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The judge’s candor was surprising. «Of course I knew there were contacts with the CEO of Ringier. Alain Berset (51) responded to Tamedia newspapers this week when asked if he was aware of the contacts between communications officer Peter Lauener (54) and Ringier CEO Marc Walder (58) during the corona epidemic. I knew.
The outgoing Minister of Health’s justification: “The administration is always in contact with those who are affected by decisions or can provide input.”
So far, so good: Exchange of ideas between decision-makers and representatives from business and society is part of our understanding of politics. Things get difficult when the public has no way of knowing what is discussed at such meetings.
In this context, fundamental things have changed. “Recording meetings between members of the federal parliament and important business representatives or ministers has unfortunately become a political issue in recent years,” says Sacha Zala (55), President of the Swiss Historical Society. In the past, management would create protocols or files and essentially archive them solely for their own use. They were later banned for 30 years. “Since the introduction of the public disclosure law in 2004, some files can be made public instantly – and officials and their bosses now fear that recording a meeting could harm them.”
A current example: On April 18, 2023, Roger Schawinski (78) met Albert Rösti (56). The media entrepreneur wanted to convince the new head of the Department for Environment, Transport, Energy and Communications (Uvek) that radio programs could continue to be broadcast via ultra-shortwave (VHF). Heard: In the summer the Federal Council decided to expand FM broadcasting.
Protocols are no longer a given
Based on the public information law, SonntagsBlick wanted to know exactly what was discussed when Rösti and Schawinski met. However, Uvek rejected the request on the grounds that no minutes were prepared for this meeting. “Not every meeting can be considered an official meeting where official minutes are kept,” the official said. In May Rösti met with other representatives of the media sector. According to Uvek, the upcoming VHF decision was also discussed, but documents are missing there too.
Even when federal authorities negotiated a loan with Axpo executives for two days in the fall of 2022 to stabilize the power company, no protocols were drawn up, as “K-Tipp” reported in the summer.
This situation worries historian Zala: “In order to write history, we need to understand the decision-making processes 30 years later. To achieve this, it is essential that record keeping and archiving is as complete as possible.”
Today, protocols can no longer be given even at meetings with high-level representatives of other countries: On September 18, 2023, Finance Minister Karin Keller-Sutter (59) and Economy Minister Guy Parmelin (64) received Qatari Finance Minister Ali bin Ahmed. al-Kuwari. A year ago, the now retired Ueli Maurer (73) also shook hands with the sheikh’s representative and then went to the World Cup in Qatar.
This rapport is more explosive than ever: Qatar is seen as one of the most important donors to Islamist Hamas. However, it remains unclear what was discussed in detail at the meetings. The response from the Finance Department (EFD) is “Your access request need not be refused on the basis of any available official documents (…)”. The meetings were not “recorded.”
Is the public information law itself the problem?
According to the FDF, there is only an “information note” and a press release sent to the Federal Council. Knowing that “incomplete” documents are exempt from the public disclosure law, the authorities say, “Other documents in the possession of EFD and WBF at the meeting are incomplete documents.”
According to historian Zala, one thing is certain: “In the past, a very detailed, official protocol was prepared for a meeting with a foreign minister.” His conclusion: “The federal government is hiding in a file dump.”
According to Zala, the administration is becoming more careful about documenting its work as journalists demand transparency based on the public information law. That’s why he sees the Public Information Act, which aims to facilitate good, investigative journalism in the name of transparency, as a threat to the Archiving Act, which has been in force since 1998.
I’m Tim David and I work as an author for 24 Instant News, covering the Market section. With a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism, my mission is to provide accurate, timely and insightful news coverage that helps our readers stay informed about the latest trends in the market. My writing style is focused on making complex economic topics easy to understand for everyone.