Federal Councillor Didier Burkhalter held political talks in Stockholm today with representatives of the Swedish government. He spoke to Minister for Foreign Affairs Margot Wallström about the current refugee situation and possible responses to the problem. They both agreed that their two countries must show solidarity and work together to deal with the refugee crisis. The root causes of this migration must also be addressed, they said, for example through humanitarian aid on the ground. Ms Wallström agreed with Mr Burkhalter that increased financial support must be provided by a number of states to humanitarian organisations on the ground without delay and that this could send out a strong signal.
Another topic of discussion was Switzerland's policy regarding the EU. Mr Burkhalter and Ms Wallström spoke about the importance of Switzerland’s bilateral approach to the EU, its partnership with the EU and the current challenges. With regard to implementing the new article of the Swiss Federal Constitution on immigration, the two sides discussed the progress made in consultations with the European Commission. Ms Wallström underlined that pragmatic considerations must also be possible, based on the principle of the free movement of persons. Federal Councillor Burkhalter, meanwhile, stressed that it is also important to move forward with the institutional issues and other pending dossiers in addition to the consultations on the free movement of persons.
Other topics on the agenda were the situation in Ukraine, restoring security in Europe, measures to curb violent extremism – for example through support for the newly founded Global Community Engagement and Resilience Fund (GCERF) – and also strengthening women’s rights, in particular with regard to combating sexual violence in conflicts.
The Swedish Minister for International Development Cooperation Isabela Lövin engaged in talks with Mr Burkhalter on subjects including how development cooperation can help to reduce violence, instability and extremism. She also discussed the scope for increased cooperation between Switzerland and Sweden on international development. The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and the Swedish development agency SIDA are working together on, among other things, promoting equal opportunities and supporting the process for encouraging cross-border dialogue between the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burundi and Rwanda. Both states are involved in the international debate on commitments in fragile regions alongside their specific projects and programmes. The focus here is on long-term results, peacebuilding and state-building that includes all interest groups. This sustainable approach should also be applied to the issue of migration and to the prevention of violent extremism. Mr Burkhalter also made it clear that political dialogue is crucial to improving the situation in fragile states.
Close bilateral relations
Exactly 100 years after diplomatic ties between Switzerland and Sweden began, there are many aspects to relations between the two countries. They are now working together in a wide range of fields such as peacekeeping and security policy, research and innovation. The volume of bilateral trade in 2014 was approximately CHF 3.1 billion, making Sweden the biggest Nordic trading partner for Switzerland.
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