Speaking out for tolerance and dialogue: President Burkhalter to travel to Berlin, Brussels and Ypres

Bern, Press release, 11.11.2014

On 13 November 2014, the President of the Swiss Confederation, Didier Burkhalter, will take part in the Conference on Anti-Semitism of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), where he will address the conference in his capacity as OSCE Chairperson-in-Office. On 14 November he will then travel to Belgium where he will meet the King of the Belgians, Philippe, the Belgian prime minister, Charles Michel, and the foreign minister, Didier Reynders, in Brussels. The afternoon will be dedicated to the memory of the victims of the First World War: In Ypres, President Burkhalter will attend a memorial event where he will meet the three Swiss school classes that won first prize in the competition on the subject of the First World War that he launched in March.

The discussions on topics of recent history are the focal point of Mr Burkhalter's visit to Berlin, Brussels and Ypres: On 13 November 2014, President Burkhalter, as Chairperson-in-Office of the OSCE, will take part in the Conference on Anti-Semitism in Berlin. He will make a speech at the opening of the event, which has been organised by the Swiss OSCE Chairmanship, the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) and Germany.

The Conference on Anti-Semitism dates back to the Berlin Declaration of 29 April 2004, in which the OSCE participating States unequivocally condemned anti-Semitic statements and acts of violence. On that occasion they also agreed to take measures to be able to combat anti-Semitism more vigorously. Ten years after the Berlin Declaration, the Conference on Anti-Semitism is intended to discuss subsequent developments and take a political stand both against anti-Semitism and for tolerance and dialogue.

President Burkhalter will travel to Berlin on Wednesday 12 November 2014 to hold consultations on OSCE issues with the Serbian foreign minister, Ivica Dacic, and the German foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier on Wednesday evening. Serbia will take over the OSCE Chairmanship from Switzerland at the beginning of 2015.

Talks in Brussels – memorial event in Ypres

From Berlin President Burkhalter will travel on to Belgium. On Friday morning he will be received in Brussels by the King of the Belgians, Philippe, and will later hold political talks with the Belgian prime minister, Charles Michel, and foreign minister, Didier Reynders. Issues to be discussed at these meetings will include the situation in Ukraine and the measures taken by the OSCE to de-escalate the conflict, as well as the OSCE Ministerial Council at the beginning of the December 2014 in Basel, Swiss policy on the EU, and Swiss-Belgian bilateral relations, in particular in the scientific field.

In the afternoon of the 14 November, Mr Burkhalter will meet the three school classes in Ypres that won a trip to western Flanders in the competition launched by him in March 2014 on the subject of the First World War (see the FDFA press release of 8 November 2014). Approximately half a million lives were lost in the battles near Ypres during the First World War. Following a visit to a trench dug during the war, a reception hosted by the mayor of Ypres for the President of the Confederation and the school classes, and a visit to a museum, in the evening of 14 November, Mr Burkhalter will attend the "Last Post" memorial event in the presence of the minister-president of Flanders to commemorate the victims of the First World War and the suffering it caused.

Further information:

FDFA web dossier on the OSCE
Relations between Switzerland and Belgium
Swiss Chairmanship of the OSCE on Twitter

Address for enquiries:

Information FDFA
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CH-3003 Bern
Tel.: +41 58 462 31 53
Fax: +41 58 464 90 47
E-Mail: info@eda.admin.ch


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