The royal family has close ties with Switzerland. As a child, the King of Spain lived for several years in Lausanne and Fribourg. In addition to his state visit in 1979, in recent years he has visited Switzerland several times, particularly international Geneva (ILO, CERN, Telecom, UN Human Rights Council). In 1993, he was awarded the title of Doctor Honoris Causa by the University of Fribourg in recognition of his political activity and, in 1996 in Lausanne, the Jean Monnet Prize for his commitment to an integrated Europe. His key role in Spain's democratic transition and in Spain's international profile has earned him great respect in Switzerland and around the world.
The relationship that unites Switzerland and Spain is warm and intense, and has been marked for several years by regular high-level meetings. This state visit testifies to the friendship and mutual respect that characterise the relationship between the two countries. Switzerland and Spain share a common understanding of numerous international issues, particularly the need to strengthen multilateralism. A Joint Declaration signed in Cordoba in 2007 by the foreign ministers provides a solid basis for several political cooperation projects. The last state visit by the Spanish king to Switzerland was in 1979.
The talks were conducted by Mrs Micheline Calmy-Rey, President of the Swiss Confederation and Head of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, and King Juan Carlos I. Ms Trinidad Jiménez, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of the Kingdom of Spain, and the Federal Councillors Doris Leuthard, Didier Burkhalter and Johann Schneider-Ammann also participated in the talks.
At the bilateral level, the talks between the two delegations focused in particular on scientific and economic cooperation between the two countries. At the international level, the ministers discussed, among other things, European politics, the situation in North Africa, the Middle East and Latin America, and various issues relating to energy and the international financial architecture. Regarding relations between Switzerland and the European Union, Mrs Calmy-Rey explained Switzerland's willingness to pursue the bilateral path through a comprehensive and coordinated approach that will allow Switzerland to deepen its relations with the EU in various areas while maintaining sufficient independence in decisions relating to the adoption of the acquis communautaire.
Spain and Switzerland have very close relations at the economic, cultural and human levels, not to mention the tourist industry. There are 64,000 Spanish nationals in Switzerland – not counting dual nationals – and 23,000 Swiss residents in Spain. Cooperation between the two countries has been strengthened in recent years with the signing of a Re-admission Agreement concluded in 2003, and a 2006 protocol amending the Double Taxation Agreement, which was amended in 2010. The Swiss Embassy in Madrid set up a Business Hub in 2002. One high point of cultural relations was Switzerland’s participation in the Arco Art Fair in Madrid in 2003, which was the year a multiannual programme organised by Presence Switzerland in Spain was launched. In 2007, the spotlight was focused on Valencia, where Switzerland's Team Alinghi defended its title in the America's Cup yachting race. In 2008, Switzerland took part in the Expo Zaragoza.
Friday, the second day of the state visit, will begin with a breakfast attended by King Juan Carlos, Swiss business leaders and the President of the Swiss Confederation. Economic exchanges between Switzerland and Spain have more than doubled in the last decade, despite the crisis. In 2010, bilateral trade grew by 8.9% to CHF 11.3 billion (CHF 6.4 billion in exports and CHF 4.9 billion in imports). Spain is Switzerland's tenth-biggest export customer and eleventh-biggest supplier. At the end of 2009, Swiss investments in Spain totalled CHF 15.7 billion. Switzerland is the ninth largest foreign investor in Spain. There are some 250 Swiss companies in Spain, employing almost 55,000 people. Spain is the eleventh largest foreign investor in Switzerland.
The state visit will continue on Friday with a cultural programme at the Fondation de l'Hermitage museum in Lausanne, which is currently hosting an exhibition of Spanish painters entitled "El Modernismo, From Sorolla to Picasso, 1880-1918". This will be followed by a meeting in Lausanne with the Spanish community in Switzerland. After lunch in the Vaud countryside, the Spanish royal couple will return to Madrid from Geneva in the late afternoon on Friday.
For further information:
Raphaël Saborit, FDFA spokesperson, +41 79 335 76 14
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