Swiss Abroad: Council Meeting, 25th March 2017
This spring meeting was the last for many delegates, so we had to say farewell to almost a third of the participants and took a group photo before ending the session with an apero. In August we will welcome some new delegates and I’d like to take this occasion to thank the Swiss pillars in Singapore for having re-elected me for the next 4 years. If you have any issues you want me to address, feel free to contact me, Sabine Silberstein (Silberstein@aso.ch), anytime.
In some countries elections are still ongoing and we run trials with E-voting in Mexico and Australia which will be partly sponsored and meticulously observed by the Federal Government as well. One of our key issues is that we would like to vote electronically everywhere as voting documents sometimes arrive too late to be sent back on time. We therefore hope that these two trials run smoothly and secure.
As participating in our council is an expensive hobby (travel expenses cannot be claimed) we often have empty seats during our meetings. Some members from overseas only come once a year. A member complained that at least our Swiss members should make an effort to be more present. The board presented a suggestion that delegations could elect deputies (delegations with five seats get 1, smaller delegations 1) This would mean that those coming from nearby like France or Germany would get 2 – 3 deputies, ASEAN 1 . They would have to be elected the same way as the delegates. This would allow introducing people to the Council who later become delegates and hopefully lead to less empty seats. Elections in some countries are already over, so deputies could be elected later.
We had to discuss AGM issues like every year, the President’s report was unanimously approved and so were the financial statements. Unfortunately the budget for next year predicts a slight loss. Some delegates wanted to know if the Government would be willing to cover any loss but we got a very strict “no-way” so we’ll have to find more sponsors. Our long time treasurer stepped back after having been more than 25 years on the council and we elected a new one.
A member of the Foreign Department made a presentation about “Switzerland and Europe after 9th February 2014” (when the Swiss voted in favour of controlled/limited immigration) . He could not really tell us facts and titled it “mind the Gap” as he also addressed Brexit and its unknown consequences for Swiss living in UK.
The delegate from Hungary wanted to know if we could take legal action against Postfinance who kind of discriminates Swiss living abroad by charging them much higher fees. With the current law situation this is not possible but our parliamentarians suggested that they might make an effort to encourage a change in this postal law. Unfortunately the way Swiss banks and postfinance treat their Swiss customers who move abroad for some time is an ongoing issue and will not be solved in a near future. We expect to have this on our agenda for the next few years.
Another motion from Canada asked to accept the English Language as official language of ASR/CSA. This would encourage and enable 2nd generation Swiss abroad to participate. Unfortunately this is not going to happen. As a delegate in the council one has to at least understand either German or French. We do not have the means for simultaneous translation into more languages and as all Government documents are in German, French, Italian or Romanche it is mandatory for our members to read those. If you want to participate in Swiss life you have to understand a national language.
During the Discussion Forum the “Swiss Review” was again a topic. We save money by no longer printing the ASO/OSE Annual report and encourage anyone to install the revue app and read it electronically as postage and printing cost and we have to save if we want to stick to 6 issues a year. Not everyone likes to read on a computer but the alternative would be to have only 4 issues a year which would make the Revue even less up to date.
Our next meeting takes place during the 95. Kongress of the Swiss living abroad which will take place in Basel from August 18 to 20. Everyone is welcome, details and inscription forms can be found on the website www.aso.ch.