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Public lecture of Pascal Couchepin: Democracy

On October 30, 2003 the President of Switzerland Mr. Pascal Coucheping delivered a lecture on the challenges to democracy. The event, co-organized by CSD, the Atlantic Club in Bulgaria and the Bulgarian Diplomatic Society, brought together more than 250 people in the National Art Gallery in Sofia.

In his remarks Mr. Couchepin posed a question as to whether it is possible for the West-European type of liberal democracy to spread all over the world. Historically, democracy had been constantly opposed throughout the centuries but it is well known that it can survive if a certain level of education, culture and social and economic development exist, Mr. Couchepin pointed out.

In the last several years the liberal model of democracy was brought to a new life together with a growing aspiration of the institutions themselves to act independently from political and material interests of the governing political parties. This requires more efforts to fight corruption and to establish a judiciary which is independent from the political government, i.e. to create a rule of law based on a division of powers.

In Switzerland the people participate directly in all levels of government (direct democracy). This type of government has survived for more than 5o years. The main challenge today is to find a balance between the national and cultural traditions and the demands of the contemporary society.

Mr. Couchepin explained the specific place of his country in the international relations referring to the history when the cantons united against external threats and agreed to keep their autonomy from the center in order to preserve the existing balance. This is the reason for which Switzerland is not likely to become a EU member although it acceded to the UN.

In conclusion Mr. Couchepin expressed hope that Bulgaria will find its way of democracy and this way will bring prosperity for the country and its people.

Pascal Couchepin
Bio data

Pascal Couchepin started his political career in 1968 as a member of the Communal Council of his home town. He was elected Deputy Mayor of Martigny in 1976 and Mayor in 1984, a post he held until 1998.

Pascal Couchepin entered the federal arena in 1979, when he was elected to the National Council as a representative of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). He was Chairman of that party's parliamentary group from 1989 to 1996. Elected to the Federal Council on 11 March 1998, Pascal Couchepin took over the Federal Department of Economic Affairs on 1 April 1998 and headed that Department until 31 December 2002. During that period, he represented Switzerland at the World Trade Organization (WTO) and held the title of Governor of the World Bank and of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD).

On 4 December 2002, Pascal Couchepin was elected President of the Swiss Confederation for 2003. He took charge of the Federal Department of Home Affairs on 1 January 2003. This Department is mainly responsible for social security, health, education, university, research and culture issues.

Download full text of the lecture in French (MS Word, 37 kb)
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