Close trust-based relations with Australia: Swiss nationals obtain facilitated entry

Bern, 28.10.2013 - On the last stage of his trip to the Asia-Pacific region, Federal Councillor Didier Burkhalter met Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop earlier today. The head of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) is the first foreign minister Ms Bishop has received since she assumed office. Ms Bishop announced that Switzerland is to be included in Australia's automated border processing system, SmartGate, thus facilitating Swiss nationals' entry into Australia. The two ministers also signed two agreements, one to establish regular ministerial-level political dialogue and the other to strengthen cooperation on research and innovation.

The good relations between Switzerland and Australia will be further extended at various levels. During Mr Burkhalter's stay in the Australian capital of Canberra – the first official visit by a head of the FDFA to Australia – Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop announced that border controls for Swiss citizens are to be simplified. As Australia will incorporate Switzerland into its SmartGate system, border control procedures for Swiss citizens will in future be carried out electronically. Switzerland is the first non-English-speaking country to benefit from this facilitated entry system, which already includes the United States, the United Kingdom and New Zealand.  "This facilitated system underlines the trust that characterises the relationship between Switzerland and Australia", noted Mr Burkhalter during the meeting today to announce the new system. The system will benefit a large number of Swiss nationals: some 43,000 visited Australia in 2010.

During today's working visit, Mr Burkhalter signed two agreements with his Australian counterpart. The first was a memorandum of understanding that provides for regular political dialogue at the ministerial level. According to the memorandum, the two countries' foreign ministers will hold bilateral meetings every two years and will also maintain regular high-level diplomatic contacts.

The second memorandum of understanding signed today in Canberra aims to strengthen cooperation in the field of research and innovation. The memorandum lists a number of specific ways to step up cooperation: the establishment of direct contacts between the two countries' authorities, universities and other research institutions, the exchange of information and documentation related to science, research and innovation, and facilitated research trips for young scientists. A committee of representatives of both countries will oversee the implementation of the memorandum of understanding. Australia is already one of Switzerland's ten principal research partners. In 1996, Switzerland's Peter Zinkernagel and Australia's Peter Doherty – who were both working at the John Curtin School of Medical Research at the Australian National University in Canberra – were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine.

International financial issues

The talks in Canberra also focused on the possibility of cooperation during Switzerland's chairmanship of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation (OSCE) next year. Two areas of cooperation were discussed in particular: the situation in Afghanistan following the withdrawal of ISAF forces in 2014 and the fight against terrorism, which will be the theme of an international conference to be organised by Switzerland during its chairmanship. The two ministers also discussed the deepening of consular cooperation between Switzerland and Australia and possibilities for cooperation between the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and the Australian Government Overseas Aid Programme (AUSAid). Today's meeting also focused on regional cooperation between states in the Asia-Pacific region, which Switzerland supports with various projects, such as a project to train young diplomats from small island states in the South Pacific.

Financial issues were also a key topic of the meeting. Mr Burkhalter and Ms Bishop underscored the importance of the free market economy, the capacity for innovation, and a good vocational education and training system. Last year, Switzerland and Australia signed an agreement establishing a foundation for financial dialogue, as a result of which already two meetings have taken place. In this context, Mr Burkhalter also declared Switzerland's intention to continue to contribute to international dialogue on financial issues, for example within the framework of the G20.  Switzerland has already been involved in this year's Finance Track talks of the G20 countries.

For questions concerning the MoU on the cooperation in the field of research and innovation:

Mauro Moruzzi
Chief division International Relations
The State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation SERI
Tel  +41 31 322 68 36

Address for enquiries

FDFA Communication
Federal Palace West Wing
CH-3003 Bern, Switzerland
Tel.: +41 58 462 31 53
Twitter: @SwissMFA


Federal Department of Foreign Affairs

Last modification 03.10.2018

Top of page