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Switzerland Becomes Full Member Of UN

by Ulrika Lomas,, Brussels

11 September 2002

Switzerland officially became part of the United Nations on Tuesday, after remaining on the fringes of the international body for many years.

Prior to last March's decision by the Swiss people to join the UN, concerns that membership would affect Switzerland's traditional neutrality had always held the country back from joining the multilateral group.

Critics of the move towards greater international integration have argued that being obliged to vote on issues within the UN will indeed compromise the very value which the Swiss people hold so dear, a suggestion which was this week strongly denied by Erwin Hofer, the Swiss Foreign Ministry official responsible for relations with the United States:

'The concept of neutrality is in no way affected,' he told the Swissinfo news service. 'Being neutral means staying out of armed conflicts between states. In this sense the UN is the perfect place to be neutral, because its task is to prevent such conflicts and establish the rule of law.'

While some are dubious with regard to the potential benefits of UN membership, however, many commentators see the move as a fantastic opportunity for Switzerland to raise its international profile, and to foster new diplomatic and trade relationships with other member states.

Also speaking to Swissinfo, political scientist, Curt Gasteyger observed earlier this week that:

'Switzerland has limited experience in multilateral diplomacy. This is a great opportunity to build friendships and coalitions.'

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