Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis discusses multilateral cooperation and security in Europe with Slovak Minister of Foreign and European Affairs Miroslav Lajčák
Bern, 16.05.2019 - Mr Cassis, who is the head of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA), has met Mr Lajčák in Bratislava during a working visit to Slovakia. Both foreign ministers highlighted the positive development of their countries bilateral ties and discussed the institutional agreement between Switzerland and the European Union (EU). Talks concerning multilateral cooperation focused on security in Europe and the work of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). Mr Lajčák is the current Chairperson-in-Office of the OSCE. Slovakia also currently holds the presidency of the Visegrad Group (Slovakia, Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland) and will soon assume the chairmanship of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
At their meeting, Mr Cassis and Mr Lajčák discussed, among other things, the situation in Ukraine. A key priority of Slovakia's 2019 OSCE Chairmanship is to support measures aimed at confidence-building and de-escalating the conflict. Switzerland supports these efforts towards a peaceful resolution of the conflict and has, for example, deployed seven experts to assist the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine. Between January and April 2019, Switzerland also chaired the OSCE Forum for Security Co-operation which, as part of its remit, provides assistance to address the proliferation of illicit small arms. The two ministers agreed that the OSCE requires an ongoing reform process so that it can organise its work more effectively in line with its increasingly important role. Mr Lajčák paid tribute to Switzerland's support in this regard, particularly the work of Swiss diplomat Thomas Greminger, who is the secretary general of the OSCE.
Swiss-EU relations were another key topic on the agenda. Mr Lajčák reaffirmed the EU's expectations regarding the institutional agreement and enquired about the current status of Switzerland's contribution to the enlarged EU. Mr Cassis explained the extensive consultation process on the institutional agreement, flagged the EU's discriminatory handling of stock exchange equivalence and informed Mr Lajčák of the current status of Parliament's debate on a second enlargement contribution. Between 2007 and 2017, Switzerland completed 21 projects in Slovakia totalling CHF 67 million as part of its first contribution to the enlarged EU.
Mr Cassis also recalled that 2019 marked the 100th anniversary of multilateralism (as the League of Nations was founded in 1919 in Geneva), stressing the importance of multilateralism for smaller states in particular. Both ministers emphasised that strong multilateral work must increasingly focus on core tasks. On top of traditional areas such as conflict prevention, new challenges concerning digital technologies, for example, are emerging. "We have to reinvent multilateralism in certain areas so that it can do its job in the 21st century."
Mr Cassis and Mr Lajčák also discussed the work of the UN Security Council and the reforms of the UN aimed at strengthening the UN's capacity to act.
The two foreign ministers met today as part of a series of exchanges between government representatives, officials and parliamentarians from both countries. The volume of trade between Switzerland and Slovakia has tripled since 2000, hitting CHF 1.7 billion in 2018. Some 70 Swiss companies currently operate in Slovakia. While acknowledging the good economic relations between the two countries, Mr Cassis also sees untapped potential, referring to the need to update the bilateral investment promotion and protection agreement.
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