During the official ceremony, the partner countries were all represented by a delegation of ministerial rank, headed by: Mr Ivari Padar, Minister of Finance of the Republic of Estonia; Mr Oskars Spurdzins, Minister of Finance of the Republic of Latvia; Mr Rimantas Sadzius, Minister of Finance of the Republic of Lithuania; Mr Michael Frendo, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Malta; Mrs Elzbieta Bienkowska, Minister of Regional Development of the Republic of Poland; Mr Dusan Caplovic, Deputy Prime Minister of the Republic of Slovakia; Mr Janez Lenarcic, Secretary of State and Head of the Government Office of European Affairs of the Republic of Slovenia; Mrs Helena Bambasova, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic; Mr Gordon Bajnai, Minister of Local Government and of Territorial Development of the Republic of Hungary; Mr Andreas Moleskis, Permanent Secretary of the Planning Office and of the Council of Ministers of the Republic of Cyprus.
The legal basis for the enlargement contribution is the federal act on cooperation with the states of Eastern Europe, which was approved in a popular vote on 26 November 2006. It expresses Switzerland's wish to participate in the reduction of economic and social disparities in the enlarged European Union. Before implementing the programmes on the ground, it was necessary to negotiate bilateral framework agreements with all the partner countries that joined the EU on 1 May 2004. The Federal Council approved the agreements on 21 November and 7 December 2007. These agreements define the principles of cooperation as well as setting out areas of action and procedures.
Switzerland will be active where disparities are particularly great and where it can offer know-how and a competitive range of equipment. The main areas concerned are those of security, the environment and infrastructure, promotion of the private sector, health and training. Priority areas will vary from one country to the next. The Swiss contribution aims to benefit above all peripheral regions with weak infrastructure.
From the beginning of 2008, project applications may be made to the national coordination units (NCU) in the partner countries. In order to inform the public, private companies and non-governmental organisations, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) will organise information sessions in several Swiss towns – on 24 January 2008 in Zurich, on 31 January in Lausanne and on 7 February in Lugano. Further information sessions are planned in the partner countries in spring 2008.