The main focus of the visit was the signing by Federal Councillor Didier Burkhalter and Foreign Minister Maia Panjikidze of a visa facilitation agreement between Switzerland and Georgia. The agreement is based on a visa facilitation agreement concluded by Georgia with the EU to standardise visa procedures in the Schengen area. It regulates, among other things, the facilitated issuing of long-term multiple-entry visas to various categories of visa applicants, such as business people, journalists and family members of Georgian nationals resident in Switzerland. The agreement aims to promote personal, cultural and economic exchanges between Switzerland and Georgia. It also grants a visa exemption to government officials with diplomatic passports.
Switzerland's mandates to represent Georgia's and Russia's interests was also another topic of discussion. As a result of the war in August 2008, Georgia and Russia had transferred to Switzerland the representation of their respective interests in Tbilisi and Moscow. Mr Burkhalter assured Ms Panjikidze that cooperation with the competent Georgian authorities in Tbilisi was excellent.
He also informed her about Switzerland's priorities for its chairmanship of the OSCE in 2014. One of these priorities will be to contribute – through dialogue and confidence-building efforts – to a resolution of the smouldering conflicts in the South Caucasus. A Swiss special envoy will mediate for the OSCE in the Geneva talks on the Georgia conflict. At the same time, Switzerland will endeavour to improve the situation of the affected population and to build trust between the parties to the conflict. In particular, exchanges between young people, professionals (e.g. disaster relief workers) and experts are to be promoted. Other bilateral, regional and international issues were also discussed.
Foreign Minister Maia Panjikidze had already met with the President of the Council of States, Filippo Lombardi, on Thursday 12 September, and then visited the Swiss Literary Archives in Bern. Ms Panjikidze has a background in German studies and is well acquainted with Swiss literature, particularly the works of Max Frisch and Friedrich Dürrenmatt. The visit to Neuchâtel also included a literary stop: after their official talks, Mr Burkhalter and Ms Panjikidze visited the Centre Dürrenmatt.
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