Mr Cassis was received in Vienna by his Austrian counterpart, President Alexander Van der Bellen. State Secretary Livia Leu and Secretary-General of the Austrian foreign ministry, Peter Launsky-Tieffenthal, also attended the talks, having met in Vienna for political discussions in December of last year.
In his visit to Vienna, Mr Cassis also talked with Chancellor Karl Nehammer Austria's Minister for the EU and Constitution, Karoline Edtstadler. Mr Cassis was accompanied on his trip to Vienna by National Council members Claudia Friedl and Nicolo Paganini, both members of the Parliamentary Delegation for Relations with the Austrian Parliament, with whom he also held discussions with the president of the Austrian National Council, Wolfgang Sobotka.
Strategic partnership with Austria
The talks in Vienna focused on acknowledging and strengthening existing bilateral relations, and in particular on implementation of the strategic partnership between Switzerland and Austria. The two countries signed a memorandum of understanding on their strategic partnership last summer, with the aim of strengthening cooperation in selected areas. These include political discussions on the Western Balkans and implementation of the 2030 Agenda, but also mutual consular assistance in third countries.
Concerns over growing polarisation between East and West
Besides the strategic partnership, discussion topics included the next steps in Switzerland's relationship with the European Union, the current situation in Belarus and the response to the pandemic. President Cassis stressed the importance of solidarity and cooperation between European neighbours at this time. Finally, international issues were discussed, such as cooperation in the multilateral field, bilateral relations with Russia and the current situation on the border with Ukraine. Switzerland is concerned about the increasing tensions there. President Cassis took the opportunity to invite Austria to the Ukraine Reform Conference, which will take place in Lugano on 4 and 5 July 2022.
Meeting with the OSCE
Rounding off the trip to the Austrian capital, Mr Cassis met the Polish foreign minister and new OSCE chair, Zbigniew Rau, as well as the Secretary General of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), Helga Schmid. Mr Cassis presented the Swiss 2022–2025 OSCE Action Plan, designed to boost the effectiveness of the OSCE by promoting trust between the 57 participating states. Moreover, it strengthens the organisation's role as a platform for dialogue on conflict resolution and for discussions on European security. The OSCE can play an important role especially in view of the current tensions between Russia and the West.
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