Speaking at the MEM Forum, organised by the Università della Svizzera italiana (USI), the head of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) highlighted the close relations that exist between Switzerland and the MENA region. "The Middle East and North Africa is a priority region for Switzerland because of its geographical proximity and geopolitical importance. We share a strong historical and cultural heritage," said Cassis. This importance is also reflected in the MENA Strategy 2021–24 adopted by the Federal Council in October 2020.
Younger generations at heart of MENA Strategy
In addition to strengthening peace, security and prosperity, the MENA Strategy also puts promoting and supporting younger generations at the centre of Swiss foreign policy. At the MEM Forum, Mr Cassis reaffirmed the potential of the young demographic: "In the MENA region, about 45% of the population is under 25. To me, that's synonymous with new beginnings and optimism. During my trip to Oman, I had the opportunity to meet a number of motivated young men and women and I was very impressed by their inspiring ideas."
Joint appearance with the foreign minister of Oman
Mr Cassis attended the MEM Forum together with the foreign minister of Oman, Sayyid Badr Al Busaidi. The evening before, he had received his Omani counterpart in Lugano to pursue bilateral talks. The two foreign ministers had already met earlier in the year on the occasion of Mr Cassis' trip to Oman.
At the MEM Forum, the head of the FDFA stressed the importance of good partnerships with the countries in the region for the successful implementation of Switzerland's MENA Strategy. Turning to his Omani counterpart, he underlined: "The Sultanate of Oman is a very reliable partner to Switzerland. Our countries have much in common – both in the tradition of neutrality and in the role we play as bridge-builders in peace diplomacy."
In a subsequent panel discussion, the two foreign ministers talked with some of the young men and women – the young change-makers making a difference in their region – about current developments.
Cooperation with the Università della Svizzera Italiana
The MEM Summer Summit is being organised for the fourth time by the USI with FDFA support. This year's edition is being held in a hybrid format, in compliance with the health measures currently in force. Around 30 young change-makers from the MENA region travelled to Lugano to take part in various activities between 21 and 28 August. A further 100 participants are taking part online. On 24 August, various panel discussions covered some of the key issues concerning the present and future of the MENA region. They were attended by high-ranking political, scientific, business and cultural representatives and the young participants in the summit.
The Forum will be streamed in its entirety on the MEM website on 28 August (www.mem-summersummit.ch).
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