Official visit by Luxembourg’s Prime Minister Xavier Bettel

Press Release, FDJP, 17.09.2014

Bern. President Didier Burkhalter welcomed Luxembourg’s prime minister to Neuchâtel on 17 September for an official working visit. Their talks focused on the countries’ bilateral relations, relations between Switzerland and the EU, immigration policy and Switzerland and Luxembourg’s co-presidency of the European Space Agency. In the afternoon Mr Bettel met Federal Councillors Simonetta Sommaruga and Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf in Bern to discuss issues relating to immigration and financial and fiscal policy.

Prime Minister Xavier Bettel was received in Neuchâtel by President Didier Burkhalter, the head of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs FDFA, with military honours. The talks that followed provided an opportunity to express appreciation of the excellent bilateral relations between Switzerland and Luxembourg. As a multilingual country with a strong financial centre and neighbouring country to Germany and France, Luxembourg not only has many similarities with Switzerland, but also takes a similar position on many issues.

Mr Burkhalter also spoke positively of the outstanding cooperation between the two countries under the co-presidency of the European Space Agency from 2012 to 2016. In this capacity, he and Mr Bettel visited the Neuchâtel-based company Spectratime, which specialises in the manufacture of nuclear timepieces and on GPS and navigation satellite systems, making precision clocks for Galileo, the European satellite navigation system.

Relations between Switzerland and the EU and immigration policy were also discussed. In Luxembourg, which is home to the new president of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker and which will assume the presidency of the European Council in the second half of 2015, foreign nationals make up over 45% of the resident population and about 161,000 commuters cross the country’s borders each day. In this, it faces similar challenges to Switzerland. Mr Burkhalter expressed his conviction that it is in the interests of all parties to find lasting solutions to the unresolved issues between Switzerland and the EU, thereby strengthening and renewing the bilateral path.

Cooperation between the two countries within the UN and Switzerland’s experiences of the chairmanship of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) also figured among the topics of discussion, as did international current affairs, especially developments in the situation in Ukraine. The two statesmen also talked about the measures taken by the OSCE to help defuse the crisis in Ukraine, in particular by the international contact group and the special monitoring mission. They also stressed the importance of the cease-fire as well as the need to pursue political dialogue and disarmament.

After the talks, which were also attended by Mauro dell’Ambrogio, the state secretary for education, research and innovation, Prime Minister Bettel travelled to Bern where he met Federal Councillor Simonetta Sommaruga, the head of the Federal Department of Justice and Police FDJP. Prime Minister Bettel and the justice minister discussed the implementation of the new constitutional provision introduced following the adoption of the popular initiative «Against mass immigration». The two exchanged views on the agreement on the free movement of persons between Switzerland and the EU and the outstanding questions. Talks also covered the refugee situation in the Mediterranean and the strengthening of the Schengen-Dublin system in light of this exceptional situation.

There then followed a visit with Federal Councillor Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf, the head of the Federal Department of Finance FDF. In addition to financial market relations between the two countries the meeting focussed on issues such as the automatic exchange of information and corporate taxation.

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