Europe and good offices at heart of Swiss foreign policy in 2021
Bern, 02.02.2022 - The Federal Council approved the Foreign Policy Report 2021 at its meeting on 2 February 2022. Switzerland's foreign policy was marked last year by the termination of negotiations on the institutional agreement with the European Union and the growing importance of good offices. Meanwhile, the COVID-19 pandemic and its consequences continued to shape foreign policy.
Switzerland's policy towards the European Union was marked in 2021 by the decision to discontinue the negotiations on the institutional agreement with the EU. The Federal Council nevertheless underlined its determination to pursue the bilateral path. It implemented a series of measures to stabilise relations with the EU and took mitigating steps to address a number of matters. Nevertheless, breaking deadlocks that hamper progress on these dossiers has been a major challenge for the Federal Council.
While geopolitical tensions became more pronounced in 2021, the major powers also expressed their willingness to address their differences through dialogue. Switzerland's good offices and role as a neutral host state took on greater importance. This was underlined by the choice of Geneva to host the summit between US President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin in June, as well as the discussions between US and Chinese representatives in Zurich in October. In the face of growing tensions over security issues in Europe, Switzerland continues its efforts to promote an inclusive dialogue on European security and find solutions to conflicts.
COVID-19 remains front and centre
The pandemic remained a major concern of Swiss foreign policy in 2021. In order to support third countries in their fight against the pandemic and to respond to changing needs, Switzerland continuously realigned its development programmes and contributed to the mechanism to give developing countries speedier access to tools to combat COVID-19. As part of its humanitarian aid, Switzerland sent respirators, testing kits and protective equipment to several countries.
The health crisis also slowed down diplomatic work. For example, the Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons could not be held last year.
The FDFA's Crisis Management Centre was kept very busy in 2021, and not only because of the pandemic. The situation in Afghanistan necessitated the evacuation of 385 people with links to Switzerland and the temporary closure of the Swiss cooperation office in Kabul.
Innovation and science diplomacy
In line with the Digital Foreign Policy Strategy 2021–24, science diplomacy was one of Switzerland's priorities in 2021. The first Geneva Science and Diplomacy Anticipator (GESDA) summit took place in October. This foundation was established in 2019 at the initiative of the Federal Council and the State Council of the Canton of Geneva in order to enable better adaptation to the rapid pace of scientific and technological advances. A special representative for science diplomacy was appointed during the year under review in order to strengthen Switzerland's action in the field of science diplomacy.
Coherent foreign policy
Overall, good progress was made in implementing the foreign policy strategy 2020-2023. Switzerland's foreign policy was further strengthened with the adoption of new geographical follow-up strategies (China and Sub-Saharan Africa). Furthermore, as part of its cascading foreign policy strategies, the FDFA issued the Human Rights Guidelines 2021–24.
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