Willy Spühler

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Willy Spühler

Willy Spühler (born January 31, 1902 in Aussersihl ; † May 31, 1990 in Zurich ) was a Swiss politician ( SP ) from the canton of Zurich . As Federal Councilor , he was first Minister of Transport, then Minister of Foreign Affairs, and twice held the office of Federal President .


He was the son of a printer. Spühler began his professional career in the Zurich administration, where he headed the employment office from 1935 to 1942. From 1942 to 1959 he was the city ​​council's head of economic and health services. During the Second World War he was also entrusted with the administration of the Central Office for War Economics, an office which at the height of the war in 1944 had almost 700 employees and was intended to prevent the poor social conditions during the First World War. 1928 was elected to the Zurich city parliament. In 1942 he switched to the city executive, which brought him directly to responsibility for the war economy. He provided significant food aid to the socially disadvantaged.

Spühler was elected to the National Council in 1938 and moved to the Council of States in 1955 . He was considered a specialist in social, economic and financial policy. In November 1959, Federal Councilors Philipp Etter , Hans Streuli , Thomas Holenstein and Giuseppe Lepori announced their resignation at the end of the year. With the support of the SKVP, the Social Democrats now had the opportunity to return to government after almost six years of opposition. Willy Spühler, Councilor of States, who had already received 60 votes in the 1951 election of Max Weber, was appointed for the seat of the Federal Council in Zurich .

Federal Council

Federal Councilor Spühler, National Councilor Welter and Federal Councilor Tschudi (from left to right)

The Federal Assembly elected Willy Spühler to succeed Hans Streuli on December 17, 1959 in the first ballot in the Federal Council . Parliament confirmed him in office in 1963 and 1967. Following the resignation of Vice-President Jean Bourgknecht , he became Vice-President of the Federal Council in 1962 and Federal President in 1963 . In 1967 he was again Vice-President of the Federal Council and in 1968 again Federal President. After the resignation of Federal Councilor Paul Chaudet , he was the oldest member of the government together with Ludwig von Moos and Hans-Peter Tschudi from 1967 to 1970. Two days after Hans Schaffner , on October 8, 1969, he also announced his resignation from the Federal Council. He retired from government on January 31, 1970, his 68th birthday.

From the resigned Giuseppe Lepori he took over the postal and railway department in January 1960. Since his department increasingly had to deal with transport and energy issues, this led to a reorganization in 1963 and renaming to the Transport and Energy Department . Spühler had to deal with the future energy sources in Switzerland, since hydropower could no longer be expanded at will. In order to meet the increasing energy needs of the economy, he supported the promotion of nuclear power over fossil fuels in order to reduce air pollution and dependence on foreign countries. Despite resistance from the energy industry, which feared a transition to a planned economy , he prevailed by favoring nuclear energy. 1964 decided Northeast Kraftwerke to build Beznau I . The Chavalon thermal power plant started operations in 1965.

In 1966 he moved to the Political Department . After the resignation of Federal Councilor Friedrich Traugott Wahlen , he inherited the legacy of two very popular Federal Councilors, namely that of Wahlen and his predecessor Max Petitpierre . It was the first time that a social democrat became foreign minister. This was immediately reflected in a broad discussion about the role of Switzerland in international society (namely the United Nations ) and the importance of neutrality . Although the Federal Council was still against Switzerland's accession to the UN, Spühler had commissioned the most comprehensive analysis of the situation that had ever existed. This had significantly reduced the reservations of the Swiss towards the United Nations. Spühler overcame the wartime "hedgehog husbandry" that had prevailed in Switzerland up to that point and began a policy of opening up, which he underlined through various trips. He not only visited the neutral states of Austria and Sweden , but also Eastern bloc states such as Yugoslavia and Romania .

Trips abroad

year Country
1967 SwedenSweden Sweden
AustriaAustria Austria
CanadaCanada Canada
United StatesUnited States United States
1969 Romania 1965Romania Romania
KenyaKenya Kenya
TanzaniaTanzania Tanzania
UgandaUganda Uganda
RwandaRwanda Rwanda
AustriaAustria Austria
Yugoslavia Socialist Federal RepublicYugoslavia Yugoslavia
FranceFrance France


Web links

predecessor Office successor
Hans Streuli Member of the Swiss Federal Council
Pierre Graber