Pascal Broulis has held a seat on the State Council for the canton of Vaud since 2002, and was its President between 2007 and 2012. He heads the canton’s Department of Finance and External Relations and, with government colleagues, has consolidated public finances (some of the most solid in Switzerland) and led an economic policy which has helped transform the Arc Lémanique into one of Europe’s most dynamic regions. His political action is rooted in the conviction that “without prosperity, nothing can be achieved” and that political forces must work together. A member of the liberal-radical party, since 2010 he has presided the Swiss cantonal governments conference.
Switzerland is an island of prosperity, with the canton of Vaud at the height of a golden age. What’s the recipe for this success? In State Councillor Pascal Broulis’s opinion, the area has some particular and revealing features that come together to create a winning formula: “We have a number of ‘hautes écoles’ (Swiss universities) of outstanding quality that make up the fabric of the region. Also, the legislative framework offers a stability attractive to entrepreneurs. In this context, the tax system is certainly an element to take into consideration, but it’s at the bottom of the list when it comes to interesting companies in setting up in the canton.”
Openness is a key word for Pascal Broulis, by which he means openness to a changing world as much as openness within the country itself. “To fuel its competitiveness, Switzerland has 26 cantonal ‘laboratories,’” he continues. “This in no way indicates a retreat into local particularisms, quite the contrary. As far as the Arc Lémanique is concerned, we are deeply involved in a regional dynamic that goes far beyond cantonal boundaries and showcases the best of what each area has to offer. Yes, we do occasionally see organisations and companies relocate, sometimes only a matter of kilometres, but this doesn’t adversely affect the opportunities that we are ready to seize and that are available to us, even in times of crisis. And besides, Switzerland is duty-bound to remain open. I would remind you that of a population of 8 million, 1.4 million Europeans have chosen to make Switzerland their home, and 200,000 people living just over the border come to work in the country every day.”
On the question of European integration, Pascal Broulis remains firmly of the opinion that the bilateral position adopted by Switzerland is, for the moment, the only solution. “It would be unrealistic to think that the Swiss people would accept full and total integration into a Europe that’s still being built, where instability is a fact of life and inequality conspicuous. A single example sums it up: Luxembourg produces six times as much wealth as Bulgaria. Twenty or so years ago, different issues were at stake, but today I can foresee no circumstances that would be conducive to such a step. That’s not to say that Switzerland will always remain on the periphery, but change must happen gradually, and the European Union has a clear understanding of Switzerland’s position.”
Small and competitive, Switzerland has largely escaped the financial crisis that has rocked the planet since 2008. For Pascal Broulis, the country presents a model that could have a wider influence, but it’s a model that should not remain separate and isolated. “Inspiration must come from the outside, too,” he concludes. “The words Switzerland and globalisation do not contradict each other and our commercial activities abroad serve to emphasise this.”
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