Les Réverbères de la Mémoire – Interview with Alain de Kalbermatten

One of the rising young stars on the Geneva political landscape, Alain de Kalbermatten is a family man, attached to the values of integrity, honest and justice. We had the opportunity to meet him and hear why the project Les Réverbères is important for him. He is running for elections, so perhaps his name will become familiar to us in the years to come.
Q: Could you tell us about yourself?
I am a politician, elected to the Municipal Council of the City of Geneva. My political party is the Christian Democratic Party.
Q: Could you tell us about Les Réverbères Project?
It was a notion voted by the city council ‒‒ not a single political party voted against it. Once the motion was adopted by the Executive Council, it was passed over to the city services and a competition was organized. The Armenian community accepted to pay all the costs, and the city’s only responsibility was to provide a location for the monument. The first proposal was to locate it on the Bastions St Antoine in the old town. But there was opposition and pressure, and now the Council suggested to put it in the Ariana Park. But once again there was disapproval. For me it illustrates something of the history of this people who have lived through an exodus, and where constant pressures and influences from outside have blocked their destiny. I think that this is enough and they deserve some justice.
We have to put a stop to these pressures and the Administrative Council needs to adopt a strong and determined final position. I am aware that the city of Geneva has a responsibility to international Geneva, the UN and all that. But before the city of Geneva became an international city, it was primarily a city of tolerance, a humanist city. We have a duty to remember this fact, whether it is for Armenians, or for all the peoples of the earth. In Geneva all people can express themselves and should not be exposed to pressure from other countries e. As I said, we are an open city, a city of peace, but peace does not necessarily mean the suppression of the self.
Q: When we talk to people who are involved in this project, they stress that it is not a memorial to commemorate the Armenian genocide, but a work highlighting the shared history of Geneva and the Armenians. What is your opinion?
Indeed, the idea of the monument is not to mark the genocide, but to bring all people closer together, those who have been victims of massacres or crimes on ethnic grounds. The goal is dialogue without launching a historic debate. Once you enter into a historic debate it becomes very complicated. Some historians have one perspective, others another. Nagache said history is written by the winners. So just what is in the story? Today, we know about good and evil, we know about righteousness and what our values are ‒‒ the backbone that forms our personality is. To anyone who wishes that justice is done, this is a unifying way of saying “never again”. Yes, I am sensitive to the Armenian cause, as I am sensitive to the history of all peoples. I was brought up to respect the values of justice, and I think we should not be indifferent to the history of the Armenians.
Q: As an elected member of the Municipal Council of the City of Geneva, what exactly do you do?
The city of Geneva is a town that takes care of its citizens and visitors through some very specific tasks. We take care of the quality of life, land, parks, of our elderly people, that is to say all that is in the jurisdiction of the City of Geneva, even road safety in the vicinity of social housing. Housing as well, since we are one of the largest real-estate managers of the Canton. We manage a significant quantity of housing.
It should be known that Geneva is one of the cities in the world that invests the most per capita on culture. The Grand Theatre is a flagship institution at the global level. We have different performing groups subsidized by the city. We invest heavily in the international impact of the city of Geneva, and the background to this is the international organizations. These are very concrete matters.
Q: Do you have topics in particular that are close to your heart?
I am particularly interested in the theme of construction ‒‒ the renovation of the Art and History Museum has a budget of more than 100 million francs. There is also the renovation of the Grand Theatre, and then there is the redevelopment of the harbour area, which is a subject dear to my heart. The bay (la rade) has everything to be a great place, but it functions poorly today. It could be made much more attractive and pleasant than it is at present.
Now I’m running for the Grand Council elections, which is the next level. As you might be aware, there are three levels of hierarchy in the Swiss democracy – the city, the canton and the federation. At the cantonal level I am particularly interested in protecting the interests of small and medium enterprises. It should be said that I am an entrepreneur in civil life. What is close to my heart is to maintain an attractive taxation system for businesses. Due to pressure from the European Union, we are obliged to harmonize the taxation system in Geneva, while trying to keep the multinational companies here. Today, the multinationals pay tax at 11%, but local businesses pay 25%. In other words, there are two different rates between the local and the international. This has been the way we have attracted the multinationals to the city, who represent approximately 20,000 jobs and indirectly twice that number. Owing to pressure from the European Union, the goal has been to increase the rate for some multinationals from 11 to 13%, and to reduce the taxes for the local companies to 13%. Thus, everybody would be on the same level.
This would be a great challenge to Geneva. Tax revenue will drop and we will be obliged to reduce expenditures ‒‒ there will be lots of negotiations and trade-offs. We have to avoid the state going bankrupt and therefore we must be vigilant. I think this topic will be among the most important themes during the elections.
That I am very attached to companies is one issue, but I am also very concerned about a social network that is all-encompassing ‒‒ not to abandon anyone along the way. I think that if we are talking about my values, this is one of them. While we have a strong economy, there is also such a thing as social justice ‒‒ there is a kind of middle ground for everybody.
Leaving this young politician who would like to participate in the development of his City and Canton, we can only wish him success in these future elections.