echo-interview with Gerhard Pfister, member of Switzerland’s National Council and President of the Christian Democratic Party (CVP)
elipsLife echo: Mr Pfister, old age provisioning is one of the issues of greatest concern for the Swiss public. But for 20 years now, there’s been no progress on reforming the system. Are the country’s policy makers close to failing on this issue?
Gerhard Pfister: It’s not the fault of the policy makers. Look, I’ve noticed how people’s awareness of the challenges facing the pension system has been increasing. The political campaign surrounding the AV 2020 reform of the pension system revealed very clearly that people are intensely interested in this topic and want their questions addressed. And our politicians are doing their best to find solutions to the problems. I should point out, however, that thanks to our system of direct democracy in Switzerland, it’s not the politicians that call the tune but the sovereign people.
In the collapse of the AV 2020 reform, the CVP was on the losing side. Was it a mistake to form an alliance with those on the left?
Not all. In Switzerland you can’t push through social reforms with a united left wing against you. So it’s sensible to join forces with the moderate faction on the left. And we were able to do that with the AV 2020 reform. I’ve never really understood why certain people were so fiercely opposed to the 70 Franc increase in AHV pension contributions. Admittedly, it wasn’t a perfect bill but it was definitely one that would have been a step in the right direction, at least for the next eight years. Now we’ll see whether the next step in the right direction fares more favourably with the voters. But somehow I have my doubts.
Following the referendum debacle, the Federal Council now intends to reform the first and second pillars of the pension system separately. What are the most important issues for the CVP in this connection?
We want to maintain the pension level across both pillars. Furthermore, we’d like to see the AHV recapitalised for as long a period as possible, which would also necessitate the retirement age of 65 applying both to men and women. That said, raising the retirement age of women would require some sort of compensatory mechanism. A straight repeal of the existing arrangement would still stand no chance of being accepted by voters. I believe the CVP and the FDP assume a special responsibility regarding the reform of the AHV. These two parties need to take the lead in finding a sound, pragmatic solution and should also try to gain the support of the other parties.