Mr Didier Burkhalter received Mr Lajčák at the Von Wattenwyl House in Bern. At their meeting, the foreign ministers praised the excellent relations between Switzerland and Slovakia, which have significantly intensified in recent years thanks to regular political meetings. The two men also expressed satisfaction at the growth in economic ties between their respective countries. Since 2000, the volume of trade between Switzerland and Slovakia has increased threefold, amounting to CHF 1.4 billion in 2014.
Another topic of discussion was successful cooperation on visa matters. Since the beginning of 2014, Switzerland has been issuing Schengen visas for Slovakia in Kathmandu (Nepal) and Dar es Salaam (Tanzania), while Slovakia has been representing Switzerland in Baghdad (Iraq). This cooperation will expand in 2015 to cover Bishkek (Kyrgyzstan), Khartoum (Sudan), Tunis (Tunisia) and Cape Town (South Africa). Mr Burkhalter and his guest also welcomed how Switzerland’s EU enlargement contribution to Slovakia, amounting to CHF 67 million, is being put to good use. Until 2017, a total of 23 projects designed to reduce economic and social disparities in Slovakia will be implemented in the areas of regional development, infrastructure, vocational training and the judicial system.
Switzerland’s relationship with the EU was a key theme both of the meeting between the two foreign ministers, and of the courtesy visit paid by Mr Lajčák to Ms Sommaruga. Slovakia will assume the presidency of the Council of the EU in the second half of 2016. Mr Lajčák was informed of the Federal Council’s intention to implement the result of the popular vote of 9 February 2014, which calls for Switzerland to control immigration independently and more effectively. At the same time the Federal Council wants to maintain the bilateral path with the EU. The bilateral approach has been repeatedly endorsed by the Swiss people in recent years. Mr Lajčák gave his assurance that Slovakia would work with Switzerland to find a flexible solution on the basis of the principle of the free movement of persons.
The two ministers discussed a number of current international issues, including migration, the Ukraine crisis and European security. Switzerland’s good working relationship with the Visegrad Group, which was under Slovakia’s chairmanship during the last 12 months, was also mentioned. Comprising Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic, the Visegrad Group is a cooperation forum for promoting stability in Central Europe within the framework of European integration. Multilateral cooperation, particularly within the context of the United Nations, was an additional point on the agenda, as were both countries’ efforts to combat terrorism.
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