On Wednesday morning President Hollande was received with military honours on the Münsterplatz in Bern by the entire Federal Council. Following the welcome addresses given by President Sommaruga and the French president, official talks were held in the Bernerhof. "This state visit could mark the opening of a new phase in Franco-Swiss relations - a phase which should be characterised by trust, friendship and cordiality", explained President Sommaruga. Good Franco-Swiss relations also have an influence on Switzerland's cooperation with the whole of the European Union.
Relations between Switzerland and the EU figured among the main topics during the official talks. The delegations also discussed European migration policy and international security. Exchanges on economic issues also featured high on the agenda covering aspects such as successful economic cooperation, education and training, and research. Sustainable development and climate protection are key concerns for both countries. Both sides recognised the central importance of the UN climate conference in Paris 2015, where a new international climate protection agreement is to be adopted.
High-ranking government delegation
The official talks were attended on the French side by President Hollande and five members of government, and on the Swiss side by President Sommaruga and four further members of the Federal Council: Johann N. Schneider-Ammann, Doris Leuthard, Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf and Didier Burkhalter. They met their counterparts Ségolène Royal, Minister of Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy, Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, Minister of National Education, Higher Education and Research, François Rebsamen, Minister of Labour, Employment, Vocational Training and Social Dialogue, and two state secretaries.
During the discussions Federal Councillor Johann N. Schneider-Ammann, Vice President of the Federal Council and head of the Federal Department of Economic Affairs, Education and Research (EAER) spoke about the Swiss labour market. Bilateral relations in research and education were also addressed. France is one of the most important partner countries for Swiss researchers.
Federal Councillor Doris Leuthard, the head of the Federal Department of the Environment, Transport, Energy and Communication (DETEC), stressed the importance of the UN Climate Conference, which will take place in Paris in December under France's presidency. Federal Councillor Leuthard offered President Hollande Switzerland's support in preparing for the conference. The conclusion of an energy agreement with the EU was also addressed. The agreement would not only be in Switzerland's interests, but would also strengthen security of supply for the EU and France.
Federal Councillor Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf, the head of the Federal Department of Finance (FDF), stressed in her talks with President Hollande that significant progress had been made in recent months in resolving differences on taxation. Administrative assistance is working well; progress is also being made on regularising the past and measures are being prepared for the automatic exchange of information in accordance with global standards. Talks on mutual market access are under way and will be continued; consideration should be given not only to European regulation, but also to the particularly close relations between the two countries. Switzerland expects that Swiss banks should be treated fairly and given equal treatment in French judicial proceedings. In this regard, emphasis was placed on the importance of respecting in full regular procedures in mutual assistance on tax matters.
Federal Councillor Didier Burkhalter, the head of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA), stressed the importance of good bilateral relations in a wide range of fields. He also emphasised the importance of Basel-Mulhouse airport for both countries, as well for its staff and the businesses located there. Mutual interest and understanding for one another are important so that Switzerland and France can also achieve common goals at international level. The Swiss and French delegations also addressed the situation in Ukraine and the need to apply the Minsk accords and support the OSCE observer mission and trilateral contact group.
Second day in Zurich and Lausanne
The first day of a state visit is traditionally rounded off with a gala dinner hosted by the Federal Council in Bern. On Thursday President Sommaruga and President Hollande will travel with their delegations to the Zurich region and the canton of Vaud. The programme includes visits to educational institutions and businesses that contribute to the intensive exchanges between Switzerland and France, characterised by research, innovativeness and sustainability. Particular attention will be given to Switzerland's dual-track system of vocational education and training. Another topic will be the interaction between cultural creativity, research and technology.
Address for enquiries:
André Simonazzi, Federal Council Spokesman, tel. +41 79 597 64 49
FDJP Information, tel. +41 58 462 18 18
FDFA Information, tel. +41 58 462 31 53
DETEC Information, tel. +41 58 462 55 11
FDF Information, tel. +41 58 462 63 01
EAER Information, tel. +41 58 462 20 07