Internal and regional stability, economic growth and the strengthening of the rule of law in the western Balkans, particularly in the Republic of Kosovo, are among the priorities of Switzerland's foreign policy in the region.
The presidents spoke about the latest political and economic developments in Kosovo. Ms Sommaruga expressed concern at the recent increase in asylum applications from citizens of Kosovo in a number of European countries. While Switzerland is only marginally affected, the increase is particularly unbeneficial for Kosovo as it needs its young, qualified citizens at home to help implement reforms and drive economic growth. Checks on irregular migration from Kosovo are of key importance to its continued closer relations with the EU. Switzerland will continue its commitment to the migration partnership with Kosovo. This regular exchange has made it possible to initiate valuable projects in the field of asylum and migration, such as the integration of minorities, said Sommaruga. In addition, cooperation has also been strengthened with regard to readmission of Kosovan nationals to their home country.
Strengthening police cooperation
President Sommaruga stressed the importance of the much increased level of police cooperation between the two countries. She informed President Atifete Jahjaga about the Swiss parliament's recent approval of a bilateral police treaty. The new instrument is intended to enable organised crime, human trafficking and terrorism to be tackled more efficiently through exchanges of information and personnel, as well as joint investigations. The two presidents also discussed ways of tackling the phenomenon of would-be jihad fighters.
Switzerland is home to one of the largest Kosovan diaspora populations. Around 170,000 people with Kosovan origins live in Switzerland today. Switzerland and Kosovo foster intensive relations. President Maurer visited the country in 2013 as did President Burkhalter and Federal Councillor Sommaruga in 2014.Switzerland is actively involved in Kosovo and supports the country in its transition to democracy and a social market economy as part of its development cooperation work, examples of which include strengthening local administration, improving medical services and connecting rural populations to the water supply. Since 1999 it has also provided a contingent of over 200 soldiers to participate in the KFOR peace support operation in Kosovo. Parliament has approved the extension of this deployment until the end of 2017.
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