Guest appearances before the Swiss parliament are rare. Only eight heads of state addressed the Federal Councils.
Varaha Venkata Giri (India) 1970
For more than 100 years, there have been no speeches by foreign speakers during parliamentary sessions in Switzerland. This privilege was first given in 1970 to the President of India, Varaha Venkata Giri. It is not known why the old barrier was broken at that time.
Giri performed as part of his state visit. In his ten-minute speech, he praised Swiss democracy and highlighted Switzerland’s contribution to world peace through its neutrality and India’s contribution to non-alignment.
Vaclav Havel (Czech and Slovak Federal Republic) 1990
As the second foreign leader, Vaclav Havel, President of the Czech and Slovak Federal Republic, addressed the Swiss Parliament in 1990. After the fall of the wall and reunification in Eastern Europe a year earlier, the performance sparked huge media interest. A visit to Parliament occupies a special position as it takes place outside a session.
Right to speak in Parliament
The right to speak in Parliament is the prerogative of members of the National Council, the Council of States, the Federal Council, the Federal Chancellor and occasionally representatives of the Federal Supreme Court and the supervisory authority over the Office of the Attorney General. People who have the right to speak can also influence the attitudes and voting behavior of members of parliament.
The right to speak is duly granted by forum leaders. They can also grant rights to external guests in their operation. Applications will be reviewed in advance at the forum offices.
Havel was received in the state council chamber where around 50 members of both houses were waiting for him.
Eduardo Free (Chile) 1995
In 1995, Eduardo Frey, the President of Chile, was officially welcomed in a meeting at the National Council Chamber, after 25 years of Indian presidency. Frei had Swiss ancestors. Five years before the visit, Chile had returned to democracy after years of Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship. The visit was accompanied by criticism from the left of the House for not coming to terms with the Pinochet era.
1998: Oscar Luigi Scalfaro (Italy) / Roman Herzog (Germany) / Thomas Kleistl (Austria) / Prince Hans-Adam II (Liechtenstein)
At the 150th anniversary of the modern federal state in 1998, the four heads of state appeared before the Swiss parliament with other guests.
Italian Chancellor Oscar Luigi Scalpero, German Chancellor Roman Herzog, Austrian Chancellor Thomas Klestil and Liechtenstein’s Head of State Prince Hans-Adam II represented the neighboring countries. France was represented by Senate President René Monory.
Arbat Konz (Hungary) 1999
The last time a head of state spoke at the Federal Councils was in 1999 with Hungarian President Arbat Konks. It is the 50th anniversary of the Council of Europe.
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