.
How do the United States respond?
They create divisive elements using Poland or Ukraine, etc.
What does that mean for Switzerland?
We are free, we are not in NATO and we are not bound by any contracts – in particular not with the United States. Russia is a country that is very interesting for us as a business partner, if only for the natural resources, but also culturally, and there are historical links. Economically, Russia is a very interesting market for our companies. Russia has a rapidly developing economy, and Putin is trying to keep his country independent and sovereign. I do not see why we should allow the Americans to keep us from establishing privileged relations with Russia.
When it comes to the situation in Europe, of course the relationship with our neighbouring countries, in particular with Germany, plays an important role. How do you assess the relationship?
The relationship with Germany has never been easy. Currently though they play the friendship card, but frankly, Switzerland is a competitor for Germany, because the latter is operating in the same segment as we do. I have nothing against friendly relations with our neighbouring countries, on the contrary, this is very important. But it must not be a submissive position. We do not have to accept a colonial treaty. Switzerland is an independent sovereign state, we are not an EU member, we are not a member of NATO, and the other states must respect this. When we see what the interests are that the EU has in the Swiss region, it creates a completely different perspective. More than 300,000 people who as cross-border commuters earn their wages in Switzerland every day, flush foreign exchange into the EU. Next there is the overland transport agreement. Switzerland demands only half the real price for each EU truck crossing its borders, etc. The EU has gained much from the bilateral agreements and will continue to gain much from them. To call us cherry pickers, is simply a lie.
What is the problem with the agreements?
Actually, it’s quite a simple contractual situation. If the guillotine clause would not exist, it could be positive for both sides. The guillotine clause is bothersome, because after all one does not negotiate in the shadow of the guillotine. From the outset I did not understand, how Switzerland could accept this. The motto of the EU was: either all or nothing. This is not a basis for negotiations, it must be possible to negotiate each object individually.
What about the future?
It is unacceptable what is in store for us here with this framework agreement, this automatic adoption of EU law and recognition of a European Arbitration Court. This is a perfidious strategy to achieve an indirect entry into the EU. If we were to ask the Swiss people directly whether they want to join the EU, we would probably have an 85% rejection. It is totally unacceptable to work around the issue by achieving a de facto accession via “dynamically” adopted laws and this framework agreement, and by not speaking of an automatic adoption but of a dynamic development of laws and thus drawing a red herring across the track.
Would it not be extremely important for Switzerland to look for honest negotiating partners? According to what you said before, Russia would be such a partner. What was the Federal Council’s response to your motion?
They wrote that 12 rounds of negotiations between Russia and the EFTA had taken place already, but that unfortunately the Ukraine crisis had interrupted the negotiations and for this reason they were rejecting my motion.
So, why can we not negotiate with Russia now?
According to the Federal Council the Ukraine crisis is the reason, although we now know that the Ukraine crisis was initiated by the US. The coup on the Maidan Square was not a popular uprising, which had come out of the blue overnight. It was orchestrated, organised, financed. The American intelligence service is behind it all and its objective is to disrupt the connections between Russia and Germany respectively the EU. And it was also a reaction to the fact that Russia had not given up Syria. In the case of Gaddafi – we have seen the result in Libya – the Chinese and the Russians had been outsmarted by the US. This is a lesson they have learned. In Syria they stood firm. Therefore, Bashar al-Assad is still in power. The monster created by the US, the Islamic State, will continue to be diligently financed by the US as well as supported by Israel and Saudi Arabia. The continuing existence of the IS is convenient to these countries, because due to this, Shiites and Sunnis will continue to wear themselves out in endless conflicts. The European Union is paying the price, as refugees and asylum seekers are now moving to Europe in large numbers. The whole game is of an uncanny perfidy, it is hypocritical. It is cynical. The United States are forever talking about human rights, and about how they always defend them. But they are, for example, very chummy with Saudi Arabia, a country with which they have had the dollar-oil pact since 1973, and it is there that human rights suddenly play no role at all. Whether women are discriminated against, whether people are flogged or whether more than 250 people have been decapitated per year – is all irrelevant to them. We are constantly being fooled.
What is your interpretation of the Federal Council’s response?
Once again we have shown ourselves to be subservient to the US. But the Anglo-Saxons always pursue only their own interests and they do not care a whit about the interests of others. They give themselves airs as the world’s policeman, but they are the ones that kindle the biggest fires around the world. So they are the arsonists who later act the heroic fire-fighters.
What does that mean for Switzerland?
We are a free and independent country and should not continue to play along here. If others do, it is their business, but we should pursue an independent policy and immediately begin negotiating with Russia, no matter whether this pleases the United States or not. It cannot get worse than it already is. I hardly think that the US will move closer with the 6th Fleet and occupy Switzerland. After all, our relations with the US are already ailing. It would be hypocritical to pretend they were our best friends. With their behaviour they have proved several times that they are not friendly. There is nothing left for us to be gained on this market.
Why has Switzerland waited so long to reposition itself?
Up to date the courage to break away from the American diktat seems to have been lacking. Apparently it is preferable to knuckle under and endure.
So what can be done?
One would have to reconsider things urgently, in the economy, with the banks. Russia needs an independent financial centre, and Switzerland could play this role, and that not only for Russia but also for China, India and the other BRICS countries. We should work together with these countries, because there the pressure is less strong than with NATO and the EU area. In these latter organisations the prevalent relationships are colonial. Small states are crushed or bullied by the big ones. We have been experiencing an American bullying for decades. That is what it is called in interpersonal relationships. It has nothing to do with fair dealings between two equal partners that appreciate and respect each other. Here it is all about the big “partner” imposing his will on the small one. This is unworthy of our Switzerland.
How could we form our trade relations with Russia?
For our wines there is a market. Now I am talking as an inhabitant of the Valais. But our SMEs, which mainly produce high-quality niche products in Switzerland, have a high technological level. Industrial products manufactured in Switzerland have a lot to offer in the mechanical and technological fields, and of course this also applies to the service sector. In the banking sector Switzerland leads the way in any case. On the other hand, the Russians have huge deposits of mineral resources, and Russia is a huge market. We could also import certain products from Russia and create joint ventures. This course of action naturally requires a precise analysis. At a time when mineral resources are becoming increasingly scarce and expensive reciprocal trade with Russia would be highly advantageous. And here I think of close economic ties, way beyond a purely financial and economic relationship.
So what attitude would Switzerland have to take?
We are a sovereign and independent state. Our direct democracy is unique and could be an indicative target for other democratic states. We have to go into the negotiations as equal partners and we must not submit to any other country.Our neutrality allows us to enter into and to carry on negotiations with every state in the world. And I am saying it again: A free trade agreement with Russia would be of considerable advantage for our country.
Mr National Councillor Freysinger, thank you very much for the interview. •
(Interview Thomas Kaiser)
The Federal Council to immediately hold negotiations with Russia on a free trade agreement.
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