Federal Department of Foreign Affairs FDFA

"We were able to be present with Romansh all over the world"

In an interview with the newspaper Die Südostschweiz, Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis talked about the Romansh Language Week launched by the FDFA, his commitment to linguistic minorities, fostering a culture of dialogue, and engaging with different ideas and viewpoints. The head of the FDFA also emphasised the key role of plurilingualism in Switzerland's image abroad.

18.03.2021
Fotomontage mit Ignazio Cassis, der in die Kamera schaut, und zwei Sprechblasen-Icons, die eine Interview-Frage und -Antwort symbolisieren.

In an interview with the regional Swiss daily 'Die Südostschweiz', Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis talked about the Romansh Language Week launched by the FDFA. © FDFA

The first Romansh Language Week is over. As part of the project, which is personally supported by Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis, various Swiss representations abroad raised the profile of the Romansh language and culture outside Switzerland. At home, the event was launched by Mr Cassis together with representatives of the Graubünden cantonal government, thereby underscoring the domestic aspect. "We have thus managed to be present with Romansh during this week not only in Switzerland, but worldwide," said Mr Cassis in the interview.

Great importance of plurilingualism – both in Switzerland and abroad

'Rumantsch: in ferm toc Svizra' (Romansh: an essential part of Switzerland) was the slogan of the week-long event. Switzerland is made up of a multitude of languages, cultures and identities that coexist peacefully. This diversity and tolerance is a Swiss quality that is sought after all over the world. "I am absolutely convinced that our inherited respect for other languages and cultures is one of the key reasons why Swiss diplomacy is held in such high respect around the world and why we are often called upon to help building bridges. With our great diversity of languages in a small area, we are unique in the world and develop a special sensibility," explains Mr Cassis.

Einsatz für Minderheitssprachen

In his very first speech as a federal councillor, Mr Cassis stressed his desire to advocate for Switzerland's minorities, and not only for Italian-speakers, but also for speakers of Romansh. Cultivating minority languages in Switzerland is part of the ongoing and structured political dialogue that the head of the FDFA is conducting with the cantons of Graubünden and Ticino. "I am responsible for foreign policy, but as a Federal Councillor I am also part of the national government," Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis explains. Domestic policy is foreign policy and vice versa: "There is not a foreign policy Switzerland and a domestic policy Switzerland – there is only one Switzerland. It is very important for me to intertwine various aspects, hence the dialogue with Ticino and Graubünden."

What's next for Romansh Language Week?

The FDFA chose a symbolic date – 20 February – to launch Romansh Language Week, because it was on 20 February 1938 that Romansh was officially recognised as Switzerland's fourth national language in a popular vote. Romansh Language Week kicked off with an online event on 19 February devoted to Switzerland's fourth official language, which was very well received. Switzerland's external network also got involved, with the embassies in Washington, Beijing, Rome and Antananarivo taking part, as well as the consulate general in New York, and the consulates in Atlanta, San Francisco, Chicago and Vancouver.

Romansh Language Week will now be a firm fixture every February. "The diplomats are really enthusiastic and already have lots of new ideas. I'm very much looking forward to continuing this journey," said Mr Cassis, as he announced that the next Ambassadors' Conference, which will bring together 200 ambassadors from all over the world, will take place in Pontresina (Graubünden) in 2022.

The Federal Administration, in cooperation with the Lia Rumantscha, is launching a campaign to raise awareness of Romansh culture and language.

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