For three years Switzerland has been using its enlargement contribution to help reduce the social and economic disparities in the enlarged EU. A billion francs is being invested to support projects in Poland, Hungary, Slovenia, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Cyprus and Malta (EU-10). By the end of October 2010, 74 project proposals and 84 definitive project applications had been approved. This means that projects with a total value of approximately CHF 756 million, comprising 80% of the project budget, have been provisionally accepted or definitively approved.
At this year's Annual Conference on Swiss Cooperation with Central and Eastern Europe of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) held in Aarau the main focus was on the current status of project implementation. Despite the effects of the economic and financial crisis all participants were optimistic that they would be able to examine and approve all the desired projects by the middle of 2012.
In his opening address Federal Councillor Johann Schneider-Ammann emphasized that the enlargement contribution was an important instrument both with regard to Switzerland's European policy and its relationships with the new EU member states. EU eastern enlargement promotes precisely those goals of stability and peace in Europe that lie in Switzerland's interest.
Elżbieta Bieńkowska, minister of regional development, gave her impressions of Swiss-Polish cooperation and of the experience made so far from Poland's point of view.
At the conference, both the SDC and SECO provided the public with information about the current status of projects in partner countries. Details of the new enlargement contribution in favour of Bulgaria and Rumania were also presented. Following on from this, a more detailed review of progress made to date in each country was undertaken in workshops. In close cooperation with partner states projects are being implemented in the areas of 1) security, stability and support for reforms, 2) environment and infrastructure, 3) promotion of the private sector and 4) human and social development.
In the second part of the conference the Head of the Swiss Integration Office, Ambassador Henri Gétaz, stressed the importance of the enlargement contribution for European policy. During the panel discussion the Lithuanian Deputy Finance Minister, Aloyzas Vitkauskas, and representatives from Bulgaria and the Czech Republic all drew attention to the political significance of the Swiss enlargement contribution from the perspective of partner countries. In his conclusion to proceedings SDC Director, Ambassador Martin Dahinden, observed that the implementation of the enlargement contribution was proceeding satisfactorily and according to plan.
More information can be found at: www.erweiterungsbeitrag.admin.ch
Address for enquiries:
Pierre-Alain Eltschinger, Spokesperson, Information FDFA, Tel. 079 517 79 82
Franziska Keller, SECO/Enlargement contribution, Tel. 076 329 23 07, firstname.lastname@example.org