Karin Keller-Sutter on political commitment

November 27, 2017
Karin Keller Sutter was elected President of the Council of States today. She started her career as a politician 25 years ago in Wil, where she served as a municipal councillor for eight years. This marked the start of her political militias, as did many Swiss politicians at local level. She later became a cantonal councillor and government councillor and has been a member of the Council of States since 2011.

Karin Keller-Sutter, after 25 years of political career you were elected President of the Council of States today. Is your motivation to get involved in the political militia system the same as 25 years ago in the local council?

Yes, it is. Of course a lot has changed. 25 years ago I couldn't have imagined that I would one day politicize at the federal level. The involvement in the local council was also on a much smaller scale than that at cantonal level or, as now, at federal level. At the time, I was strongly focused on my profession. But politics was already a great passion for me at that time.

Your political career has a central theme. You have experienced practically all levels at municipal, cantonal and federal level. What are the differences?

Yes, it is. I was a municipal councillor, a cantonal councillor, a government councillor and now a member of the Council of States. The various offices have given me a deep insight into the Swiss state. I find that every stage has its own appeal. The questions at community level are very practice-oriented. For example, the sewage plant or the redesign of the cemetery. The topics in a cantonal council then become somewhat more abstract. The government's work was concrete and very action-oriented, and the work in the Council of States increasingly has an international dimension.

The hostilities and the attitude of the population to claims are increasing. Many people are deterred from being politically active at the community level. How do you motivate people to get involved in the unique Swiss "Milizsystem" system?

These developments also concern me. It is indeed the case that many suitable people no longer make themselves available because they simply find that they do not want to do this to themselves. Friends often ask me how I put up with it. And yet: in our direct-democratic system, I consider the co-determination of our state to be not only an enrichment, but also an obligation. Moreover, it is indispensable for the quality of political decisions that practical professional experience be incorporated into politics. Politics must not reflect a perceived reality, but must correspond to people's professional and life experience. Then solutions are also capable of majority support.

Karin-Keller Sutter will now chair the Council of States for one year. She also understands her work internationally. As she also chairs the EFTA delegation, she hopes that the delegation will be able to gain high-ranking access through her presidency of the Council of States to those countries with which Switzerland negotiates free trade agreements.

We wish our Board Member all the best in her presidential year.