In 2018, global events were marked by increasing competition between the world's superpowers and a weakening of the commonly accepted rules underpinning the international system. This created a challenging situation for Switzerland to find solutions and compromise. Nevertheless, Switzerland's role as a mediator and bridge-builder gained in importance against this backdrop. In addition to its existing protecting power mandates, Switzerland made a key contribution by hosting peace talks and participating in selected negotiations throughout the world.
European policy was primarily devoted to the negotiations on an institutional framework agreement. The Federal Council believes this will safeguard Switzerland's bilateral approach to the EU over the long term while ensuring the greatest possible degree of autonomy for Switzerland. The negotiations held in 2018 resulted in Swiss interests and the goals of the negotiating mandate being met to a large extent. However, key issues in several of the dossiers remain pending. The Federal Council has decided to carry out consultations on the current outcome of the negotiations, based on which it will then determine what course of action to take.
In addition to European policy, the key issue of restructuring Switzerland's bilateral development cooperation was initiated in 2018. In November, the Federal Council set out the parameters for the new 2021–24 dispatch on international cooperation, which prescribes greater geographical focus. In addition to the priority areas of poverty reduction and human security, the dispatch also stipulates prioritising economic aspects and mobilising the potential within the private sector more effectively. Furthermore, it envisages a reinforcement of the strategic link between migration policy and international cooperation. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is an important guiding framework for the dispatch. The mid-term report on the 2017–20 international cooperation dispatch, which was also adopted by the Federal Council in 2018, concludes that the vast majority of the projects were successful in meeting their objectives.
Switzerland's humanitarian efforts in 2018 focused primarily on the two crises in Syria and Yemen. Switzerland contributed to peace and security by providing targeted support for peace processes – from Ukraine to Mozambique and Colombia. In the area of arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation, Switzerland also worked to increase global stability and security by continuing its efforts for a free and secure cyberspace, a strengthening of the UN's human rights architecture and in the field of counterterrorism. Compliance with international law is central to safeguarding Switzerland's interests. Reforming multilateral bodies such as the UN, the OSCE and the Council of Europe in order to improve their ability to act remains another of Switzerland's key concerns.
During the 2015–18 period, Switzerland was able to further bolster its image and credibility in the area of human rights policy. The annexed 2015–18 report on Switzerland's human rights foreign policy reviews Switzerland's work in this area and testifies to the country's international standing in the field of human rights. However, the report also highlights the challenges Switzerland faces in its efforts to promote reforms aimed at improving the efficiency of international mechanisms, for example.
Bilateral relations are central to the safeguarding of Swiss interests. In 2018, relations with neighbouring Germany, Italy and France were close and friendly, although several aspects concerning cooperation remain pending. Switzerland also maintained wide-ranging bilateral ties with major global powers such as China and the US, including human rights dialogues that allow Switzerland to raise concerns that are at the core of its values.
2019 marks the final year of the Federal Council's current foreign policy strategy. In 2018, the FDFA launched a process to reflect on a foreign policy vision for Switzerland for the ten-year period until 2028. 'Switzerland's 2028 Foreign Policy Vision' should examine the environment in which Swiss foreign policy will be operating in future and serve as inspiration for the new foreign policy strategy for the next legislative period. This new strategy for the 2020–23 period will be adopted by the Federal Council in 2019.
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