Switzerland Modern History

Switzerland is a country located in Western Europe. With the capital city of Bern, Switzerland has a population of 8,654,633 based on a recent census from COUNTRYAAH. After the Second World War, a period of increased prosperity and political consensus followed. From 1959, the four largest parties shared power; Switzerland was ruled for nearly half a century by a standing unity government consisting of three bourgeois parties and the Social Democrats. Towards the end of the 1990s, the country suffered an economic downturn at the same time as domestic political contradictions intensified and the country was exposed to criticism abroad.

After a period of international isolation and economic problems immediately after the Second World War, Switzerland became relatively successful in the 1950s and 1960s. Prosperity benefited large sections of the population and paved the way for increased political consensus. The radical political groups were marginalized. A new model for government formation prevailed from 1959, when the four largest parties agreed on how to divide power.

  • ABBREVIATIONFINDER: List of most commonly used acronyms containing Switzerland. Also includes historical, economical and political aspects of the country.

However, after the good years of the 1960s, Switzerland also felt the economic downturn in the Western world triggered by the oil crisis of 1973. Political contradictions were sharpened. French-speaking residents of the Jura ran a campaign to break out of the German-speaking canton of Bern. In the end, they succeeded; In 1979, Jura became the first new canton in Switzerland since the 19th century. Check best-medical-schools for more information about Switzerland.

Political polarization increased during the 1980s as new issues came to the fore, such as asylum policy and the relationship with the EU’s predecessor EC. Towards the end of the decade, the economic situation began to deteriorate, leading to increased social problems.

After negotiations, the government signed a so-called EEA agreement in May 1992 and applied for membership in the then EC. But later that year, the Swiss voted in a referendum to reject the EEA agreement, which would have given Switzerland access to the EU’s internal market, which, among other things, eliminated trade barriers between the countries. In doing so, they also put an end to the EC / EU application (see Foreign Policy and Defense).

The outcome of the EEA vote, when the No side won by a marginal margin, was largely the result of an intensive campaign by the Swiss People’s Party (SVP). Resistance to the EC / EU and immigration emerged as its main issues. It gave wind of the sails in the 1995 parliamentary elections and even more in 1999, when the party went from being the smallest government party to the second largest, after the Social Democrats. SVP’s strong man Christoph Blocher called for a change in the “magic formula” for the distribution of government seats. However, SVP did not meet its requirements.

The large streams of refugees during the turmoil in the Balkans in the 1990s helped make immigration a hot topic of debate. Asylum policy was repeatedly the subject of referendums, with varying results.

At the end of the 1990s, Switzerland’s actions during and after World War II became a dominant issue, both domestic and foreign. It was revealed that Swiss banks had retained assets that Jews placed on secret accounts during the persecution in Nazi Germany. The banks had not tried to reach relatives of Nazi victims. In addition, during the war, Switzerland had bought gold the Nazis had stolen from its victims, sold weapons for huge sums to the war-torn country, and rejected Jewish refugees at the border. The revelations shook the Swiss self-image and tarnished their reputation abroad. Claims for compensation were raised, primarily in the United States and by Jewish groups. Eventually, after protracted processes and boycott threats, both Swiss banks and the government agreed to pay. The government and the two largest banks, UBS and Crédit Suisse, set aside money to support Jewish survivors, relatives and Jewish groups. The first payments were made in 2002.

Prior to the 2003 elections, the debate on immigration and asylum policy again dominated. SVP claimed, among other things, that foreigners were behind a growing crime in the country. Christoph Blocher, SVP’s poster name, held a particularly high profile on the issue. The party now became the largest party in parliament for the first time. Blocher put the ultimatum: if the party did not get two ministerial posts, it would go in opposition. The Christian Democrats were forced to relinquish a post to SVP.

Within the framework of the Swiss consensus spirit, it was a tumultuous event when one of seven ministerial posts was moved between the four parties in the standing unity government. The new government was also characterized by an internal divide that was contrary to tradition. Blocher, who became Minister of Justice, distinguished himself by often appearing to represent himself and his party, rather than the government. He also demanded the resignation of other ministers and made xenophobic statements that plagued other members of the government.

SVP wanted to withdraw the dormant application for EU membership, but had to settle for a government decision that the application is only a long-term alternative. Blocher noted a success with a very restrictive new asylum law, which was adopted in a 2006 referendum.

In the 2007 election, it became even clearer that the political landscape had changed. Just as before, the electoral movement was largely dominated by Blocher, who resided in his favorite subjects immigration and crime. The atmosphere was unusually fierce and SVP was again accused of racism, including by the UN.

When the election results came, it turned out that SVP received 29 percent of the vote, a record in a Swiss election. But when Parliament elected ministers, they caused a slight political earthquake: they refused to choose the SVP’s top name, Justice Minister Blocher. Instead, after several votes, SVP politician Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf was appointed. Many MPs were tired of Blocher’s disputed manner and saw him as a threat to the traditional spirit of consensus. SVP’s second candidate, Defense Minister Samuel Schmid, was re-elected.

SVP’s leadership raged against the action and decided that the party should leave the government. However, when Widmer-Schlumpf and Schmid accepted the appointments, they were excluded from the parliamentary group. Their supporters later formed the Civil Democratic Party (BDP).

SVP’s time in opposition lasted only one year. At the end of 2008, Schmid resigned following a scandal in the defense, and Parliament then appointed an SVP politician as a new minister. Widmer-Schlumpf remained as representative of the BDP, and thus now included five parties in the Assembly government.

Switzerland was also hit by the global financial crisis that was triggered in 2008 and the country’s banks suffered major losses. The problems spread to other parts of the economy and unemployment rose. The decline in 2009 was still relatively modest in Switzerland; the economy shrank by about 2 percent and growth then recovered.

SVP continued to drive an anti-immigrant line. The party succeeded in referendums to support, among other things, a ban on minarets and for the automatic expulsion of foreign nationals who commit serious crimes (see Calendar). Switzerland was criticized for racist misconduct in the debate and for discriminatory legislation, including by the Council of Europe and UN representatives.

In the 2011 parliamentary elections, SVP backed down somewhat, after two decades of success, but remained the largest party. One reason for the decline was the split within the party after the previous election: some votes and mandates went to the new BDP. The new Federal Assembly elected all members of the government, including Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf, who now represented the BDP.

Switzerland Modern History