Monday 30 January 2023

Hereditary Prince Alois of Liechtenstein - Speech from the Throne (2023)

[Notes added by Gert's Royals are in Brackets]

Dear Members of Parliament and Government,

The second half of the legislative period begins today. Unfortunately, the first half was again characterized by crisis management. As soon as relief from the pandemic was in sight, Russia attacked Ukraine and there have been crises associated with it. Crisis management will also be necessary in the second half of the legislative period. In addition to the stream of refugees, energy security, possible recessions in important markets, and difficulties in the supply chains will probably be important challenges for us.

All of this may require additional efforts at the national level. But we should also assume our responsibility at the international level again, show solidarity, and make further positive contributions to crisis management and the improvement of the international order. This is especially true when we take over the Presidency of the Council of Europe at the end of this year.

The value of our foreign policy is not always as readily apparent as that of domestic policies. However, our foreign policy is of great importance - not least with regard to the shaping of the framework conditions for our domestic policy.

Dear Members of Parliament and Government,

Despite all the crises, there was and still is reason to celebrate. In 2021 we were able to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the constitution and this year we are celebrating the 100th anniversary of the customs union treaty with Switzerland. The latter will be honored on various occasions and also in a special session of parliament, which is why I am focusing today's speech on other topics.

[Swizerlands is Liechtenstein's neighbor to the west and one of Liectenstein's biggest trade partners. in 1923, the two countries signed a customs treaty to create a customs union with each other and allow the borders between the two countries to be open. As part of the agreement Switzerland handles many duties, Liechtenstein would be unable to or have difficulty performing, such as consulate affairs.]

Despite all the crises, we should also devote attention to future issues in order to increase the quality of life in our country and to prepare for the challenges of the future. In addition to the energy security mentioned at the beginning, demographic development is a challenge that I have already addressed several times at the opening of the parliament. I am therefore very pleased that the government is currently developing an old-age strategy. It can be a central support for all further work in the field of age policy.

[The Old-Age strategy relates to the long-term financial security of Social Security, as well as things related to the older population.]

Dear Members of Parliament and Government,

The government recently submitted a draft law for consultation on improving work-life balance. That is why today I would like to place special emphasis on this topic, which is also influenced by demographic developments.

Due to the labor shortage, it is increasingly important to consider how location factors into to good work conditions and work-life balance. With a better work-life balance, we can both recruit workers from abroad more easily and increase our female employment rate, which is low compared to Switzerland. As a result, our companies can also keep a significantly higher proportion of employees in the company after the birth of a child. In an increasingly knowledge-based economy, where companies are also investing more and more in the training of their workforce, this investment has long benefits.

A better work-life balance is also important for health policy reasons. In this way, we can not only reduce stress for parents and thus a reduction in the risk of mental illness, but also strengthen children's health through better care in their first years of life.

We know from research that the first years of life shape people's physical and mental health throughout their lives. In view of the dynamic development of mental illnesses, which, according to the WHO, will soon be the number one cause of illness in Europe, improving the work-life balance is also of great importance because of its preventive effect on health policy.

Finally, a better work-life balance could lead to parents having children earlier and having more children. This would be desirable, not least because it would mean that fertility treatments, which are associated with a large number of problems, many of which are still not well known, would be used less often.

This is especially important in times when we are thinking about sustainable development and are becoming more aware of the problems of interventions in nature. We should consider more the problems of fertility treatments and use them as cautiously as possible. Because not only are the hormone treatments used in reproductive medicine a significant burden for women, but there are now also concerns that children born in petri dishes are more likely to have health problems. Reproductive medicine is also associated with serious ethical problems in many areas, in particular, the exploitation of vulnerable egg cell donors and surrogate mothers or the selection and manipulation of genes to create “designer babies.”

Dear Members of Parliament and Government,

A better work-life balance would therefore be desirable for many reasons. Although the measures in the consultation draft bring improvements in terms of care and flexible working time arrangements, we need a whole bundle of additional measures for a really good work-life balance. In addition to high-quality daycare centers and the opportunity for everyone to be able to look after their child themselves, at least during the first year of life, we also need more well-trained childcare providers.

Some progress has already been made in education with the introduction of all-day schools and lunchtime meals. The next steps would to better link the childcare offers of the schools with the leisure time offers of the clubs and the offers of holiday care. Improvements in the compatibility of studies and family as well as shorter training periods are also worth considering.

In addition to the government side, it would be desirable for our companies to take further measures. We need more part-time jobs and a corporate culture that also supports part-time work for managers. In addition, it often makes a big difference for parents when companies avoid arranging meetings very early or late in the day and also show more flexibility towards the needs of parents in other respects. If this also increases employee motivation, companies will soon benefit from these investments in their employees in other ways.

Dear Members of Parliament and Government,

In addition to overcoming the crisis, we should further optimize our starting position for the future in the second half of the legislative period. To this end, we should take the necessary steps, especially with regard to energy security, the retirement strategy, and the compatibility of work and family. I wish you a lot of strength, wisdom, and God's blessings for your duties!

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