The Swiss are sometimes accused of being smug. But that doesn’t seem to me to be the country’s mood at the moment. This afternoon I spoke to the Avenir Suisse think-tank in Zurich about the political fall-out from the global economic crisis. And I found the audience distinctly worried by an outside world that looks increasingly threatening.
At the moment, the Swiss feel like they are being pushed around by the rest of the world. The economic crisis has led to a renewed war on banking secrecy. The American authorities pursuit of UBS forced the the Swiss banking giant to cough up the names of over 4,000 clients last August, or risk losing their banking license in the US. The Americans are, in fact, after 50,000 names. One member of the audience said that the UBS-US deal effectively marked the end of Swiss banking secrecy – although some thought that a bit overdone. The Swiss comfort themselves that their country has other powerful industries – pharmaceuticals, luxury goods, watches, high-end tourism, insurance. But they are obviously worried by a threat to the banks that have become so closely associated with their nation. Some Swiss seem to feel that the arrest of Roman Polanski in Switzerland was a humiliating effort to appease the American government. Read more