Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen welcomed the visit of newly inaugurated Swiss President Alain Berset. It is a tradition that newly inaugurated Swiss Presidents make their first state visits abroad in Austria. Berset also met with Chancellor Karl Nehammer, Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg, and many more Austrian politicians.
On Thursday, at the bilateral talks with the Austrian hosts, both sides acknowledged the strategic partnership agreed upon between Switzerland and Austria in 2021, within the framework of which a closer exchange takes place in several subject areas. These include the area of education, research, innovation, migration cooperation, transport, security, and the 2030 Agenda. Various high-level meetings in recent months and good economic and scientific relations underline the close networking of the two neighboring countries.
During the exchange on Switzerland’s relations with the European Union, President Berset underscored Switzerland’s desire to further develop the mutually beneficial partnership. The Swiss Federal Council has proposed a broad package approach to bring the concerns together. The association of Switzerland with the European programs Horizon Europe and Erasmus+ is still pending. Federal President Berset paid tribute to Austria’s commitment to finding a solution on Friday.
Federal President Van der Bellen cited the research area as an example of how the EU also needs Switzerland. He pointed out that 20 Swiss universities had been awarded funds from the research program, but the EU Commission had then refused to pay them out. “Austria will do everything to improve the relationship between the EU and Switzerland on this level,” promised Alexander Van der Bellen. Alain Berset was “pleased” that Austria shares the Swiss position on Horizon Europe.
Other Topics of Discussion
Other central topics of discussion were the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine and the commitment of both countries to the benefit of the Ukrainian population. Also on the agenda were European migration policy, climate policy, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and cooperation between the two countries within the framework of the UN and the OSCE.
Unity on Russia-Ukraine
The two heads of state demonstrated unity especially when it came to Russia’s aggression against Ukraine. Van der Bellen emphasized that Switzerland supports the EU sanctions against Russia, provides humanitarian aid in Ukraine, and, like Austria, has taken in tens of thousands of displaced persons. “Neutrality doesn’t mean indifference, certainly not. On the contrary,” Berset emphasized in particular Switzerland’s obligation to international law, disregard of which is “the main problem with this war”.
Meeting with OSCE
On Thursday, President Berset also met with OSCE Secretary General Helga Maria Schmid and the acting OSCE Chair, North Macedonia’s Foreign Minister Bujar Osmani. The topic was the European security architecture and the current challenges for the organization, especially in Ukraine and the Balkans. The OSCE is present with field missions both in Ukraine and in various Balkan countries. President Berset emphasized Switzerland’s commitment to an efficient multilateral system based on respect for international law.