Mr Burkhalter met with Ms Merkel in Berlin this morning. During their meeting, which was planned some time ago, Mr Burkhalter apprised Ms Merkel of the outcome of the popular vote on the mass immigration initiative and the Federal Council's initial decisions regarding implementation of the new constitutional provision on immigration. According to the decision it took last Wednesday, the Federal Council will take three parallel steps:
- define a plan for the implementation of the necessary legislative work and hold exploratory talks with the EU,
- discuss in the joint committee the new situation with respect to the Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons (AFMP) and
- clarify the procedure for the negotiations that are already under way.
Mr Burkhalter made it clear that the Federal Council would implement the new constitutional provisions and that it would examine how they could be harmonised with the AFMP. Ms Merkel assured Switzerland that Germany would play a constructive part in the aspects of the discussions that touch on EU policy.
Bilateral matters were also discussed in the meeting with Ms Merkel. Mr Burkhalter and Ms Merkel emphasised that relations between Switzerland and Germany are excellent. This is reflected, among other areas, in trade relations: with a trade volume of more than CHF 90 billion, Germany is Switzerland's most important economic partner. Trade with Germany accounts for about one quarter of Switzerland's global trade volume. Switzerland’s trade volume with Baden-Wurttemberg alone corresponds to the one with the US or all BRICS states together (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa). Furthermore, Switzerland – with which Germany has traditionally run a large trade surplus (2012: CHF 31.1 billion) – is Germany's third largest trading partner outside the EU, after China and the United States. The two sides also discussed financial, transport and energy matters. Mr Burkhalter also underscored the significance of the northern access to the New Rail Link through the Alps (NRLA), and noted that its expansion is important to ensure that the NRLA will be put into service on schedule in 2019.
Common goals within the OSCE
The discussion with Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, in addition to bilateral matters and EU policy, focused on the Swiss Chairmanship of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). Mr Burkhalter and Mr Steinmeier discussed possibilities for cooperation with Germany during Switzerland's Chairmanship of the OSCE, continuing on from a discussion they had on 1 February 2014 at the Munich Security Conference. Both Germany and Switzerland consider the promotion of security and stability in the Western Balkans to be one of their key priorities within the OSCE.
Meeting with French foreign minister
This afternoon, Mr Burkhalter will travel from Berlin to Paris, where he will meet this evening with French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius. Their meeting will focus on the popular vote on mass immigration and the Federal Council's steps to implement the new constitutional provision.
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