Bern, 19.01.2023 – The security situation in Europe and Switzerland’s commitment to the UN Security Council: these were the two topics that largely dominated President Alain Berset’s agenda in Davos. Mr Berset held lengthy bilateral talks with more than a dozen heads of state and government on the sidelines of the WEF Annual Meeting.
From Europe, President Berset met with heads of state and government whose countries border Russia or Ukraine. These included Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin, Polish President Andrzej Duda, the heads of state of Lithuania and Latvia, Gitanas Nauseda and Egils Levits, as well as the president of Moldova, Maia Sandu, and Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili.
During these talks, Mr Berset emphasised Switzerland’s solidarity with the population affected by the war, as he did in his opening speech on Tuesday,17 January. He also expressed these sentiments personally in a conversation with the First Lady of Ukraine, Olena Zelenska. In addition, he emphasised that Russia’s aggression was not only causing great suffering, but was also a brutal attack on international law. In his speech, President Berset said that the increasing fragility of international norms threatens all states: “Self-interest and supporting those weaker than ourselves. We have long considered these to be two different things. Now we know that they are one and the same.”
At a meeting with UN Secretary-General António Guterres, President Berset and Vice President of the Federal Council Viola Amherd discussed the future of multilateralism. They also discussed the defence of international law and the Geneva Conventions, as well as Switzerland’s role in the UN Security Council in 2023/2024. Another central topic was the global challenge posed by the climate crisis.
As Ecuador is a member of the Security Council during the same period as Switzerland, the Council’s work was also an important topic at the meeting with President Guillermo Lasso. Together with his Ecuadorian counterpart, President Berset also took part in an event focusing on cooperation in the fight against plastic waste.
In addition to bilateral issues such as economic cooperation, the global search for peace and sustainable development were also focal points in meetings with the presidents of Colombia, Gustavo Petro, Costa Rica, Rodrigo Chaves Robles, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, Félix Tshisekedi, as well as Tanzanian President Samia Suluhu Hassan. President Berset also held bilateral talks with Tunisian Prime Minister Najla Bouden and took part in a panel discussion with her entitled ‘Realising Africa’s Century’, which was devoted to the future opportunities of the African continent.
European policy also on the agenda
In addition to the security situation in Europe and bilateral issues, Switzerland’s policy on Europe was also on the agenda in talks with representatives of EU member states such as German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, and the prime ministers of Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg, Alexander De Croo, Mark Rutte and Xavier Bettel. On the fringes of the opening of the Annual Meeting, Mr Berset also met with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. During the talks, he emphasised the values shared by Switzerland and the EU and the common commitment to a wide range of issues that affect the continent as a whole.
A further topic was the matter of Switzerland’s association to the EU’s Horizon Europe and Erasmus+ programmes. With the aim of consolidating and expanding the good, stable and mutually beneficial relations between Switzerland and the EU, the Federal Council last year proposed drawing up a broad package-based approach. This concrete proposal demonstrates Switzerland’s clear commitment to continuing the good relations with the EU, said President Berset at the talks in Davos.