Official visit to Bern by the President of Germany, Joachim Gauck

Bern. On 1 April 2014, the President of the Swiss Confederation, Mr Didier Burkhalter, welcomed the Federal President of Germany, Mr Joachim Gauck, for an official visit. Their talks, which were also attended by Federal Councillor Simonetta Sommaruga, focused on the varied and close relations between Switzerland and Germany. The meeting was also an opportunity for an exchange of views about direct democracy, Europe's international responsibility and the role of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which is chaired by Switzerland this year.

The German President, Mr Joachim Gauck, was received with military honours by the President of the Swiss Confederation, Mr Didier Burkhalter, at the Lohn Manor in Kehrsatz. The ensuing talks, which were attended by Federal Councillor and Head of the Federal Department of Justice and Police (FDJP), Ms Simonetta Sommaruga, provided an opportunity to give due recognition to the two countries' excellent and varied bilateral relations. Mr Burkhalter emphasised that Germany is not only Switzerland's most important trading partner by far, but also that very close linguistic, cultural and human ties exist between the two countries.

In this context, the Swiss and German partners also exchanged views on issues relating to migration and direct democracy. More than 285,000 German nationals are currently living in Switzerland, while more than 80,000 Swiss nationals are resident in Germany. Exchanges are particularly intensive in the border region – some 57,000 German cross-border commuters work on the Swiss side of the border. The Swiss and German partners also spoke about the implementation of the popular initiative aimed at stopping mass immigration which was adopted on 9 February 2014. Ms Sommaruga explained that efforts to implement the initiative are well under way. She underscored that the Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons and all other bilateral agreements between Switzerland and the EU will for the time being remain in force unchanged, at least until a new immigration system enters into force. The timetable for implementation under the new constitutional provisions is three years.

The talks also focused on the close cooperation in the area of research at the bilateral and multilateral levels. Germany and Switzerland are important partners in EU research programmes and projects such as the "Human Brain Project" led by the Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne. The European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Geneva also receives substantial support from Germany – for which Burkhalter expressed his appreciation on Switzerland's behalf.

Switzerland's policy on Europe was another topic of discussion. Mr Burkhalter stressed the Federal Council's determination to advance ongoing and future negotiations in various other EU-policy dossiers in their entirety and in a concerted manner, in order to obtain the fairest possible outcome for all partners. Mr Burkhalter also discussed with Mr Gauck Europe's international role and responsibility, in particular against the backdrop of the current crisis in Ukraine.

The two men also spoke about the role of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which Switzerland is chairing this year. Besides the overall priorities of the Swiss chairmanship, Mr Burkhalter also briefed Mr Gauck on the measures taken to respond to the crisis in Ukraine, in particular the launch of an observer mission.

Last modification 01.04.2014

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