Sarkozy’s ‘disrespect’ angers ex-Swiss leader

Former Swiss president Adolf Ogi has accused former French president Nicolas Sarkozy of lack of respect for Switzerland over remarks Sarkozy made in the margins of the Swiss Economic Forum held in Interlaken last Friday, according to media reports.

Sarkozy's 'disrespect' angers ex-Swiss leader
Ex-Swiss president Ogi (left) nonplussed by Sarkozy's comments. Photos: AFP/World Economic Forum

Sarkozy told a group of 20 sponsors of the forum that the Swiss should join the European Union, according to a report from the SonntagsBlick newspaper.

He then went on to criticize Switzerland’s form of government, saying that it could not be governed properly by a president that changes every year, the newspaper said.

Sarkozy added that the Swiss government, made up of seven cabinet ministers including the president, was inefficient and old-fashioned, Sonntagblick said.

“He went too far,” Ogi told Le Matin in an interview published on Monday in which he explained that he interrupted Sarkozy’s remarks.

“It was necessary to say stop,” said the former Swiss cabinet minister, who served as Swiss president in 1993 and 200.

“I interrupted him.”

Ogi said Sarkozy showed a lack of respect for the country that was hosting him.

“If a person shows himself to be disrespectful towards our country, I cannot let it pass,” he told Le Matin.

“That was the case when I was in the federal government — it’s still the case today.”

Ogi reportedly reminded Sarkozy of Switzerland’s wealth, the richness of its four cultures, its 26 cantons and its 160 years of peace.

He also noted that Switzerland remained an example that the European Union was trying in vain to recreate.

Sarkozy further surprised organizers of the Swiss Economic Forum by requesting, through his secretary, that there be no photos during his visit and no questions about French domestic politics.

The Swiss Economic Forum, an annual two-day event, attracted more than 1,200 delegates to listen to high-profile business leaders, politicians and personalities.

The lineup of speakerrs included Swiss President Didier Burkhalter, Xerox Chairman and CEO Ursula Burns, Margarita Louis-Dreyfus, chairman of Louis-Dryfus Holding, Ulrich Spiesshofer, CEO of ABB Group and Peter Spuhler, owner and CEO of the Stadler Rail group.

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Franco-Swiss cold war breaks out over ski border car park

Switzerland and France are in a snowball fight over a cross-border car park which serves Swiss ski slopes but has been closed by the French due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Franco-Swiss cold war breaks out over ski border car park
The object of the Franco-Swiss war: parking lot Les Dappes. Photo by AFP

The Battle of Dappes Car Park — for the moment a rather cold war — has been rumbling for weeks, triggered by the different Covid-19 rules on either side of an invisible line in a snow-covered field.

The 650-space car park sits in the valley between the pistes of La Dole on the Swiss side, and Les Tuffes in France. It is 250 metres inside French territory.

In the Jura mountains, the summit of La Dole overlooks Lake Geneva in the west of Switzerland — a country which has kept ski slopes open despite the pandemic, while neighbouring France has closed theirs.

So the chair lifts for La Dole sit empty — because nobody can use the shared car park in France.

“I cannot understand how the French authorities can decide that the Swiss cannot go skiing in their own country. This is a unilateral decision,” fumed Gerard Produit, tourism chief in Switzerland's Nyon region.

“We are being held hostage by the politics of both countries,” he told AFP, deploring the “legal imbroglio”.

The frozen chair lifts are an unwelcome sight for Patrick Freudiger, the boss of the Tele-Dole ski lifts company.

“In mid-December, we organised a meeting between France and Switzerland to present the Covid plan” for La Dole, Freudiger told AFP.

But since the end of December, “we have received three successive orders banning the use of the car park” — the latest one being valid until February 3.

READ MORE: Large crowds on Swiss ski slopes spark concern over coronavirus spread

'They won't listen' 

The prefecture of the Jura local authority in France told AFP the car park is “likely to encourage the gathering of more than six people in a public space in France, the mixing of groups, and therefore the circulation of the virus”.

The wider Bourgogne-Franche-Comte region has the highest intensive care bed occupancy rate in France, while the Jura local authority area has one of the highest Covid-19 incidence rates in the country.

Freudiger is fuming that the French authorities did not try to reach an agreement on access to the car park.

Rubbing salt into the wounds, the site was refurbished last year thanks to Swiss investment, as part of a project to create a cross-border ski destination.

Freudiger also voiced surprise that the car park is shut while car-pooling car parks for French inhabitants who work in Switzerland remain open.

“We tried to get in touch with the prefect; we could not reach him. They do not hear us, they won't even listen to us,” said Produit.

See you in court 

Tele-Dole filed two appeals last Friday to the Besancon administrative court in France over the situation. A hearing is scheduled to take place next Monday.

Switzerland's Nyon region wrote to the Jura authorities on Thursday requesting talks “as soon as possible” on potential solutions and “financial compensation” for Tele-Dole.

According to Freudiger, the ski lifts have already lost 40 working days — almost half the season — and 300,000 Swiss francs (€280,000).

Tele-Dole cannot claim any financial assistance from the Swiss government, because there is nothing to stop ski stations remaining open during the pandemic.

Etienne Bovard, director of La Dole's Swiss Ski School, faces the same headache. The school has around 20 instructors but has had to stop all group lessons.

“In terms of turnover, we are 20 percent down at the moment, and if this continues throughout February… it will amount to an 85 percent loss,” he said.

“What's terrible is that it's the children,” who make up 80 percent of the clientele, “who are victims of this political game”.