Viet Nam News
On the occasion of Switzerland’s National Day today (August 1), Việt Nam News presents an article written by Beatrice Maser Mallor, ambassador of Switzerland to Việt Nam.
Today, on August 1, the Swiss Confederation celebrates its 725th anniversary. The date refers to a historic union concluded in 1291 by the three cantons of Uri, Schwyz and Unterwalden. This union is the origin of what was to become modern Switzerland, which has 26 cantons today.
During the National Day, Swiss people usually celebrate with family and friends outdoors, as August is the warmest and sunniest month of the year. At night, traditionally, a parade of children carrying lighted paper lanterns takes place, followed by fireworks in most cities and bonfires up in the mountains.
This year represents a special year in the relationship between Việt Nam and Switzerland, as it marks the establishment of 45 years of bilateral relations. Indeed, Switzerland was one of the first countries from Western Europe to have recognised Việt Nam on October 11, 1971.
Since then, relations between Switzerland and Việt Nam have continuously developed in key areas such as trade (US$1.53 billion of bilateral trade in 2015), development co-operation ($123 million of aid from 2013 to 2016), and co-operation in education, research and innovation. Today, Switzerland is the fourth largest European investor in Việt Nam with a total of US$2 billion of foreign direct investments. Over 90 Swiss companies are present in Việt Nam and provide employment for more than 15,000 people, thus contributing to the country’s economic growth.
To further enhance the commercial relationship, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein – the so-called EFTA countries - are negotiating a Free Trade Agreement with Việt Nam.
Switzerland is a small country by its size, but a highly competitive nation with an export-oriented economy. In the 2015 Global Competitiveness Report by the World Economic Forum (WEF), Switzerland ranks first, for the seventh consecutive year. It is among the countries with the highest performance levels for several reasons.
First, the business environment contributes to Switzerland’s innovation ecosystem. Indeed, it is among the countries with the highest spending on research and development (R&D) in relation to its gross domestic product. Over two-thirds of Swiss R&D expenditures are provided by the private sector. Furthermore, the labour market is highly efficient, balancing employee protection with labour market flexibility and business needs. The business environment also benefits from a highly developed financial market, excellent infrastructure and connectivity, and a macroeconomic environment, which is among the most stable worldwide.
Second, the education sector plays an important role for Switzerland’s innovation capacity. Its great universities and the two Federal Institutes of Technology, in Zurich (ETHZ) and Lausanne (EPFL), are renowned worldwide for their cutting-edge scientific output. The country’s capacity to nurture talent relies on an excellent education system at all levels, including its emphasis on vocational training. Furthermore, the strong co-operation between the academic world and the private sector is highly beneficial. Additionally, renowned hospitality schools attract many foreign students, including from Việt Nam.
Third, Swiss public institutions are known to be effective and transparent. They include business-friendly regulations and a moderate level of domestic taxation.
Last but not least, political stability and talented professionals, who are attracted from around the world to work and live in Switzerland, contribute to its international competitiveness.
A perfect example of Swiss innovation is Solar Impulse. “If everyone says you can do it, then you’re not dreaming big enough,” said Bertrand Piccard, the Swiss mastermind behind Solar Impulse, a high-tech, lightweight plane flying around the world, powered only by solar energy.
Switzerland, mountainous and located in the heart of Europe, maintains excellent relationships with its neighbouring countries. The latest example of high achievement in terms of regional integration is the Gotthard tunnel, the longest and deepest railway tunnel in the world at 57.1km long and 2,300m below ground. It was officially opened on June 1. This tunnel increases the transportation capacity of goods and people by train through the Alps, which separate the North and South of Europe.
Việt Nam and Switzerland share the importance of tourism related to the beauty of their countries. Tourists visit Switzerland for its historic cities and beautiful nature and for its rich culture, shared by more than eight million citizens and its four national languages: German, French, Italian and Romansh.
Finally, Swiss citizens are proud of the country’s direct democracy, where women and men can participate directly in political matters – by launching an initiative or requesting a referendum and by voting on specific issues from the national to the cantonal and communal levels several times a year, in addition to electing the citizens’ representatives to parliament.
As Ambassador of Switzerland to Việt Nam, I wish the Swiss community and all the friends of Switzerland in Việt Nam a happy National Day, and I am looking forward to celebrating with Việt Nam our 45 years of bilateral relations on October 11 of this year. — VNS