The main focuses of the discussions between Mr Burkhalter and Mr Lajčák were bilateral relations between the two countries, relations with the EU, multilateral cooperation and international issues. Specific topics in the field of bilateral relations included opportunities for cooperation with Slovakia in the consular field, economic relations and Switzerland's contributions to EU enlargement.
Mr Burkhalter welcomed Mr Lajčák's offer to invite Switzerland to the summit of the Visegrad countries (Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary). The Visegrad countries make up an important group within the EU working on issues facing Central and Eastern Europe. Switzerland is a member of the International Visegrad Fund through which it funds various projects in Central and Eastern Europe.
Regarding relations with the EU, Mr Burkhalter explained Switzerland's stance with regard to the upcoming negotiations with the EU on institutional issues. As a managing director in the EU Commission until spring 2012, Mr Lajčák was also responsible for relations with Switzerland. Also discussed were developments with regard to the Eastern Partnership with non-EU countries Belarus, Ukraine, Moldavia, Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan. Switzerland commits around CHF 50 million per year to these countries, and thereby also contributes to the policies of the Eastern Partnership.
Switzerland is the chair of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) this year. Mr Burkhalter informed Mr Lajčák of Switzerland's priorities for its chairmanship. An in-depth conversation followed with Mr Lajčák, who is an established expert on the Balkans, about the ongoing stabilisation of the countries of the western Balkans, one of the pillars of Switzerland's policy for the OSCE chairmanship. An exchange of views over the situation in Syria and the talks to resolve the differences of opinion surrounding Iran's nuclear programme concluded the discussion.
Before their meeting, Mr Burkhalter and Mr Lajčák took part in the annual seminar of the Swiss cantonal councils in Interlaken as speakers. The themes of the conference were the free movement of persons and migration. In his address, Mr Burkhalter explained the federal government's stance with regard to the free movement of persons with the EU. The continuation of the free movement of persons, which is a cornerstone of the bilateral agreements, is threatened by the initiative on "mass immigration” that will be put to the vote on 9 February. "If Switzerland wants to continue to score highly in terms of a strong and innovative economy, it needs the bilateral agreements", said President Burkhalter, and warned that to renounce the free movement of persons with the EU could endanger the bilateral approach and Switzerland's economic strength.
Address for enquiries:
Tel.: +41 58 462 31 53
Fax: +41 58 464 90 47