Greek president Karolos Papoulias in Bern on official visit
Bern, 02.05.2014 - On Switzerland's invitation, the president of the Hellenic Republic visited the country on 2 May for the first time since diplomatic relations between Switzerland and Greece began 119 years ago. President of the Swiss Confederation, Mr Didier Burkhalter, and President Karolos Papoulias primarily discussed bilateral relations between the two countries and topics concerning European policy. Greece has held the rotating presidency of the Council of the European Union since the beginning of the year which will last until the end of June. Against this backdrop, Mr Burkhalter talked about the Federal Council's intended next steps regarding relations between Switzerland and the EU. The vice-president of the Federal Council, Simonetta Sommaruga (FDJP), the Greek deputy foreign minister, Dimitris Kourkoulas, and the Greek minister of tourism, Olga Kefalogianni, also took part in the meeting.
President Papoulias was received with military honours by the Swiss president and head of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA), Didier Burkhalter, at the Lohn Manor in Kehrsatz. The ensuing talks – which were attended by Federal Councillor Simonetta Sommaruga, head of the Federal Department of Justice and Police (FDJP) – provided an opportunity to give due recognition to the two countries' friendly and long-standing bilateral relations. Both delegations discussed possibilities for strengthening ties between the two countries in the field of education and research, including the 50th anniversary of the excavations in Eretria carried out by the Swiss School of Archaeology in Greece.
Switzerland's policy on Europe was also discussed. Mr Burkhalter referred to current discussions in the Federal Council regarding the ongoing development of bilateral relations between Switzerland and the EU. During the meeting with President Papoulias, he talked about the Federal Council decision of 30 April 2014 on how to solve the issue of quotas to allow Croatian citizens access to the job market in Switzerland. President Burkhalter also underlined that Switzerland advances all its various EU-policy dossiers in their entirety and in a concerted manner, in order to obtain the best possible outcome for all the parties involved. Greece has held the six-month rotating presidency of the Council of the European Union since the beginning of the year.
Other issues including the financial crisis, and cooperation on migration issues and energy policy – such as the natural gas pipeline project, the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) in Greece, were also discussed. Mr Burkhalter and Mr Papoulias further conferred on Switzerland's engagement in the Western Balkans and Europe's international role and responsibility, in particular against the backdrop of the current crisis in Ukraine. The role of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), which Switzerland is chairing this year, was another point of discussion. Besides the overall priorities of the Swiss Chairmanship, Mr Burkhalter also briefed Mr Papoulias on the measures taken to respond to the crisis in Ukraine, in particular the launch of a special monitoring mission.
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