Following last week's meetings on the borders with Italy, Austria, Germany and Liechtenstein, Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis today held talks in Geneva with Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne, Minister of State, attached to the French Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs. Unable to attend in person, the French Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, Jean-Yves Le Drian, spoke to Mr Cassis yesterday by telephone. The head of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA), accompanied by the President of the Geneva State Council Antonio Hodgers and State Secretary Roberto Balzaretti, underscored the good cross-border cooperation during the COVID-19 pandemic and welcomed the resumption of mobility and freedom of movement in the border region.
Thanks to constant dialogue between the two countries, travel for frontier workers – especially those working in the health sector – and the movement of goods were always guaranteed during the crisis, despite the restrictions imposed at the border crossings. Joint action also made it possible to coordinate the repatriation operations organised to bring home Swiss and French citizens stranded abroad.
A 'new normality' and renewed European cooperation
"First of all, I would like to express my solidarity with the people living in this border region," said Cassis during a visit to the customs office in Thônex-Vallard. "We suffered under the lockdown, but we are delighted to be back together again. The border between us is now open and we are reunited once more." He went on to say that although that difficult period is now behind us, it does not mean the pandemic is over. "We will have to learn to live with the virus and to respect hygiene standards and social distancing in order to avoid a new outbreak," said Cassis, reiterating that cooperation at European level, and in particular between neighbouring countries, will remain an essential part of this 'new normality'.
The two delegations expressed their desire to build on the experience gained in recent months. In this regard, Mr Cassis briefed Mr Lemoyne on the most recent progress on the European dossier, expressing his hope that future discussions between Switzerland and the EU would continue along the path of pragmatism that had emerged during the joint management of the pandemic.
Switzerland and France have very close economic, human and cultural ties. France is Switzerland's fourth largest trading partner, with a trade volume of CHF 38 billion (including gold) in 2019. More than 40% of trade with France takes place within the regions in close proximity to the Franco-Swiss border. Switzerland is France's fourth largest source of foreign investment.
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