Switzerland attaches great importance to its relations with the individual Baltic states. At the end of July 2013, Federal Councillor Didier Burkhalter visited Latvia and Lithuania. Today, he has met the Estonian foreign minister, Urmas Paet, in Von-Wattenwyl-Haus in Bern. Mr Burkhalter and his Estonian counterpart agreed that relations between the two countries are good and diverse. Switzerland supports various projects in Estonia for example within the framework of its enlargement contribution to the EU, including a project to improve fire protection in hospitals and another to treat people addicted to medicines. Evidence of the close cultural relations the two countries enjoy can be seen in the “Swiss Reading Room” which has existed for some years in the Estonian National Library in the capital city Tallinn. During their working meeting today, the two foreign ministers discussed ways to further develop bilateral cooperation. Areas discussed in this context included the cyber sector , information technology, vocational training and consular cooperation.
The head of the FDFA informed the Estonian foreign minister about the recent decision of the Federal Council concerning the mandate on negotiating institutional issues with the EU, which is currently under consultation with the Foreign Affairs Committees of the National Council and Council of States, as well as with the cantons. The two foreign ministers also discussed the Eastern Partnership, which aims to develop cooperation between the EU and Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine and Belarus. Switzerland supports this initiative to promote, among other things, democracy, the rule of law, human rights, good governance and economic and social development, as well as strengthen civil society and ensure sustainable energy security. They looked ahead to the Eastern Partnership Summit on 28 and 29 November 2013 in Vilnius at which an assessment will be made of the current situation with regard to development. In connection with the Eastern Partnership Mr Burkhalter expressed interest in strengthening cooperation with the “Visegrad” states: Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary.
In addition, Mr Burkhalter informed Mr Paet about Switzerland’s priorities for its OSCE chairmanship in 2014. These concern the promotion of security and stability, improving human living conditions and the ability of the OSCE to act on its decisions. The leitmotiv of the Swiss chairmanship is “Creating a Security Community for the Benefit of Everyone”
Finally, the two foreign ministers talked about the 68th United Nations General Assembly that opens next week in New York. Mr Burkhalter invited Mr Paet to an event organised by Switzerland in the margins of the UN General Assembly where a discussion will take place on how water sources can be shared by different communities and so reduce the risk of conflict.
Following the working meeting with Mr Burkhalter, the Estonian foreign minister will visit an old people’s home in Bern to congratulate in person a 100-year-old Swiss woman who grew up in Estonia.
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