When it comes to money and diplomacy, Switzerland is an influential global player. But do other aspects fo the national brand suit a broader international role? We asked seven of its best about what the future holds.
Editet by Megan Gibson
#5 – Andri Silberschmidt
Federal councillor, Free Democratic Party
Andri Silberschmidt isn’t your average 26-year-old. By the age of 15 he’d decided that school wasn’t for him. Opting instead for Switzerland’s apprenticeship system, combining work with study, he entered the world of finance – a journey that took him to London for a while. Since then he has founded a food business specialising in poké bowls and landed a job at Switzerland’s largest logistics company, Planzer. If that wasn’t enough, in 2019 he became the country’s youngest member of parliament when he was elected to the lower chamber on a centre-right Free Democratic Party (fdp) ticket. For six months he combined representing the canton of Zürich in Bern with a position on his hometown’s city council.
Councillor Silberschmidt sits at a café window table in Zürich’s Paradeplatz, assuring monocle that he’s no nerd. “I was a really chilled teenager,” he says as he dunks a lemon and ginger teabag into a cup. “I was smoking weed, I was smoking cigarettes. But when I started working for a bank I realised that there is also another life other than just hanging around. And I was motivated to see change and to make change happen.”
Silberschmidt decided to enter politics after giving a speech for his former employer to 3,000 people. From there, via a stint as youth-party president, he was added to the fdp list for federal councillor elections in 2019. With the party gaining five seats in the canton of Zürich – and Silberschmidt finishing in fifth place outof35–he’dwonaseatinBern. With his neat, telegenic looks, it’s little surprise that he is something of a poster boy for centre-right politics in Switzerland. But, he insists, he’s hardly a silver-spoon cliché.
Silberschmidt decided to find a house-share in Bern for the 60-odd nights a year he would be spending there, moving in with two other opposition politicians: one from the right-wing populist Swiss People’s Party (svp) and another from the Greens. The fact that the arrangement was promoted on social media suggested that Silberschmidt knows a thing or two about self-promotion. “Living together is more than just a PR stunt,” he says. “If you do something for PR, you do it once. But living together is another commitment.”
Hailing from a prosperous, consensus-driven nation means that Silberschmidt’s policies are pragmatic rather than groundbreaking. In fact, he started 2020 trying to get the 100,000 signatures needed to put raising the retirement age to a people’s vote.
He’s convinced that you have to keep moving. “If you want to do cool stuff, don’t do one thing your whole life.” At 26 he could be forgiven for having it almost, but not totally, worked out. — EJS