On Thursday, May 19, 2022, President Zuzana Čaputová became the first head of state of the Slovak Republic to pay a State Visit to Switzerland. The Swiss government, headed by President Ignazio Cassis, welcomed the Slovak president at the start of the visit on Bundesplatz in Bern. Besides bilateral relations, official talks focused in particular on the war in Ukraine. Other topics on the agenda included European policy and climate and environmental issues.
Federal Councillor Karin Keller-Sutter, head of the Federal Department of Justice and Police (FDJP), also took part on behalf of Switzerland in the official talks at the Bernerhof. The Slovak delegation included Foreign Minister Ivan Korčok. Both sides emphasised the potential for developing bilateral relations and commended the active political exchange between the two countries and the good cooperation between their research and educational institutions. They also discussed opportunities for developing economic relations, in particular in the field of clean technology.
During the talks on the war in Ukraine and its consequences, both countries stressed the importance of international dialogue and cooperation in addressing security and humanitarian challenges. Mr Cassis and Ms Keller-Sutter paid tribute to the people and authorities of Slovakia for their solidarity with those who have fled Ukraine.
President Cassis outlined Switzerland’s policy and commitment since 24 February. Looking ahead to the Ukraine Recovery Conference (URC2022) to be held in Lugano on 4 and 5 July, he stressed the need to closely coordinate the various international initiatives to rebuild the country.
With regard to European policy, the Swiss delegation reiterated the Federal Council’s desire to consolidate and further develop the bilateral path with the European Union (EU). One of Switzerland’s goals is to continue its partnership with the countries of Europe and the EU to promote security, peace and democracy. Stable and close ties between Switzerland and the EU are important for both sides. In this context, President Cassis outlined the course decided on by the Federal Council for a negotiation package with the EU. Switzerland’s association with Horizon Europe and Erasmus+ as well as its second contribution to selected EU states, including Slovakia, were also discussed.
Further topics of conversation included migration and the situation in the Western Balkans. Federal Councillor Keller-Sutter underlined the need for a coordinated asylum and migration policy at European policy that goes beyond the current refugee crisis.
In addition, the delegations explained their countries’ climate and environmental policy strategies. The effects of climate change are particularly evident in countries with mountainous regions, such as Switzerland and Slovakia. It is therefore important to promote innovation in order to find solutions for sustainable living and lasting change.
Second day in Zurich
The first day of the State Visit is rounded off with a gala dinner at the Bernerhof. President Čaputová and President Cassis will spend the second day in Zurich. A visit to ETH Zurich will include a commemorative appreciation of Aurel Stodola (1859-1942), a scholar from the north of present-day Slovakia. As an ETH professor for mechanical engineering, Stodola made a significant contribution to the success of Swiss industrial companies such as Escher Wyss and Brown, Boveri & Company at the end of the nineteenth century through his advances in turbine construction.
During a visit to the Student Project House, an ETH think tank and workshop, young researchers will present various projects they are developing at present to counter the global climate and environmental crisis. The programme will also include an exchange of views with students from Slovakia. Following the ETH visit, the two presidents will open a Slovak-Swiss business meeting at the National Museum in Zurich focusing on cooperation in the field of clean technology.