The world in 2019 was characterised by numerous protest movements. In many western democracies, the rise of protest parties continued. Trust in political institutions remains high in Switzerland compared with other countries. The Federal Council aims to maintain this trust and to ensure its foreign and domestic policies are closely interrelated.
It underscored this in 2019 through various measures: in its report on soft law, the Federal Council showed ways in which Parliament can be involved in foreign policy in a more targeted manner while maintaining the constitutional balance of powers. For the first time, it carried out a consultation on its cooperation strategy for the 2021–24 period. In terms of relations with the EU, consultations were held on a draft Institutional Agreement. In 2019, the Federal Council discussed the status of Switzerland’s candidature for a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council with the foreign affairs committees, the heads of Federal Council parties and the cantons. Besides participating in many events on the topic of Europe, the FDFA organised roundtable discussions with the public in 16 cantons (Meet the Ambassadors) – again with the aim of delivering a citizen-oriented foreign policy.
In terms of content, the question of Europe continued to be the focus of attention. Through an Institutional Agreement (InstA) with the EU, the Federal Council seeks to secure EU market access and to consolidate the bilateral approach while making it fit for the future. The focus of EU policy in 2019 was on the consultation and on the domestic efforts to develop broad-based solutions to the three outstanding matters requiring clarification. On the whole, cooperation with Switzerland’s neighbouring countries was close and productive in 2019. Through its Mind the Gap strategy, Switzerland successfully continued its efforts to safeguard existing rights and obligations in view of the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the EU.
The importance of the major powers for global security increased in 2019, illustrated by the growing strategic rivalry between the United States and China. The Federal Council paid close attention to relations with its global priority countries: Brazil, China, India, Japan, Russia, South Africa, Turkey and the United States. Contact was maintained at the highest level with many of these states in 2019. During his year in office, for example, President of the Swiss Confederation Ueli Maurer met the Chinese, Indian, Russian and US heads of state, among others.
Switzerland continued to advocate peace and security in a multipolar world in 2019. Demand for its good offices remained high. Switzerland took on a new protecting power mandate for Iran in Canada in 2019 and worked both bilaterally and multilaterally to champion the protection of human rights, which are under pressure in many parts of the world. Strengthening the role of International Geneva was a priority. The Geneva Science and Diplomacy Anticipator (GESDA), which the Federal Council set up together with the Canton of Geneva, will help anticipate the challenges of the future and develop innovative solutions at the interface between science and diplomacy.
Switzerland continued to implement the UN’s 2030 Agenda in 2019. The country’s prosperity and security are heavily dependent on the international environment. Its foreign policy therefore supports sustainable development in the areas of economic, financial, environmental, energy, science and health policy. In terms of tackling global challenges such as climate change, Switzerland supported an internationally-coordinated approach.
Consular services and crisis management remain core tasks of Swiss foreign policy. In 2019, more than 760,000 Swiss nationals were living abroad, and Swiss citizens made over 16 million foreign trips. As a result, demand for support services is growing. To provide enhanced information to travellers, Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis launched the Travel Admin app in 2019.
Finally, the Federal Council also reviews the 2016–19 foreign policy strategy in the report. Its conclusion is largely positive, with just a few individual goals – particularly in the area of EU policy – that have yet to be achieved. In the 2020–23 foreign policy strategy, which is published on 30 January, the Federal Council will set out its foreign policy framework for the new legislative period.
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