Federal Department of Foreign Affairs FDFA

Le Temps: Official Africa visit and current political issues

On the return flight of the official visit to Africa, Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis answered questions from the Swiss francophone newspaper Le Temps. In addition to the offical Africa visit, which took the head of the FDFA from Algeria to Mali to Senegal and to the Gambia, Mr Cassis talked about various current topics – from the Covid-19 vaccination to the Europe dossier, the new administration in the USA and the Middle East.

15.02.2021
Photomontage with Ignazio Cassis looking into the camera and two speech bubble icons with question marks and answers representing an interview.

Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis © FDFA

A few weeks ago, Switzerland adopted a new strategy for sub-Saharan Africa. During his six-day trip to four African countries, Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis presented the new strategy on the ground. On the return flight of the official visit, the head of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) answered questions from the Swiss newspaper Le Temps. On the one hand, Mr Cassis looked back on the Africa trip in general, on the other hand, he talked specifically about the meetings in the various countries.

This enabled various agreements to be signed in Senegal, migration issues to be discussed openly in Algeria and democracy and human rights issues to be addressed in Mali. "I offered the transitional president Switzerland's assistance in organising respected elections and in drafting a new constitution. Areas in which Switzerland has globally recognised expertise," explained Mr Cassis.

From the Covid vaccination to the Europe dossier

At a time when the international community is still affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis also talked about the issue of vaccination: "Each country is making its own way through the vaccine jungle with its own political vision. The approach of the African countries is straightforward and pragmatic." Mr Cassis has also already had his first vaccination appointment: shortly before leaving for Africa, the head of the FDFA received his first injection.

Asked about the Europe dossier, Mr Cassis explained that Switzerland is currently taking one step at a time and emphasised that "the task remains difficult because it is always a fine line between independence and prosperity". At the same time, it is clear that the Federal Council's goal is "to reach an agreement that takes into account the concerns expressed in the parliamentary consultation and receives the support of the Swiss people."

From America to the Middle East

Also discussed were matters concerning Switzerland-USA relations, following the election of the new US President Joe Biden. The head of the FDFA assured that "the United States of America have always been a close partner of Switzerland, with whom we share the same values and maintain intensive economic, scientific and cultural relations." At the same time, Mr Cassis referred to the ongoing elaboration of the new geographical strategy on the Americas.

The interview also addressed issues from the Middle East. Mr Cassis answered questions about the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) and Iran. Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis pointed out that Switzerland supports the reforms of UNRWA in order to further improve the governance and transparency of the UN organisation. In addition, Switzerland continues to play an important role as a mediator with the USA in Iran: "We can encourage the exchange of dialogue between Washington and Tehran."

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