Schweiz-EU - Gemeinsame Herausforderungen (EN)
Bern, 09.05.2023 - Ansprache von Bundesrat Ignazio Cassis, Vorsteher des Eidgenössischen Departements für auswärtige Angelegenheiten (EDA) anlässlich des Empfangs zum Europatag bei der Delegation der EU in der Schweiz und dem Fürstentum Liechtenstein - Es gilt das gesprochene Wort
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am delighted to be here with you today to celebrate this special occasion.
Direct exchange and partnership: that is exactly what we need to tackle common challenges!
In the words of Robert Schuman; "World peace cannot be safeguarded without the making of creative efforts proportionate to the dangers which threaten it."
Seventy-three years have passed since Robert Schuman, one of the founders of the European Union, published those lines. His plan: peace and unity in Europe. A very topical issue.
Europe Day marks the anniversary of the historic 'Schuman Declaration' that set out his idea for a new form of political cooperation in Europe that would make war between Europe's nations unthinkable.
As we all know, unfortunately, war is no longer unthinkable. It is back to Europe, with a military aggression that should instead have remained inconceivable.
1. Switzerland stands with its European partners against the war
The unprovoked war against Ukraine has shown how important it is that we continue to stand up for Schuman's goal.
This war has awakened us to a new reality. All the multilateral instruments created in the ashes of World War II, such as the UN and the European Union, have done much, but not everything.
They have failed to obliterate the violent and expansionist soul that dwells in human beings.
And I think that unfortunately it will be difficult to achieve this goal completely, in the future as well.
In these terrible times we have found hope in cohesion: Almost all of Europe has opposed the war from the start. The threat has united us. Europe is standing up for democracy and independence. Switzerland is no exception either. It joined the European community to bear witness that neutrality does not mean indifference.
We have condemned Russia's aggression against Ukraine in the strongest possible terms and decided to adopt the EU's sanctions against Russia, thereby amplifying their impact.
Neutrality is thus not an absence of values, but a definite choice not to participate militarily in combat, even if this is legitimate to defend against aggression.
Since then we have engaged strongly in Ukraine.
"Gouverner c'est prevoir" as a dictum says. And, as history teaches us: there will be a time after the war, when the guns will fall silent.
It is in this spirit that I am proud that I decided, together with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and his government, to organise the Ukraine Recovery Conference in Lugano last year.
We started the reconstruction process and established, together with the EU and the reconstruction banks, the 'Lugano Principles' as the basis for a joint framework and follow-up efforts.
This is a crucial step to give hope to the Ukrainian people, to clarify the way forward, and to emphasise the trust needed to face this great chapter together. Trust remains a central element of the process. Trust between Ukraine and its international partners, but also trust between Ukrainian citizens and their authorities.
Switzerland is determined to provide long-term support. In addition to the 350 million francs already invested in humanitarian assistance until now, the Federal Council has just decided on the first step of an additional 1.8 billion until 2028.
Even without direct or indirect military participation, Switzerland can do a lot. For the Swiss, neutrality has been a glue of their identity for 400 years. It deserves respect and understanding. I would like to emphasise this, in light of some minor disputes.
We are now considering the legal, financial and economic steps necessary for a Swiss commitment to reconstruction that transcends humanitarian assistance to open the full chapter of reconstruction.
2. Switzerland and the EU: our relationship deserves prospects
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The war in Ukraine has brought us closer together. While it is still going on, it shows us every day the importance of cooperation and solidarity on the European continent. EU member states are our neighbours, partners and friends. We are one economic space, one living space.
"Ubi maior minor cessat." This Latin locution means: "When the greater emerges, the lesser is neglected."
The greater is the war, the lesser is the problem our bilateral relations are suffering from: the lack of an agreement to stabilise the common path and give it prospects.
The quality of our ties will never fade.
Switzerland is committed to further strengthening its close, manifold and mutually beneficial partnership with the EU and its member countries.
This is why I welcome the positive dynamic that has developed over the past 12 months, thanks to a good political understanding first with the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen and later with Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič, especially during his visit on March 15th.
I want to take this opportunity to thank him for his openness and willingness to understand, which marked his visit.
We are currently working hard together to further narrow the gaps. We both need to have the courage to go the extra mile and get there.
For Switzerland as well as for the EU, the solutions will need to be firmly anchored among our main stakeholders …. and for Switzerland even among the wider population.
Switzerland is determined to reach an understanding on all relevant points and pave the way for the start of formal negotiations.
Both sides must show flexibility. The greater the flexibility, the faster the understanding.
Let me add a touch of humanity. We rarely speak of the human dimension in negotiations. Negotiation is considered to be a rational process, where vested interests and protocol play the central role. Even if this is true, I am convinced that a humane understanding among those in charge remains an indispensable asset. The recent past has shown us that.
3. European Political Community
I would now like to add two additional thoughts and a proposal regarding the European Political Community.
I had the pleasure and the honour of attending this body's first edition in Prague last October. I am convinced that we need this level as well in order to establish our viewpoints, among EU and non-EU member states, on the collective interests of the European continent from a geo-political perspective.
In this context, Switzerland welcomes the creation of the European Political Community (the EPC) in 2022. We fully support its objective of promoting dialogue and cooperation in Europe.
The EPC has a powerful symbolic meaning as its participants are defined by geography – not by membership in one or the other political institution. This is why EPC meetings send a strong signal to the wider European community and even beyond.
I would like to highlight Switzerland's readiness to host an EPC summit in the future, at the most convenient time for both sides, as part of our commitment.
The role we want to play together with our European partners to ensure freedom, peace, stability and prosperity echoes our foreign policy principles.
It is also in line with our objectives as a current member of the UN Security Council, a body of which Switzerland is currently holding the presidency.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Being here with you on this Europe Day, to commemorate Schuman's Declaration together, is a gesture of solidarity and respect at a difficult time for Europe.
Thank you for your attention.
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