Switzerland's enlargement contribution of CHF 1,257 billion goes to the following countries: Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Cyprus. This contribution helps to reduce economic and social disparities within the EU. It strengthens our relations with the EU as a whole and in particular with the 12 most recent member states.
In his opening speech, Federal Councillor Didier Burkhalter said how impressed he was by the successful transformations in these countries but he also expressed his concern about the current crisis in Europe. He stressed the importance of Switzerland's commitment for the deepening of bilateral relations with these EU states and for the strengthening of values such as democracy, human rights and protection of the environment. He pointed out that the enlargement contribution worked directly and autonomously and promoted specific projects for the benefit of the communities concerned.
He said that peace, security and prosperity in Europe could not be taken for granted and that work constantly needed to be done to achieve these objectives. This was also in Switzerland's interest, which was why Switzerland was committed to making the enlargement contribution as a gesture of solidarity. He also referred to the possible renewal of the enlargement contribution, saying that this would be considered in due course. The next steps would be decided in light of the overall relations between Switzerland and the EU. The foreign minister of the Czech Republic Karel Schwarzenberg and the Latvian finance minister Andris Vilks expressed their appreciation of Switzerland's support and underlined the importance of the Swiss enlargement contribution for their respective countries.
In two parallel events, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) presented films showing the results of their activities in five partner states. The films showed how the projects are implemented, the impact that they have and the groups and communities that they benefit.
In the plenary discussion at the end of the annual conference, the opportunities and challenges of bilateral cooperation were discussed and questions from the audience were answered. Projects from all 12 partner states were presented at seven information stands.
In his concluding remarks, SDC head Martin Dahinden described the enlargement contribution as an investment, referring to the partnerships that had been created in Switzerland and the partner states as a result. He expressed his satisfaction with the implementation of the enlargement contribution to date, stressing that the living standards of people in East Europe could not be a matter of indifference to Switzerland because: "Your future is also our future."
Foreign minister Schwarzenberg and finance minister Vilks also held bilateral talks during their visit to Bern. The Czech foreign minister held official working talks with FDFA head Didier Burkhalter (see separate media release) and the Latvian finance minister held talks with Michael Ambühl, head of the State Secretariat for International Financial Matters.
Address for inquiries:
Information FDFA: George Farago, 079 301 70 35
Information SECO: Nicole Müller, 031 324 09 10
Address for enquiries:
Tel.: +41 58 462 31 53
Fax: +41 58 464 90 47