Excellencies, dear colleagues,
Dear Swiss Compatriots,
Ladies and gentlemen
Ahlan Wa Sahlan, Atamanna An Takoonoo BiKhayr
أهلا و سهلا. أتمنى أن تكونوا بخير.
Bonsoir à tous,
Good evening and welcome to the Swiss National Day reception. With my wife Shirley and our two young children Mathéo and Maeva, I am honored to welcome you all today in the garden of the Swiss residence and to deliver a few words to you for the first time. It’s a privilege to serve in Egypt for Switzerland and to serve the Swiss Community in Egypt.
As you probably know, Switzerland’s National Day is normally celebrated on the 1st of August, the presumed date of the adoption of Switzerland’s founding document in the year 1291. It looks far away for some of us but for our Egyptian friends, with such an ancient and rich civilization, I’m sure it feels more like recent history! Because most of us are in recess the 1st of August, we have decided again to organize the celebration of the National Day at the beginning of October in order to have a bigger participation and seeing so many people here tonight it seems it was a good decision! Thank you for coming.
In the meantime, we have had a change of foreign minister in Switzerland following the decision of Federal Councilor Didier Burkhalter to pass the torch after 8 years in the government; the new foreign minister is named Ignazio Cassis and comes from the Italian-speaking region of Switzerland and this is a very good thing for our national cohesion in our federalist country.
Dear Guests, allow me at this point, to thank wholeheartedly my dedicated and efficient Embassy team of whom I’m very proud. A huge thank you goes of course to the many Swiss companies that have made today’s event possible. And I name : Egy-Swiss, Hero, Movenpick, Nestlé, Nestlé Waters and Nespresso, Soudanco (representing Lindt and Emmi), all bringing their best food products tonight and, last but not least, the Lufthansa Group including Swiss International Airlines, who sponsors today’s cultural event.
This shows the diversity of the Swiss economic presence here. In this regard, it is noteworthy that Swiss firms have been offering over the years more than 30,000 job opportunities in Egypt and have been investing in this country up to 1.85 billion dollars.
The visit here early November of our State Secretary of Economy, Mrs. Marie-Gabriele Ineichen-Fleisch, with an economic delegation, will contribute to reinforcing these strong economic ties. Our State Secretary will also highlight Switzerland’s engagement in development cooperation in Egypt.
Our new Cooperation Strategy for the years 2017-2020 has a budget of more than 80 million US dollars. It is a comprehensive and well-balanced program with three main domains of action: democratic processes and human rights, sustainable economic growth together with the creation of jobs and a third one, the domain of migration and protection, that we want to develop further.
The ongoing activities include programs at national level like the support to the government’s strategy to reduce the population growth rate or projects to foster citizen participation and governance. We are as well active in the supply of potable water in villages, cleaner production and solid waste management with a special focus on Upper Egypt. And we continue our 40 years engagement in Egypt for a good business environment, the access to financial services as well as the promotion of Small and Medium Enterprises.
All the projects are developed in close coordination with the Egyptian government based on the values and goals of the United Nations. This common basis applies equally to our bilateral relations and to the international and regional initiatives to promote peace and stability. In that last field, coming from a posting as Head of Mission in Palestine, I would like to praise the important efforts of Egypt in the Israeli-Palestinian file as well as for intra-Palestinian reconciliation with some important results in Gaza these days.
History teaches us that transformation processes are bumpy and Egypt knows it too well. As said by our Swiss President Doris Leuthard in her 1st of August speech to the Swiss abroad, a country needs the courage to embrace change and to undertake reforms even if they may be uncomfortable. Switzerland remains committed to supporting Egypt in its endeavors towards an economically and socially integrated and sustainable society.
Let me, as a final note, highlight the depth of the people-to-people-relationship between Egyptians and the Swiss, which has struck me since I have arrived. The Swiss-Egyptian Business Association, the Swiss Archaeological Institute, the Swiss Club in Cairo, the Swiss Club in Alexandria and the numerous Swiss-Egyptian friendship groups are living testimonies of this very intense and genuine relationship. In an effort to highlight the places with a Swiss history in Cairo, the Swiss Embassy has developed an application called “Swiss Trail”. This “App” will be launched soon. I think I’m not exaggerating if I say that there is a mutual fascination / a mutual attraction between our two countries reflected in the almost one thousand eight hundred Swiss living in Egypt and seven thousands Egyptians living in Switzerland. These numbers include double nationals Swiss-Egyptians.
This also explains why the cultural cooperation has always been central to our relationship with Egypt. We have invited many Swiss bands and performance artists to visit Egypt in recent years and we have, in Cairo, since 29 years – (yes you got it) we’ll celebrate the 30th anniversary next year – the office of the Swiss Arts Council for the whole Middle East and North Africa region.
Tonight we have the pleasure to present to you for the first time another unique talent from Switzerland – the Swiss saxophonist and jazz musician Emanuele Di Nardo who comes from Switzerland’s Italian-speaking region, Ticino. He will play together with two local artists, Hisham Galal on the piano and André Segone on the double bass. They were performing yesterday evening in the Cairo Jazz Club and Emanuele Di Nardo took the time to also interact with the El Darb El Ahmar Art School.
And now, I invite you to enjoy the music and then to discover the various regional Swiss delicacies and products of our “terroir”. You will be able to determine their origin based on the cantonal flag displayed at the food stands and if you are not familiar with the Swiss cantons, there are certainly many compatriots here tonight who will gladly help. For example, Raclette comes from Valais / Wallis and dry meat comes from Graubünden / Grisons. I wish you a beautiful evening.