Switzerland provides support to Eastern Europe out of a sense of solidarity with the poor and in a bid to reduce social and economic inequality. It is also about creating jobs and thereby providing alternatives to migration.
Transition cooperation in Eastern Europe
As part of its transition assistance, Switzerland provides support for former communist countries in Eastern Europe on the path to democracy and a social market economy: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, Serbia and Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Despite the progress that has been made, there still remains a backlog of reforms that need to be carried out in various areas (e.g. decentralisation, the rule of law and public services).
Because these countries are not members of the European Union, this transition assistance is different from Switzerland's enlargement contribution for the new EU member states.
Switzerland's active commitment to combating problems related to poverty in these countries is based on its tradition of solidarity and because such efforts are also in its own interest: transition assistance opens up economic opportunities for Switzerland, creates new jobs locally and therefore offers alternatives to migration.
The SDC and SECO share joint responsibility for Switzerland's transition assistance in Eastern Europe. The efforts are focused on the following areas:
- Reinforcing democratic structures and the rule of law and improving the quality of public services
- Enhancing the potential of the private sector with a particular emphasis on improving employment prospects, particularly for young people
- Ensuring effective and sustainable public utilities for the supply of drinking water, sanitation services and electric power and ensuring that water is equitably distributed in the countries of Central Asia
- Ensuring that the population has equal access to improved health services, improving preventive healthcare to reduce the incidence of non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, and strengthening healthcare systems
Universal access to drinking water in Kosovo
Between 1999 and 2014, the proportion of the population of Kosovo connected to the drinking water supply system rose from 44% to 76%. This was achieved through the joint efforts of the SDC and SECO in Kosovo for improvements in the management of the systems for drinking water supply and waste water. With the SDC working in rural regions, and SECO focusing its efforts on urban areas, improvements have been made in the performance of public water supply services through the financing of new infrastructures (pipelines, treatment plants) and personnel training programmes. In parallel to this, Switzerland is engaged in an ongoing dialogue with the Kosovo government's Inter-Ministerial Water Council to ensure that the reforms introduced become permanent.