Former Federal Councilor Adolf Ogi explains why he brought himself to speak out in favor of the EU membership application.
Pascal TischhauserDeputy Head of Policy
Ironically, the former SVP Federal Councilor Adolf Ogi (80) made sure in the state government that a majority demanded the start of EU accession negotiations, i.e. only the start of talks for membership and not already about the accession itself. This shows after 30 years Protocols from the Federal Council published for the first time.
And it was precisely this application for membership that was the decisive factor in the fact that the EEA vote on December 6, 1992 failed. 50.3 percent of those who voted rejected joining the European Economic Area.
“Yes,” Ogi concedes to Blick, “probably the EU membership application was actually the deciding factor. But was it therefore wrong to deposit this request in Brussels? No! In this way, Swiss citizens could vote on the EEA in the knowledge of the Federal Council’s long-term goal.” It is right and important to pour the people pure wine.
Made a mistake, but a different one
So didn’t the Federal Council make a mistake in 1992? “Yes, but probably not that we were hesitant, as newspapers like ‘BZ’ and ‘Bund’ accuse us of, since the Federal Council minutes from back then have now been unlocked,” says Ogi. Apparently they are sad about how the Federal Council behaved 30 years ago. “Instead, we underestimated the effect of the postal vote, which was still new at the time,” he admits. The EEA voting program from the Bundesbriefarchiv and the other appearances by Federal Councilors in French-speaking Switzerland and Italian-speaking Switzerland came too late. The people had long since thrown in the voting envelope.
“You also have to look at the decision from the perspective of time.”Adolf Ogi
To the “stupid statement” that he was nervous when the Federal Council dealt with the EEA question and that he “broke down”, the former SVP magistrate only says, “I had concerns and expressed them”, like that had been his task. Some things were also not reproduced correctly in the translation from French – “and the strategic decision to join the EU was made in 1991”. He doesn’t understand the criticism, the despondency.
But what is true: In the discussion with the other members of the government, he was convinced that the request was sending the right and honest signals to Brussels and that Switzerland had time – “yes, time!” – procure. “It would have taken four to five years to reach an agreement with the EU or not. After the Federal Council and Parliament, the people would have had the last word. “As the SVP always demands,” adds Ogi.
“You also have to look at the decision from the perspective of time,” emphasizes Ogi. On May 17, voters said yes to participation in the Bretton Woods institutions and the World Bank. “Against this background, the Federal Council decided on Monday to submit the application. That was certainly not wrong, the mood was open to multilateral organizations.”
As can be seen today, but not surprisingly, it was the Latin Federal Councilors who were in favor of submitting the application. “And the German-speaking Swiss, on the other hand.” But he always voted with the minority and especially with the Romands. “After all, I come from a bilingual canton and lived in Romandy for three years,” says the native of Bern.
«For me, the question today is not: Was it wrong to file the request to start accession negotiations before the EEA vote? But it is: Is it right that the state government acts with the greatest possible openness? And here the answer can only be: Yes! » He agreed with the opinion of Federal President René Felber (SP, 1933-2020), Federal Councilor Jean-Pascal Delamuraz (FDP, 1936-1998) and Federal Councilor Flavio Cotti (CVP, 1939-2020).
For once not with Blocher
And that the attitude towards the question of EU accession was not simply black and white is shown by the fact that a rift suddenly ran through the middle of the parties – “which is actually quite astonishing!” Otto Stich (SP, 1927 – 2012), Kaspar Villiger (FDP, 81) and Arnold Koller (CVP, 89) were on the other side. And the fact that he wasn’t on the same side as the later Federal Councilor Christoph Blocher (SVP, 82) “is no surprise,” laughs Ogi.