"The crisis has shown how important open borders are"
For weeks, the Swiss border with neighbouring countries has been closed. Now, developments in the containment of COVID-19 have made it possible to reopen the borders. Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis is underscoring the importance of this step for border regions with meetings in Chiasso, Kreuzlingen and Geneva. From 16 to 26 June, he will be meeting with representatives of Italy, Austria, Liechtenstein, Germany and France. "The crisis has shown how important open borders are," he said.
Between 16 and 26 June 2020, Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis will be meeting with representatives of Switzerland's neighbouring countries. The cooperation on COVID-19 will also be important for the future. © FDFA
In the days following the opening of the borders, Mr Cassis is meeting with representatives of Switzerland's neighbouring countries. The meetings will take place in person for the first time since the lockdown. On Tuesday 16 June, the meeting between the Swiss foreign minister and his Italian counterpart Luigi Di Maio is taking place at the Chiasso-Brogeda border crossing. The next day, on 17 June, Mr Cassis will meet with the Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg, Liechtenstein's Foreign Minister Katrin Eggenberger and the Deputy Minister-President of Baden-Württemberg Thomas Strobl in Kreuzlingen. Finally, on 26 June, Mr Cassis will meet a representative of France in Geneva.
Solidarity and pragmatic cooperation during COVID-19
Despite the relaxing of measures in everyday life and the reopening of the borders, COVID-19 remains an important topic between Mr Cassis and his discussion partners. Close contact, solidarity, and pragmatic, shared decision-making facilitated cooperation between Switzerland and its neighbours at the peak of the COVID-19 crisis. Cooperation in the following areas was particularly successful:
- repatriation of citizens of Switzerland and neighbouring countries who had been stranded abroad
- free movement of frontier workers, especially health workers
- ensuring the flow of goods across borders
Switzerland's neighbouring countries are very important to its economy, culture and society. They are among Switzerland's biggest trading partners worldwide. Switzerland's trade volume with Baden-Württemberg amounts to CHF 35 billion per year, making this German state Switzerland's seventh most important trading partner worldwide. Trade with the Austrian border regions of Vorarlberg and Tyrol amounts to CHF 6 billion, more than the volume of trade with Brazil or Russia.
The reopening of borders to restore the free movement of persons is a key element in the transition to a new normality. However, the COVID-19 pandemic is not yet over. Close collaboration between neighbouring countries will remain important.
COVID experience as a basis for future negotiations
In addition to shared experiences in fighting COVID-19, the meetings will focus on European policy and international issues. Among other things, Ignazio Cassis will brief his discussion partners on current progress on the European dossier. He will stress that cooperation between Switzerland and the EU and its member states has been crucial in tackling the coronavirus crisis, and that the pragmatism that emerged in the joint management of the pandemic will prove useful in future discussions between Switzerland and the EU.