During his visit to Berlin, Switzerland’s President Didier Burkhalter met Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier for talks. At the Federal Foreign Office, the two Ministers had an in-depth discussion about the impact of the result of last week’s referendum in Switzerland on relations between the EU and Switzerland. Furthermore, they spoke about the conflict in Ukraine, which has flared up again, and the Geneva II talks on Syria, which are yet to produce any results.
Respecting the outcome of the referendum in Switzerland
The issue was a central theme during the visit by the Swiss President and Foreign Minister to Berlin: What repercussions will the Swiss vote in favour of restricting immigration have on bilateral relations? The impact of the referendum on freedom of movement between the EU and Switzerland has been analysed and commented on in many quarters in Switzerland, the EU and Germany during the last week. Burkhalter stated at the start of his joint press conference with Steinmeier that the timing of his visit was perfect.
Concern about the referendum result
Foreign Minister Steinmeier stressed that relations between Germany, the EU and Switzerland were close: “That’s why we’re reacting responsibly to the decision taken recently by the Swiss people on European freedom of movement.” Steinmeier emphasised that Germany was “naturally concerned” about the outcome with which “Switzerland intended to take another path.” The German Foreign Minister went on to say:
However, in view of our relations, which have been marked by cooperation over years and decades between Switzerland and the EU and which we don’t want to disrupt on a permanent basis, I’ve said that first of all we all have to respect the outcome of the Swiss referendum and secondly we have to comment without foaming at the mouth.
President Burkhalter met the Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel in the morning. During his meetings with the Chancellor, the Foreign Minister and the press, he talked at length about the state of affairs in Switzerland. He explained the current situation in his country and called for relations between Germany and Switzerland to become even closer.
Ukraine: Violence is no way to reach a settlement
In the light of the escalation today in Ukraine, which has left three people dead in recent days, Steinmeier called on the parties to the conflict to end the violence. He said there was no doubt that “reverting to violence in Ukraine will not lead to a settlement or to a good future for the country”. Together with President Burkhalter, he appealed to the parties to the conflict in Ukraine to continue seeking a political dialogue.
The German Foreign Minister also praised the “good example” which the OSCE was able to set in the negotiations on the release of the demonstrators arrested during the protests and on the vacation of public buildings. The OSCE is currently chaired by Switzerland. Steinmeier called for this role to be continued in the further quest for a solution to the conflict.
- More on the situation in Ukraine: Crisis in Ukraine: Steinmeier meets with Klitschko and Yatsenyuk
Syria: New round of talks needed
Steinmeier and Burkhalter also discussed the Geneva II talks on finding a solution to the Syria crisis, which ended yesterday without any result being reached. The two Foreign Ministers emphasised that the talks would have to be continued in a further round. Steinmeier called on “everyone with influence in the region to work to this end”. They went on to say that the aim must be to at least achieve local ceasefires and humanitarian corridors to ensure that the civilian population has sufficient supplies and that this had to be done long before any decisions could be made about the country’s political future.