Peace, security and immigration: Switzerland and Germany's foreign ministers meet in Berlin

Bern, 06.04.2016 - Federal Councillor Didier Burkhalter, the head of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA), met with Germany's foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier in Berlin today for official talks. They discussed the situation in Europe and Switzerland's policy towards the EU, security issues, policy measures to support peace and bilateral topics. It was decided that the FDFA and the German Federal Foreign Office would cooperate more closely in future to train mediators.

Today's talks in Berlin covered Switzerland's EU policy and the current state of play in the implementation of the new constitutional article on immigration. Mr Burkhalter had also discussed these issues the day before in Stockholm with Swedish foreign minister, Margot Wallström. During his discussions with Mr Steinmeier, the head of the FDFA stressed that Switzerland wanted to reach a mutually agreed solution with the EU by this summer. The two ministers also talked about developments in other Swiss-EU dossiers, in particular the negotiations for an institutional agreement.

Mr Steinmeier, who is the chairperson-in-office of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) in 2016, went on to discuss European security with Mr Burkhalter. Switzerland is continuing to work comprehensively for a political solution to the crisis in Ukraine. The situation in Syria and the Middle East was also a topic of discussion. The two foreign ministers then turned their attention to recent developments in the South Caucasus, expressing their concern over the outbreak of violence in Nagorno-Karabakh and discussing possibilities for calming the situation. Mr Burkhalter expressed his hope that the reported ceasefire agreement between Azerbaijan and Armenia would be a first step in de-escalating the conflict. Swiss Ambassador Günther Bächler is the German OSCE chairmanship's special representative for the South Caucasus. The most recent meeting between the presidents of Azerbaijan and Armenian took place last December in Switzerland. Furthermore, the ministers talked about the OSCE's role in dealing with the migration crisis. Switzerland is currently leading an informal working group within the OSCE on this subject.

Security and peace policy as part of the bilateral cooperation between Switzerland and Germany were also discussed. The two countries will work closer together to train future mediators, for example by jointly developing and organising mediation training and courses.
 
Another bilateral topic of interest was the upcoming opening of the Gotthard base tunnel in early June. This is of great importance for both Switzerland and Europe, and is expected to increase capacity to transport people and goods between the North Sea and the Mediterranean.


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