Official visit by German Chancellor Angela Merkel to Bern
Bern, 03.09.2015 - Policy on Europe, bilateral issues on energy and transport, the economic and social situation in Europe, and the crises in Europe’s southern and eastern regions were the focus of the official visit by the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, to Bern. The Swiss government was represented at the official talks by President Simonetta Sommaruga, the Vice President of the Federal Council, Johann N. Schneider-Ammann, Federal Councillor Doris Leuthard and Federal Councillor Didier Burkhalter.
Chancellor Merkel was received on Münsterplatz in Bern with military honours on Thursday, after which talks were held at the Bernerhof. President Sommaruga emphasised that relations between Switzerland and Germany, which have been good and friendly for many years, have become even closer in recent years. Some 200 treaties link the two states. In addition, there are currently around 300,000 German citizens living in Switzerland; the number of Swiss citizens living in Germany had also risen to around 85,000 as at the end of last year.
"The fact that Switzerland and Germany are closely intertwined politically, economically and culturally is valuable for both countries," declared President Sommaruga. Since the popular vote on 9 February 2014, the Federal Council has been pursuing the aim of controlling immigration autonomously while maintaining and strengthening its bilateral relations with the European Union. In this context, the Federal Council delegation informed the German Chancellor about the status of the consultations it is conducting with the European Commission. "The EU respects our decisions," stressed President Sommaruga, "but it must be understood that if we want to stay on the bilateral path, it needs to be renewed and strengthened."
The official talks then focused on the European policies of both countries. The Swiss delegation underlined the importance of making progress not only in the consultations on the free movement of persons, but also on institutional questions, since the latter form the basis for the future of the bilateral agreements.
The delegations also discussed current challenges in migration, in particular the large increase in the number of asylum applications throughout Europe. Both sides affirmed the aim of a collective European refugee policy in accordance with the principles of solidarity and shared responsibility, as set out in the European Agenda on Migration.
Both countries expressed their appreciation of the close cooperation between Switzerland and Germany on the search for solutions to the Ukraine crisis. The Swiss side stressed that Switzerland would continue to support the mediation efforts of the OSCE.
Discussion on climate, energy and transport policy issues
A number of questions were raised regarding climate, energy and transport policy. The Swiss delegation reiterated the importance of strong networks in the electricity sector and the corresponding agreement with the European Union. The agreement between Switzerland and Germany on Zurich Airport and the issue of aircraft noise were also discussed. The German Chancellor was invited to attend the official opening of the Gotthard Base Tunnel in June next year. In this context the Swiss delegation underlined the importance of expanding capacity on the German feeder lines on the North-South axis.In the discussion on the international economic and financial situation, the possibility of Switzerland's continued participation in the Finance Track of the Group of 20 largest industrial countries was raised. Germany takes over the G20 presidency in 2017.
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