The importance of state sovereignty concerning the energy issue

by Thomas Kaiser

The formation of nation states was a major advance in modern history. Since the peace of Westphalia in 1648, it has been known that the rule of non-interference in foreign territories effected a decisive contribution to the establishment of state sovereignty and independent development of defined territories and ultimately gave a framework to stop the envy of other states. As a result of this insight, the Swiss Confederacy became independent from the Holy Roman Empire of German Nation which enabled its development into a federal state and was the prerequisite for direct democracy and an independent federal state.
At that time, the peoples and their rulers in Europe had learned their lessons of the terrible slaughter of the Thirty Years’ War. Over a third of the population perished from disease, starvation, murder and manslaughter. At that time the people wanted to stop this for the future. The findings of the Enlightenment and the demand for separate statehood with a national population and a state territory, as well as an own constitution laid the foundations for today’s nation-states and the state system of democracy.
However, this development was unfortunately no guarantee for eternal peace, which the people were so much longing for. Although the sovereign nation-state provides some protection against the envy of other nations, this sovereignty must be actively protected until today against any intervention from outside. This requires a state government that firmly wants to preserve and defend sovereignty. In addition, it includes a powerful and deployable army. Even if Switzerland as a neutral state could play a special role compared to other states, including small states, this is not enough to protect against the ambitions of the powerful of this world who want to do with Switzerland what supports their interests of power. Today military violence is not immediately used; things run more finely, less spectacularly, as long as they are successful from the point of view of the more powerful.
In addition to a good military defense, whose employment should always be ultimo ratio, a state needs an efficient agriculture which is not adjusted to the export, but mainly to the supply of its own population, enabling the country to get through times of crisis without importing. It is a fact that nothing is easier than to starve a country in order to make it compliant. The argument of the Swiss Federal Council that a worldwide system of agricultural free trade would guarantee food security is naive and is not based on the experiences of history.

A sustainable experience for Switzerland after the First and Second World Wars, the Suez Crisis or also the Yom Kippur War is the aspect of the stand-alone power supply. In the Second World War Switzerland had to make painful concessions to get the coal that it so badly needed. Imagine a harsh winter without enough heating material and you know what that would have meant for the population.
This is why in the 1950s Switzerland began to pay much more attention to the production of electric energy. It began to build hydroelectric power plants to increase the supply level of electricity wherever the technology allowed it in harmony with nature. Thus Switzerland reached the fortunate position to generate a very important part of the energy production in its own country. The country must keep this independence. However, with the Energy Agreement, the EU is trying to make the countries more interdependent and thus break a part of the countries’ sovereignty. With cheap electricity imports it undermines Switzerland’s energy supply. In a liberal market, the small power plants but also the larger ones will not have enough financial reserves to survive against the electricity multinationals in the EU if we do not protect and support them financially. This will be highly problematic without the state control of the energy sector. In an open and globalized power market, the major providers will do everything to swallow the small ones. If prices are continually under pressure, it is economically no longer worth building new power plants. But the preservation of the independence in energy supplies must be one of our state priorities. If we look at the energy issue without considering the importance of state sovereignty it might have fatal consequences in the future.     •