Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on Google+ When you see pictures of what’s going on in the rest of world, you feel lucky to live in Switzerland, said the new Swiss president, Alain Berset, in his New Year address on January 1st. Interior minister Berset, who took over from last year’s president Doris Leuthard on the stroke of midnight, said the country was a stable, safe and economically strong place in which to live, but acknowledged that many people had questions about their futures. However, the Swiss system of direct democracy “allows us to not only ask these questions but to answer them too”. “We can collectively decide how we wish to live. That’s a great privilege,” he said. On the discussion table in the year to come will be the country’s relationship with the EU, questions over the future of the pension system, equal opportunities and access to jobs. In difficult times people must come together and make compromises, “which often requires more courage than sticking to your guns,” he said. “We have always known that that which unites us is stronger than that which separates us. We have learnt that in strengthening minorities, we strengthen the country.” As he takes up the rotating presidency, Berset faces several big issues in the year ahead. Just before Christmas the Swiss government called out the EU for its “discriminatory” behaviour towards the Swiss financial markets, a row that will have to be dealt with before the two parties can move forward with negotiations over an institutional framework agreement. Berset will also have to rethink his pension reform plans, which were rejected by the public in a September referendum, a bitter blow for the interior minister, who was attempting to secure the financial future of pensions. Speaking to the Tages Anzeiger he said everyone had to make compromises or the next revision of the reform would fail again. “Already we have a considerable deficit that continues to grow. But it would be even more expensive if the next attempt at revision fails. We have to get out of this blockade,” he said. In March the Swiss public will vote on abolishing Billag, Switzerland’s public radio and television fee, and extending the government’s right to impose VAT and federal tax. Berset is also likely to have to deal with the run up to a public vote on banning the burqa, though no date has yet been set. The government’s official photo for 2018 was released on January 1st, showing the seven-person Federal Council and the Chancellor standing against a Swiss-themed cartoon drawn by a Fribourg artist. The photo also has an animated gif version in which the background moves.