The COVID-19 pandemic also left its mark on Swiss foreign policy last year. The FDFA made an important contribution to the federal government's crisis management: its repatriation operation (FlyingHome) was the largest in the country's history, bringing a total of 7,255 people back to Switzerland. Thanks to a rapid and extensive reprogramming of existing SDC programmes, Switzerland also made important contributions to international crisis management.
The pandemic also affected the country's relations with the rest of Europe. For example, COVID patients from France were brought to Switzerland in the spring for treatment. Switzerland's inclusion in the EU's crisis response and the close coordination of its crisis measures with the EU were important factors in the fight against the pandemic. It demonstrated how important secure access to the single market is for Switzerland. The European policy objective of the Federal Council therefore remains unchanged: conclude an institutional agreement with the EU to further consolidate the bilateral approach.
Swiss candidacy for Security Council on track
Switzerland's international contributions to peace and security remain in demand. In the year under review, Switzerland provided support for 17 peace processes and also supported peace efforts in Libya, Cameroon and Ukraine, among others. Work progressed on Switzerland's candidacy for a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council for the 2023–24 period. The final phase was launched with a virtual event in New York and Bern. In addition, the Federal Council approved a report on possible forms of parliamentary involvement.
As an open, export-oriented economy, Switzerland is dependent on the rules-based international trading system, particularly in the current economic crisis. As the ability of international organisations to act is also under pressure in the economic sphere, in 2020 Switzerland – together with 22 other WTO members – agreed to a provisional appeals procedure in the WTO dispute settlement mechanism. Switzerland was thus able to help bring stability to trade and in 2020 was also able to participate for the first time as a full guest country in all the work of the G-20.
Strategies consolidate Swiss foreign policy
With a view to implementing the Foreign Policy Strategy 2020–23, the Federal Council adopted several sub-strategies. These included strategies for international cooperation, digital foreign policy, communication abroad and the MENA region. On 13 January 2021, the Federal Council also adopted a strategy for sub-Saharan Africa. Further strategies are in development, notably for China, the Americas, arms control and disarmament. These strategies will further strengthen the coherence of Switzerland's foreign policy.
Despite the ongoing pandemic, overall the Federal Council is on track to meet the objectives of its Foreign Policy Strategy 2020–23.
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