“What worries me most is the European question”

"What worries me most is the European question"

Remo Gysin in 2016. © Keystone / Urs Flueeler

Remo Gissin will step down as president of the Organization of Swiss Abroad (OSE) at the end of August. In an interview with SWI, swissinfo.ch evaluated the six-year mandate.

This content was published on Jul 31, 2021 – 11:00 AM

SWI swissinfo.ch: Remo Gissin will soon leave the SAI. because?

Remo Jisin: The moment has come. I had planned to retire last year. But then came the epidemic.

She has been a member of the OSE for 21 years. Do you remember your first impressions?

What struck me from the start was this unique global organization.

At the same time, it is also a typical Swiss organisation.

exactly. The day dedicated to Swiss Abroad at Fête des Vignerons 2019 and the OSE centenary in 2016 were arguably the highlights of my state. Immigration is at the core of Switzerland and is still traditionally a part of many professions today. I know a cheesemaker who immigrated to Bhutan, fell in love and stayed there. He brought his skills and creativity to the country. In the place where he lives there is hardly electricity and running water.

He is the immigrant who left forever. But this is not often the case. Today many leave for a few years and then return. Does this phenomenon help the OSA defend the political rights of the Fifth Switzerland?

It is crucial that the current generation have the opportunity to shape what happens in the home. Today is hustle and bustle. Stays abroad are shortened. Relations with Switzerland are still alive.

These people are very mobile and cosmopolitan. Are they less than the Swiss?

backwards. It is a kind of yeast for Switzerland, it is very good for the country. They bring outside perspectives, experiences, and often tangible connections. All this is very beneficial to the nation. For me, encounters with Swiss women abroad, with their wonderful mixture of cosmopolitan and “Swiss”, were a highlight.

Something that stands out is how Swiss citizens abroad are linked to their bank accounts in Switzerland.

That’s right. And often without alternatives when it comes to paying old-age pensions and health insurance benefits. It also happens that a Swiss bank account is required due to financial instability and the risk of devaluation in the host country.

The encounters with Swiss women abroad, with their wonderful blend of cosmopolitanism and “Switzerland,” were a highlight.

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At home, there is also an obligation to pay various kinds of payments, as I think, for example, of home maintenance or even cemeteries. Many Swiss abroad have had their accounts closed in the Union or been refused to open a new one. Now, with Banque Cantonal de Geneve, we have a partner who is making real efforts. But the big banks lack this.

Bank fees in particular seem pretty arbitrary, right?

Yes, this also applies to the minimum deposit of 100,000 francs [necessario per aprire un conto in Svizzera]. When the will exists, there is also a solution. But the will is lacking. Unfortunately, also through PostFinance, which is a public company. The OSA and many parliamentarians often referred this question to the Federal Council.

The government diplomatically refers to these cases as economic freedom.

Which also has limits. The basic needs of the population are more important than just the pursuit of profit.

Remo Gissin, President of the Swiss Abroad Organization. Keystone

Remo Jisin

Born in Basel in 1945, he studied economics and became a business consultant. Between 1984 and 1992 he was a member of the government of the canton of Basel-Stadt.

The Socialist was elected to the National Assembly (the lower house of the Swiss parliament) in 1995. He remained a member until 2007.

Gysin supported Switzerland’s membership in the United Nations (UN), participated in international missions and was sent to various countries as an electoral observer.

Since 2001, he has been a member of the Committee for the Organization of Swiss Abroad (OSE). He’s been president since 2015, a position he will leave at the end of August.

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What kind of organization will you leave to her successor?

A well-positioned OS environment, in an excellent network of public and private organizations. An organization that looks to the challenges of the future with confidence and can count on 650 active Swiss associations.

What is left to be done?

In addition to the perennial problems of electronic voting, social insurance and banking policy, foreign policy keeps us on guard. In addition, we need to raise awareness of the OS environment in Switzerland and provide more support to Swiss associations abroad.

What can be defined as “typical” for an OS environment?

The fact that it brings together people from all political parties, people who together represent the interests of 776,000 Swiss abroad.

Is there a lot of harmony?

Of course, there are also different perspectives and areas of tension within the OSA. This can be seen, for example, in discussions about our relationship with the European Union or – on a completely different level – in the question of whether English should be accepted as a language of discussion by the Swiss Abroad Council.

During his presidency, Switzerland’s abandonment of the framework agreement, as well as the banking and electronic voting issue, were failures.

OSE was not responsible for these developments. Defeating in electronic voting was very difficult for us. But things are now moving forward again. Let’s hope the federal government takes matters into its own hands. But what worries me most is the European question. Much depends on the relations between Switzerland and Europe. The framework agreement was rejected, bilateral agreements were challenged, and some were dismantled. Swiss politics give the impression that it is more interested in economic relations with the United States and China than in Europe. It’s a disappointment.

Yours or Switzerland’s fifth?

for Switzerland in general. We are part of Europe. More than 60% of Swiss live abroad in Europe. When the free movement of people is questioned, as well as joint training programmes, they destroy professional and social prospects, including family reunification.

The creation of a Swiss Holocaust memorial is of particular concern to her. This project is already in full swing, with Parliament asking the government to do so. is satisfied?

Yes a lot. I look forward to seeing it come true.

You said: “Switzerland’s borders should not be the borders of its history.” What did he mean?

For a long time, Swiss history stopped within regional borders. But it is now clear, especially for the Swiss abroad, that Switzerland does not end at the border.

What else would he like to achieve within the OS environment?

Unfortunately, the Swiss Abroad board representation has not developed as we would have liked. In leading countries such as Mexico, Australia, and the United Kingdom, delegates were ideally elected by email. Unfortunately, others did not follow suit. This is a shame, because the Council of Swiss Abroad is supposed to represent all Swiss expats.


Because his recognition and therefore his ability to influence depend on him. If only members of the Swiss Confederations, i.e. 2-4% of Swiss abroad, had the right to vote and stand for election, the requirements for representation would not be met.

Do you have a solution?

I’d rather say a lesson from what has been done so far. The Confederation and the OSA should further support the Swiss Confederations in the future, and the latter must accept that greater participation is necessary and change their laws accordingly.

Like any political party, the Swiss Abroad Council is made up of delegates from local associations. It also makes its voice heard as a political party. Some might say it’s not that bad.

The Swiss Abroad Council is like Parliament. Its 140 members are elected in regional constituencies that form geographic delegations similar to parliamentary groups.

One idea could be the idea of ​​fixed seats for Swiss abroad in the federal parliament, such as in France or Italy. What is your opinion?

The working group looked at it and showed that it would be very difficult to do. The ideas and attitudes of the Swiss abroad vary greatly, as they are within Switzerland. So the cohesion of the Swiss Abroad parliamentary group will be very weak in most discussions.

Is representation in parliament not a goal?

Yes, this is true, but I think it must be achieved above all through inclusion in the lists of the cantonal party. Another possibility is to treat fifth Switzerland as a canton, a separate electoral district for the federal parliament. This would give the Swiss abroad secure representation in the National Assembly and the Council of States. It’s an idea worth exploring.

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