Switzerland - Leadership

The Swiss president has no more power than any other member of the Federal Council. Legislative issues are often initiated by the Council, but their deliberations and the particular positions of any one member are not made public. Thus the position of president is in many respects ceremonial. However, President Couchepin used his visibility on several ceremonial occasions early in 2003 to make statements about issues important to his country.

Giving the opening speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos on 23 January, he stressed the importance of reestablishing trust in political and economic institutions to combat the global recession and the decline in financial markets. Addressing an audience of business leaders in New York at the end of February, he refuted claims that his country's banking secrecy policies were providing a safe haven for the financing of terrorism, and called attention to the financial sector's efforts to combat money laundering. The following morning he rang the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange. On 20 March, upon the outbreak of the U.S.-led campaign to oust Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, Couchepin addressed Switzerland's Federal Assembly, reaffirming Switzerland's tradition policy of neutrality and protesting the decision to attack without the backing of the United Nations Security Council.

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