Mr Burkhalter informed Mr Samuelsen that relations between the EU and Switzerland had entered a new phase this spring with the resumption of discussions on a wide range of dossiers. He pointed out that the volume of trade between Switzerland and the EU amounts to approximately one billion francs per working day, which is half of the EU’s trade with China and twice that with Turkey. In this context, the Swiss government is preparing a medium-term strategy to consolidate a trend that is in both parties’ interests.
At the same time, Switzerland has begun exploratory discussions with the United Kingdom to prepare the ground for relations with the UK post-Brexit. Mr Burkhalter stressed the shared interest of legal certainty in enabling the UK to enter into formal negotiations with third countries at an early stage. This necessitates an agreement between the UK and the EU on this matter within the framework of the Brexit negotiations.
The two ministers also discussed cooperation within the Council of Europe, where Denmark will chair the Committee of Ministers from November 2017 to May 2018.
Mr Burkhalter explained the high importance that Switzerland attaches to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). It is within this forum for dialogue and joint action that Switzerland makes its contribution to security in Europe. After its 2014 Chairmanship, Switzerland remained closely involved in the OSCE’s activities, especially within the context of the instruments deployed for dealing with the crises in Ukraine and the South Caucasus. The candidature of Swiss ambassador Thomas Greminger for the office of OSCE secretary general is to be seen as part of Switzerland’s commitment.
The two countries also cooperate actively at the multilateral level, in particular in the fields of conflict prevention, promoting democracy and human rights, climate protection and development aid. They frequently represent similar policies within international organisations, such as the UN and OSCE. The two ministers discussed possible developments in their cooperation in relation to the GenevaSecurity Centres, the new master’s programme in mediation at the ETH Zurich, internet governance and the Swiss initiative on the management of munitions. Another item of discussion was Switzerland’s candidature as an observer to the Arctic Council, which is expected to be dealt with at the organisation’s ministerial meeting in the coming days.
Within the context of their international cooperation, Mr Burkhalter stressed the importance of solidarity with populations threatened by famine. He thanked Denmark for its active participation in the conference on Yemen of 25 April 2017 in Geneva, at which, according to the most recent figures, some USD 1.2 billion were pledged for humanitarian aid for the people of Yemen. The two ministers reaffirmed their shared wish to contribute to the efforts to address the Syrian crisis, by cooperating in particular on support for the new UN investigation mechanism set up in Geneva, and on support for civil society in the field of transitional justice.
Switzerland and Denmark also work together in Africa in the area of consular affairs, in particular thanks to the co-location of diplomatic missions in Nigeria, where the Swiss consulate general is housed in the premises of the Danish consulate general in Lagos and the Danish embassy is located in the Swiss embassy building in Abuja. The term ‘co-location’ refers to the diplomatic and/or consular missions of several countries being housed in the same building. Although Switzerland and Denmark share premises, Switzerland continues to safeguard its political and economic interests autonomously and independently. The co-location of diplomatic missions is one of the factors that enable the FDFA to maintain a wide external network with the currently available financial and human resources.
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