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The Warsaw Voice » National Voice » February 23, 2012
Switzerland in Poland
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A Century-Old Friendship
February 23, 2012   
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Johann Schneider-Ammann, Switzerland’s Economy Minister, talks to Ewa Hancock

An increasingly strong Swiss franc is a worry both for Polish borrowers and for Switzerland itself. How do you see this area developing, and what is your country’s policy on this matter?
The strong franc is a serious problem for the Swiss economy because it makes our exports more expensive and therefore less competitive. In response to this development, the Swiss National Bank (SNB) has set an exchange rate floor at the level of 1.20 Swiss francs to the euro. This decision was certainly good news for Polish households holding mortgages denominated in Swiss francs, but the exchange rate of the Polish currency to the Swiss franc depends on many factors, including on Poland’s policies. Even at the current exchange rates, the Swiss franc remains at a very high level. For Switzerland, with its open, highly export-oriented economy, this situation represents a significant challenge. Switzerland earns half its income abroad.

What’s your view about the European Union’s attempts to save the euro zone and the risk for the Swiss economy in case of a further expansion of the crisis?
We are following the current crisis in the euro zone, which includes Switzerland’s major political and commercial partners, very attentively and with concern. Switzerland has a genuine interest in the EU countries overcoming the debt crisis. The Fiscal Pact is a step in the right direction. Switzerland has positive experiences with the so-called debt break anchored in our constitution. But consolidation policies are always delicate because investments in education, research and innovation must continue to remain competitive. By the way, Switzerland supports the EU rescue efforts through its membership of the IMF. Obviously, Switzerland is not immune to the crisis in the euro zone. Production costs in Switzerland could increase further if the pressure on the franc does not ease. The overvalued franc harms Switzerland’s competitiveness.

You recently visited Poland with a business delegation. What was the purpose of the visit?
Switzerland and Poland share a century-old friendship. Over the past 20 years, this friendship evolved into a partnership with intensifying relations in all fields. We maintain excellent and close political contacts, trade and investment relations have developed remarkably, and there is great potential to enhance them further. This was the main aim of my visit. I met with Deputy Prime Minister Waldemar Pawlak, with whom I also opened a bilateral Business Roundtable. Both of us appreciated the mutual dialogue with executives from both countries, which allowed us for example to have an interesting exchange on business regulations and practices – a topic which was further deepened during my visit to £ód¼, where I met with Swiss investors and regional authorities. I was impressed by the dynamism of this region, where Swiss companies run large-scale production plants. Furthermore, I had fruitful talks with the ministers of science and higher education, regional development and agriculture.
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