2021 New Year's message

New Year's message for the diplomatic corps

Address by the President of the Swiss Confederation Guy Parmelin, Head of the Federal Department of Economic Affairs, Education and Research (EAER)

Berne, 13 January 2021

(Check against delivery)


Ladies and Gentlemen

2020 was a year to forget – and a year we will never forget. We have all learned a lot in the past months: about ourselves, the people around us, our countries, and the world we share. The pandemic has caused untold suffering, plunged numerous families and friends into mourning and devastated social life.

ð Today, humanity is united as it has not been for a long time by our shared pain and our shared hope for a new chapter!

As statespersons, we are called upon to tackle the next phases of the crisis in the midst of grief.  For example, Switzerland, like many other countries, is committed to ensuring the equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines.

But that is by no means the end of the story.

When the illness begins to peter out – soon, hopefully – we will face the huge task of getting the global economy back on its feet and getting society moving again. It is imperative that we do this in such a way that we do not immediately conjure up the next global crisis or allow the climate crisis to continue unabated.

Switzerland wants to contribute to a sustainable and inclusive recovery. We need to start planning for this future, for example by preparing to phase out fossil fuels, as decided by the Federal Council in August 2019. Switzerland recently reaffirmed its commitment to the global community and multilateralism by proposing its candidates for leading positions in international organisations.


In recent months there has been much discussion in Switzerland about federalism and individual responsibility, values that we hold dear. Yet the way they have been applied during the crisis has sometimes been viewed critically. There have been calls for top-down solutions, which are not typical for our country.

The scientific community will be able to assess what went well and what did not for decades to come. But I am convinced that Switzerland is well advised to rely on its proven recipes for recovery. These include federalism, subsidiarity, individual responsibility and entrepreneurial freedom.

The search for vaccines has shown throughout the world what power can be generated when governments, the private sector and the scientific community operate together. We also need to work together in tackling other urgent challenges, especially the climate crisis.

In my opinion, two things are essential for all countries to move into calmer waters:

Ø We must reject fake news, discard conspiracy theories and fight fanaticism of all kinds.

Ø We need a stable legal order.

Firstly, I believe that it is essential to reinstate a culture of discussion based on facts. Different views should be discussed within a democratic framework. Those who spread conspiracy theories and fake news undermine democracy. This also applies to all those who fundamentally reject debate: the supporters of terrorism; fanatics; all those who advocate violence while believing that history is on their side.

The second point is at least as important, because it defines the rules of our coexistence. A stable legal order results from our discussions and gives all of us the security that the framework we decide on today will still apply tomorrow. This security enables us to shape tomorrow’s society together.


Max Frisch said: "Crisis is a productive state. You just have to remove the taste of catastrophe." That is the target for 2021.

To you and to the States you represent, may I convey the best wishes of the Federal Council and the Swiss people, as well as my personal wishes for peace, security and prosperity.

Last modification 14.06.2022

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