Head of the government of Liechtenstein

Speech made to the Assembly

Wednesday, 6 May 1987

Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, may I first thank you for good wishes for my chairmanship, which begins tomorrow. I am pleased to have the opportunity of speaking in the second Assembly debate held with the participation of the Committee of Ministers. Holding such a debate is a sign of the good co-operation between the two organs of the Council of Europe, and should facilitate joint initiatives in the future.

Today’s theme, social cohesion, is topical and is vital to the future of our democracies. Since 1945, democratic Europe has made great strides, especially in the economic, scientific and social fields. However, over the last few years, the dark side of our society has become more apparent and has spread. Identifying these problems together and seeking answers on a European scale is a worthwhile enterprise for the member states of the Council of Europe. The Secretary General’s report provides an excellent basis for discussion and I express my warmest thanks to him.

The report gives a broad view of the main threats and challenges facing our European societies and contains concrete proposals for action on the part of the Council of Europe, whose objective is greater social cohesion.

There is no doubt that the Council of Europe is an ideal forum for this debate and for finding practical answers, owing to its activity and experience in the field of human rights and social matters, and its comprehensive membership.

However, it is beyond the scope of this debate to go into all the points of the report in detail. I should merely like to support some of the Secretary General’s main conclusions and to add some comments.

Social cohesion is certainly an important enough topic, and the Council of Europe is an ideal forum for this debate, so that this theme, I hope, will be tackled again at regular intervals.

The report rightly singles out unemployment and poverty. They probably represent the strongest challenge to the cohesion of our society. Fortunately, in Liechtenstein, they have been almost unknown for four decades now. This can no doubt be largely ascribed to various special circumstances prevailing in our country and it is difficult to draw conclusions which would apply to other states. Our economic policy has always endeavoured to reduce the state’s role in the economy, to give entrepreneurs freedom – with all its opportunities and risks – and to set tax rates which have remained almost unaltered over decades, thus allowing enterprises to calculate their profitability accordingly.

We have always considered constant improvement in training opportunities to be one of the state’s most important contributions to the economy.

Although the answer to unemployment and poverty is first and foremost an economic one, I must agree with the Secretary General that economic growth cannot and must not be an aim in itself but must serve to cover the needs of individuals and the harmonious development of society. Business must be subordinated to ethics. We must seek social as well as economic answers to unemployment and poverty, for as long as they exist. This would certainly include guaranteed cover for basic needs and providing training which corresponds to abilities, independently of the individual’s financial possibilities.

The report rightly calls refugees and migrant workers a challenge to an open society. Although we sometimes face major cultural and demographic problems, we must consider the rights and interests of people who seek or gain admission to our countries. Europe-wide regulations would be welcome in this context, as fast as is possible. It must be acknowledged, however, that individual member states of the Council of Europe have quite different standpoints.

A country where the proportion of aliens is under 10 % will have fewer problems in settling these matters than, for example, a country where the proportion of aliens is over 33 %, as is the case in Liechtenstein.

Another phenomenon of our time noted in the report is the rise in drug addiction, violent crime and terrorism in Europe. Concrete answers to these challenges to our countries must be sought in European co-operation. The Pompidou Group and the European Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism mark major milestones in co-operation and also provide an example of the positive role which the Council of Europe can play in this field. We can certainly support the report’s other proposals for defending ourselves against these various forms of crime.

The Secretary General rightly describes drug addiction, violent crime and terrorism as forms of rejection of our society, when they are not imported or stirred up by outside forces.

What is frightening is that those who are most affected are the young people of our countries.

Apart from treating the consequences, we must ask ourselves what has caused this rejection of society and how we can tackle the evil at its roots. These are complex questions to which we can find only partial answers. We must restrict ourselves here to shedding light on some points in a few words. What is certain is that many young people are afraid of the future. The dangers of nuclear war, the advancing destruction of the environment, the premature consumption of the resources of future generations and the lack of guaranteed jobs may play a considerable role here. Many young people no longer find their place in a world where enjoyment is often sought in pure materialism, where the individual’s guaranteed rights are often interpreted selfishly, and where competition is valued more highly than solidarity. Those who are not recognised as successful by society or who fail to find security in a religious or metaphysical belief are usually unable to find a meaning to life; they are in danger of becoming outsiders or of latching on to misanthropic ideologies. Our democratic communities face the challenge of finding answers which encourage the common values that promote greater cohesion in our society. Otherwise, democracy will become a pretty frame containing a picture which is slowly dissolving. There are no simple answers. We must attempt to foster solutions which have proved their worth and to seek new solutions to new challenges.

The family, the basic unit of our human society, needs our unequivocal support. No other human institution is able to give a child or a young person so much for his journey through life as a united family.

Historical experience, our personal experience and modern science have demonstrated this clearly. In his report and in his speech, the

Secretary General emphasised the value of the family and justified its topicality in our modern world. The Colombo Commission’s report also underscored the importance of the family and called on the Council of Europe to make support for the family a major activity. I do not want to repeat what has already been said and shall merely throw myself totally behind these views and support the Secretary General’s proposal to prepare a European Family Charter under the aegis of the Council of Europe.

I am sure that this debate will uncover many other suggestions which could lead to specific initiatives being taken by the Council of Europe. We shall always have to live with a degree of tension between individual freedoms, on the one hand, and solidarity with our fellow men, on the other. It is helpful for all our countries to discuss this thoroughly at European level and to attempt to set a common course. We shall never achieve a perfect society. We must take care that misunderstood perfectionism does not hinder the search for reasonable answers to our social problems. On the other hand, we must never acquiesce in the face of injustice and must never disregard the legitimate interests of any one of our citizens.

In this respect, the Council of Europe can make a great contribution to social cohesion. Thank you, Mr President. (Applause)