The continuation of the bilateral approach with the EU was a central theme of the meeting between Mr Burkhalter and Mr Timmermans. Mr Burhalter informed Mr Timmermans about the draft mandate for negotiations on institutional issues with the EU which the Federal Council sent out for consultation last week. The solution adopted by the Federal Council forgoes the creation of new supra-national institutions. It guarantees both the uniform application of current legislation and Switzerland's independence as a non-EU member state. The Dutch foreign minister expressed his openness to the Federal Council’s proposal.
In a letter of intent, the two foreign ministers also declared that they would explore the possibility of having diplomatic missions of both countries housed in the same buildings in a selected number of locations. This would make it possible to exploit synergies to maintain and operate diplomatic mission buildings and facilitate the joint use of support services. Luanda and Muscat, the capitals of Angola and Oman, are possible locations for such sharing of diplomatic premises.
Besides European policy, the meeting also focused on cooperation on consular matters. Mr Burkhalter and Mr Timmermans signed a memorandum of understanding establishing a basis for greater cooperation between the two countries on consular services and support for citizens of both countries abroad. Mr Burkhalter said that the memorandum combined the "best of both worlds" and built bridges – a reference to the Dutch ruling coalition, whose government programme combines proposals from all governing parties. Under the agreement concluded today, for example, both Swiss and Dutch embassies would be able to issue Schengen visas for the other country. Exchanges and joint consultations between the two states will also be strengthened.
Mr Burkhalter also spoke with Mr Timmermans about Switzerland's priorities as it assumes the chairmanship of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in 2014. Specifically, Switzerland is committed to promoting security and stability, improving living conditions and strengthening the OSCE's capacity to act. The two foreign ministers discussed possibilities for closer cooperation during Switzerland’s chairmanship.
Syria discussed with representatives of international institutions
The situation in Syria was one of the issues Mr Burkhalter discussed with Ahmed Üzümcü, the director general of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which he visited in the morning. Mr Burkhalter told Mr Üzümcü that if requested, Switzerland would be willing to make the analytical expertise of the Spiez Laboratory available to the UN mission that is investigating the alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria.
On Monday afternoon, Mr Burkhalter will also discuss the situation in Syria with Sang-Hyun Song, the president of the International Criminal Court (ICC). In January 2013 Switzerland submitted a letter supported by 57 states to the UN Security Council calling on it to refer the Syria dossier to the ICC. The numerous allegations of crimes against humanity and war crimes in Syria must be investigated, and those responsible on all sides of the conflict must be brought to justice. Switzerland is convinced that no sustainable peace is possible in Syria without consistent action against impunity. Switzerland considers the ICC to be the most appropriate institution to fight impunity in Syria because it is a fully functioning international court, it has the necessary expertise and its funding has been guaranteed.
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