The USA and its European allies accuse Switzerland of not implementing the sanctions against Russia too strictly. In the next few days, the Council of States will decide on a task force to track down and block oligarch funds. Economy Minister Guy Parmelin rejects the accusation that Bern is too passive.
Guy Parmelin has been a member of the Federal Council since 2016. The SVP politician was elected to the government in 2015 to succeed Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf (BDP), who had resigned. Parmelin has been head of the Federal Department of Economics, Education and Research since 2019. He was born in 1959 and worked as a master farmer and wine grower until his election to the Federal Council. In 2003 he was elected to the National Council for the canton of Vaud.
SRF News: Wouldn’t a Swiss task force send a clever signal to other countries – given the great pressure?
Guy Parmelin: We find it unnecessary. The cooperation between the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs Seco and all other departments and offices is very good. For example, we checked with the financial market supervisory authority Finma at the banks whether everything is in order. In addition, the Federal Council has spoken to more bodies. We want to intensify the activities.
Despite this, the accusation from abroad that there are still several billions in hidden financial structures in Switzerland does not go away.
We created transparency and reported that CHF 7.5 billion was blocked in Switzerland. And what did the other countries do? Can you give me an approximate number of funds blocked in the US?
The G7 countries as a whole have frozen private assets worth over CHF 50 billion.
Yes, 50 billion Swiss francs for the entire G7 countries. If I compare Switzerland to France or Germany, we blocked more money. We do our job correctly.
Do you have any doubts that the other countries are just as active as Switzerland?
I hope so. It would be very good, for example, if everyone at the international level said what they were doing transparently. G7 member France, for example, reports only 2.1 billion euros. I ask myself certain questions, because that’s not much compared to the blocked assets in Switzerland. I can’t say how much the US has blocked because they don’t share many numbers.
Why don’t you counter the international criticism by joining the G7 sanctions task force Repo?
We work very well with the EU. If we also cooperate with other sanctions regimes, that could complicate the situation.
Do you also fear that Switzerland, by joining the G7 task force, would have to take part in the seizure of blocked funds as the next step?
You gave yourself the answer to this question right away. There would be such expectations. Many would wonder why Switzerland is now changing its mind. This is absolutely not necessary now, because what we do works.
Would it be an option for you to at least withhold the interest for reconstruction in Ukraine from the blocked central bank funds?
We watch what happens. But Switzerland cannot decide on its own without at least a common opinion at international level. Last but not least, our constitution must be respected.
The conversation was led by Dominik Meier.