30. Nov. 2009

Die italienische Presseagentur

The religious variety is a constitutional
corner stone for world peace and justice

Interview: Samantha AgrÚ - ANSA

Do you think it was a mistake to allow the referendum to take place?

We are in Switzerland, not in Italy: In Switzerland no authority has the right not to allow a peoples initiative to be voted by the people. The question is not, if this should be allowed by somebody, but how the Swiss constitution handles peoples initiatives which want to change the Swiss constitution in a way which is contrary to core elements of the European convention for Human Rights as the freedom of religion. The Swiss constitution until now requires only the respect of the ius cogens, the core of the international law to be respected. This is a gap the Swiss Parliament still has to fill. I regret that this has not been done yet and thatís why the Swiss Parliamentís majority did not want to follow my proposition not to validate this initiative.

Do you think the Swiss government should have done more to convince Swiss people to not vote in favour of a ban for the constructions of minarets?

A sound Direct Democracy does not only need rights, but also a well resourced infrastructure. This is the big deficit in Switzerland. The Swiss Parties, MPís, media and civil society organisations do not get any public funding and thatís why they lack the money to do their job. Because the main organisations to influence and to lead the opinion formation of the citizens are the parties, the media, the MPís and the civil society organisations Ė but there the Swiss did not invest at all in the last 20 years. Direct Democracy needs investments in itís infrastructure when it should not loose track. Only in such a bad context the government became more and more important in the formation process of the public opinion. But this opportunity the actual Swiss government lost because of all the mistakes it did in the last 12 months without that any of the ministers stepped down and nobody assumed itís responsibility.

Do you think the question should be taken up as a matter of urgency by the Council of Europeís Committee of Ministers and Parliamentary Assembly - considering that this is a delicate moment for Switzerland that holds the presidency of the Committee of Ministers?

I am sure that many colleagues will confront the Swiss Foreign Minister in the Parliamentary Assemblyís meeting with the question why the Swiss Democracy is not organised in a way that respects the basic requirements of Human Rights. But nobody then the Swiss people again will be able to change this. If somebody who is denied to construct a minaret because of this constitutional sentence will go to the Court of Strassbourg in some years he will get there certainly his right to do so and the Swiss government then will have the obligation to ask the Swiss people to revise itís decision from yesterday. The only alternative for the Swiss Government in such a situation is to get out of the Council of Europe and I am quite sure that the Swiss will prefer to change the constitution again than to be isolated in Europe from itís human rights achievements.

What, if anything, can the Swiss delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly do now?

The Swiss MPís will share their view with their colleagues Ė but donít forget: we have at least two of our colleagues who voted yes to this initiative in the Parliament and last Sunday.

Would you be ready to take the question in front of the European Court of Human Rights? Or sustain those that would take such an initiative?

I would support everybody, of course. But you can only go to the Court of Strassbourg after the Swiss authorities did deny you the right to put a minaret to your mosque. Thatís why this will not happen tomorrow but hopefully in some years.

Do you think that apart from the report by Ecri last September, in which the initiative of a referendum on minarets was criticized, the Council of Europe should have intervened in other ways?

I think we should take up in our public debates in the Assembly much more such topics of our member countries because I see our Assembly as heart of a kind of ďEuropean home politicsĒ Ė but if you want to be able to do so you need to have good information of the interior affairs of other countries and many colleagues do not take enough time to do this.

Some politicians in other European countries are looking to the results of the referendum very positively and are proposing to hold one in their own countries. Do you see the possibility of Europe turning into a continent that, probably out of fear, starts adopting measures that will increase the feeling of exclusion in Muslims?

Some right wing parties and politicians will surely try to do so. With Christian fundamentalism they will increase the fundamentalism of their enemies and we will get back to the religious wars of the 17th century. We can not allow this to happen. Many European Muslims respect the European constitutional values and human rights. Together with them we have to fight against fundamentalism of all sides. Together we will be able to do so and to contribute like this to a world which respects its religious variety as a constitutional corner stone for world peace and justice.

Kontakt mit Andreas Gross

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