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SJCC Welcomes Members of the House of Representatives in Berne

Visit from the Japanese House of Representatives

Pictures: Simon Kneubühl
Date
October 31st 2016

In September 2016, a delegation of the Japanese House of Representatives visited Switzerland. During their stay in the Swiss federal capital they met with members of the parliamentary group Switzerland-Japan.

When the Vice-President of the Foreign Affairs Committee and President of the Parliamentary Group Switzerland-Japan, National Councillor Elisabeth Schneider-Schneiter, welcomed the Swiss and Japanese guests to a reception in Bern, this was the first meeting ever between the two parliamentary groups.

The Parliamentary Friendship Group from Japan, headed by Mr. Seishiro ETO, exists already since 1988, while its counterpart in Switzerland was founded just two years ago at the end of the anniversary year 2014, when 150 years of bilateral diplomatic relations were celebrated.

SJCC Welcomes and Supports Parliamentary Group

Given this premiere and the importance to foster good contacts between members of the two parliaments, the Swiss-Japanese Chamber of Commerce (SJCC) sponsored this reception at the Hotel Schweizerhof Berne, which was also attended by high level representatives of the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) as well as the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO).

It was also an opportunity to present the contribution of the SJCC Scholarship Fund to building bridges between Switzerland and Japan – also in politics. The Chairman of the Fund, Mr. Martin Stricker, illustrated this case by giving three examples of former scholarship recipients who could do an internship in the Japanese house of representatives. One of them being the current managing director of the SJCC and secretary of the parliamentary group, Mr. Dominique Ursprung.

Insights into the Political System of Switzerland

The next day, the members of the Japanese Parliament met with members of the Swiss National Council to discuss various aspects of the political system of Switzerland. The president of the Council of States, Mr. Raphaël Comte, also welcomed the delegation with which he shared his plans for an official visit to Japan from 31 October to 5 November 2016.

To continue this valuable exchange, Swiss Parliamentarians intend to pay a return visit to the land of the rising sun in 2017. Proof of a marked interest among Swiss politicians for Japan is the fact that already 31 members of parliament have joined the group, and with Dr. Jean Christoph Schwaab a vice-president has also been appointed.

Parliamentary Group as a Valuable Exchange Platform

In Switzerland, according to an act of parliament, parliamentary groups are not official organs of the Federal Assembly whereas in Japan, they do benefit from such an official status. Nevertheless, more and more such groups of "Assembly members who share an interest in a specific matter" are forming in Berne. They are officially translated into English with the term "cross-party groups" and "must be open to all Assembly members" (More details on their role in Swiss politics are available here [in German]).

While there were only 51 groups in 2004, the latest list of the Parliamentary Services lists 128 parliamentary groups. Nearly 40 of them have an international, geographic focus - a few of which are dedicated to entire continents (Africa, Latin America), but most of them focus on bilateral relations such as with Algeria, Vietnam, or in this case, Japan.