Switzerland: Xenophobia has ‘definitely’ increased, says outgoing head of Federal watchdog

Switzerland: Xenophobia has ‘definitely’ increased, says outgoing head of Federal watchdog

In an interview with Swissinfo (19.12.2011), the outgoing chairman of the Federal Commission against Racism, Georg KREIS, gives an evaluation of how the situation has evolved in the 16 years that have passed since he took up the post.

Describing the Commission’s “greatest success” as being that “the problem of racism has been taken more seriously since 1996”, he nevertheless regretted that the “mood towards foreigners, towards ‘others’, has definitely worsened”.

“The distinction between ‘me and them’ or ‘us and them’ has become sharper. It is quite clear that denigrating others is a way of making yourself feel more important”, he added.

Mr KREIS also regretted that the taking of the problem of racism more seriously “has been manifested in the wrong way”.

Instead of asking oneself “what is good for existence” or “what is reasonable to expect from other people and what is not”, the attitude is rather “what am I allowed to say?” or “How far can I go without getting into trouble?”

When asked whether the Swiss People’s Party (SVP/UDC) bore some of the responsibility for the xenophobic climate in Switzerland, he quickly replied: “Of course it does”, before warning against attaching “too much responsibility” to this populist party.

“It is always individuals themselves who are responsible”, he said.

“I cannot use as an excuse the fact that I was encouraged by the People’s Party posters, but it is clear that they do tend in general to provide such encouragement, even if the posters themselves do not meet the definition of racism”.