Do Russian companies here now present a problem for the canton?
Following recent developments in the current tension between the Ukraine and Russia, Matthias Michel, the head of the Cantonal Department of Economic Development and a member of the cantonal government, spoke to a journalist of the Neue Zuger Zeitung, especially since a number of Russian companies have their headquarters in Zug. These include the Gazprom Marketing & Trading AG at number 19 Dammstrasse, the Nord Stream AG at number 18 Industriestrasse and the joint Russian-Ukrainian RosUkrEnergo AG company at number 7 Bahnhofstrasse.
When asked how he viewed the current situation in the Ukraine, Michel said he was concerned when the right of self-determination of an independent state was being restricted by the threat of force, and he referred to a statement made by Federal Councillor Didier Burkhalter in his capacity as president of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) when he said that stability, democracy and the unity of the Ukraine were of utmost importance. With the OSCE under a Swiss presidency, it was hoped that the Swiss State could support it in its moderating role. "Indeed it had already helped by implementing the Embargo Act, whereby 29 people have been prevented from having economic contacts with Switzerland. Furthermore, no permits for the export of munitions to Russia are being issued," said Michel.
When asked in particular about the fact that Russian commodity-trading companies had their headquarters in Zug and whether this might reflect badly on the canton's reputation, Michel replied that foreign policy was a matter for the Swiss State. "It is they who determine the legal framework and it is up to the individual companies to adhere to this," he said.
When pressed on the issue, Michel expanded by saying that the cantonal government had already made it clear that companies operating from Zug had to abide by the law, ensure human rights were upheld and that the environment was duly protected. "As to whatever else is ethically right or not, this must be determined by public debate; we are not a totalitarian state. As to the precise issue of reputation, this is not just an issue for Zug, but for Switzerland as a whole, and the Swiss government in pursuing its current line is ensuring this is being upheld."
"Why are there so many Russians here in Zug?" asked the journalist. "Is this connected with the presence of other commodity-trading companies here? How can you explain this cluster of Russian companies such as Gazprom and Nord Stream?" In his reply, Michel said that, generally speaking, neither Zug nor Switzerland were particularly significant locations for Russian companies. "It is true, however, that, of those present, most trade in commodities, after all, Russia is a country very rich in them."
When the journalist suggested that surely a line must be drawn somewhere, Michel agreed and again referred to the current policies pursued by the Swiss government.
"Is the Zug Cantonal government planning to make a political statement to these Russian companies based here. Indeed, is it in contact with them at all?" probed the journalist.
"Again, I must emphasise this is all a matter for the Swiss government in Bern," said Michel. "It is not the job of the Zug cantonal government to address political statements to individual companies. Of course, there is contact with any company through the Department of Economic Development but this is not dependent of current political issues. Where necessary, of course, we can always step up our level of contact with them."