Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis in Vilnius for Ukraine Reform Conference and bilateral talks

Bern, 08.07.2021 - Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis attended the Ukraine Reform Conference 2021 (URC) in Vilnius from 6 to 8 July. At the end of this year's conference, Switzerland officially assumed the chair of the URC2022 in Lugano. During the conference, Mr Cassis met Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal and Minister of Foreign Affairs Dmytro Kuleba. To mark two anniversaries in Swiss–Lithuanian relations, the head of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs also met with the Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis in Vilnius.

The Ukraine Reform Conference aims to support the reform process in Ukraine and formulate recommendations for action. It is held every year in a different host country. The conference in Vilnius – which had been postponed for a year owing to the global public health situation – looked to the future in the wake of what has been a difficult year because of the pandemic. The hybrid-format conference brought together representatives from government, international partners, central and regional authorities, civil society, and business and academia in support of the reform efforts in Ukraine.

At this year's conference, Mr Cassis gained an overview of the complex issue of reform in Ukraine and established key contacts for next year's conference in Lugano. He concluded the two-day conference with a joint statement alongside this year's co-organisers Lithuania and Ukraine, and accepted the URC2022 chair on behalf of Switzerland.

Talking with various URC partners, Mr Cassis outlined Switzerland's priorities for the URC2022 in Lugano. Switzerland will strive in particular for a positive, stakeholder-inclusive approach that encourages ownership of the reform efforts still under way. This jointly-devised concept was discussed in further detail with President Zelenskyy, Prime Minister Shmyhal and Minister of Foreign Affairs Kuleba and will be finalised in the coming months. Other topics included upcoming bilateral meetings and the situation in eastern Ukraine.

On the margins of the conference, Federal Councillor Cassis met Canadian Foreign Minister Marc Garneau for the first time. Their discussion focused on current global political developments. Cassis also met with the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Marija Pejčinović Burić. With Polish Minister of Foreign Affairs Zbigniew Rau and the Greek Alternate Minister of Foreign Affairs Miltiadis Varvitsiotis, he discussed Switzerland's European policy.

Double anniversary cause to celebrate good Swiss–Lithuanian relations
The Swiss foreign minister also met with his Lithuanian counterpart Gabrielius Landsbergis in Vilnius to celebrate a double anniversary marking 100 years since Switzerland officially recognised Lithuania and 30 years since bilateral relations were re-established in 1991. On this occasion, Cassis praised the two countries' good bilateral relations, emphasising that Switzerland is a reliable partner for the EU and its member states even in the absence of an institutional framework agreement. The two ministers discussed Lithuania's experiences as host of the 2021 Ukraine Reform Conference, and spoke about the COVID–19 pandemic and its impact.

As part of the double anniversary programme, Cassis and two members of the National Council who joined him on this trip to the Baltic States, Corina Gredig and Lilian Studer, visited the Votes and Voices exhibition at the Museum of Applied Arts and Design in Vilnius. This exhibition showcases campaign posters from Swiss popular votes and explains how direct democracy works in Switzerland. The two-day Ukraine reform conference in Vilnius concluded Cassis' five-day trip to the three Baltic states.


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