UK well-represented at 95th Congress of Swiss Abroad
Organised by the Organisation of the Swiss Abroad (OSA), the Congress of the Swiss Abroad (CSA) is the annual meeting of Swiss citizens living all around the world. The Congress takes place each year in a different area of Switzerland and is attended by some 400 compatriots from around the world. This year the Council’s appointment was in Basle from 18th–20th August, where the delegates met around the theme ‘Inland- und Auslandschweizer: eine Welt!’ (‘Swiss at home and abroad: one world’).
The CSA met for the first time since the election of its members for the 2017 to 2021 period with over 50 newly elected delegates. The UK is now represented on the CSA Executive Board with Franz Muheim being elected as a board member for the next four years. This will allow Swiss citizens living in the UK to increase their influence in the Organisation, which is important at this time of considerable uncertainty over Brexit.
CSA: The UK delegates’ feedback after the meeting
The meeting featured a podium discussion with a proponent and an opponent of reform ‘2020’ for the AVS (AHV) and pension funds (2nd pillar). The reform will strengthen the AVS and those Swiss living abroad, who have paid or are paying into the AVS, will benefit from it.
Taking all arguments into account the CSA decided to support reform ‘2020’ with a large majority: 80 yes, 22 no and 8 abstaining. It is very important for those who are registered to vote to participate in the pension ‘2020’ referendum which will take place on 24th September, 2017. The CSA is still angry with the Swiss banks who are asking prohibitive fees for bank accounts for the Swiss Abroad. In May 2017, a motion by National Councillor Roland Büchel was narrowly voted down (by 3 votes). Since then two new motions have been submitted. Both of these obtained support across all parties and have a realistic chance of being accepted in the two Councils. At the Congress, Federal Councillor Alain Berset stated that a pragmatic solution should be sought.
This was my first year as a Delegate, although in 2016 I participated as a guest. As per last year, I remain truly impressed by the commitment of the Organisation of the Swiss Abroad (OSA), the Department of Foreign Affairs and the National Councillors towards us, as well as the Swiss, that for whatever reason, now live abroad.
The Congress was well structured and touched on themes of relevance; debating e-voting, pension reform and easier and affordable access to Swiss bank accounts. I was pleased to meet delegates from all over world and share common challenges and experiences. During the four days many ideas were discussed and I am now looking forward to bringing these initial thoughts back to the Swiss living in the United Kingdom. Nevertheless, my main priority as a Delegate and FOSSUK President remains to raise awareness of the OSA and FOSSUK. This is to ensure that all the Swiss in the U.K are aware of the support provided by both organisations and their concerns and challenges are understood, acknowledged and duly represented.
My first CSA conference as a UK delegate was very positive and I was pleased to see the CSA opening up to younger people! I felt lucky to meet Swiss politicians who seemed to care about our concerns. My proposition to have National Councillors representing the Swiss abroad was well received. I will work together with a few other delegates to present a more concrete project at the next meeting.
Attending the Congress of Swiss Abroad for the first time was a great experience; I’ve met so many interesting Swiss citizens from around the world and was inspired by the content over the two days. The drive and energy of the YPSA members (Youth Parliament of the Swiss Abroad) impressed me, that’s why I would like to support them in my role as delegate of the CSA and promote the establishment of youth groups across the UK. I believe it’s important that the OSA starts to work closer with the YPSA, as they are the future of us Swiss abroad.