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The Warsaw Voice » National Voice » December 19, 2013
Switzerland in Poland
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Swiss Success Story
December 19, 2013   
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Lukas Beglinger, the Swiss ambassador to Poland, talks to Ewa Hancock.

What is the state of bilateral political relations between Switzerland and Poland? In which areas do the two countries cooperate and where do they differ significantly?
Bilateral political relations between Switzerland and Poland have never been as intense as they are now. This is illustrated by the fact that we hold nearly as many structured consultations and political dialogue in various fields with Poland as we do with our big neighbor and major partner to the north, Germany. Our foreign policy dialogue ranges from EU policies, security issues and development cooperation to international organizations and so on.

Switzerland and Poland have a long tradition of relations marked by friendship and mutual respect. This is an excellent basis for further enhancing our cooperation, at both the bilateral and multilateral levels. Switzerland and Poland are like-minded in many respects. In the past, our nations fought for independence, freedom, human rights and democratic self-determination. Today, we cooperate to promote such essential values in Europe, Africa and elsewhere. We are committed to open, competitive markets and free trade. And we maintain close cooperation at the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

Thanks to its impressive transformation and modernization process, Poland has emerged as a leader of the Central and Eastern Europe region and as a reliable and attractive partner. This has not gone unnoticed in Switzerland. Despite their differences, our two countries share important and mutual interests in many areas. Even where we may differ—for instance in the area of energy and environmental policies—there is ample room for mutually beneficial dialogue.

Of particular importance is the cooperation taking place in the context of the Swiss contribution to Poland. This gesture of solidarity, worth roughly zl.1.7 billion, was approved in a popular referendum by the Swiss population; it represents a major factor in our bilateral relations, not only in financial terms, but above all in terms of intensified exchange and cooperation in many areas. For instance, Switzerland works with Poland in order to improve safety in road traffic and to reduce the number of casualties due to road accidents.

We also have an important and fruitful dialogue on European policy. In our view, Poland has an important role to play when it comes to finding pragmatic solutions to current issues in the long-standing relations between Switzerland and the European Union, for instance in institutional matters.

What are you expecting from the visit of Swiss President Didier Burkhalter at the end of January?
Poland has become an important partner for Switzerland, and President Burkhalter’s visit—one of his first visits abroad in his presidential year—will put into perspective the strong and solid relations between our countries, both symbolically and in terms of their quality and substance.

We also consider the visit of President Burkhalter a major opportunity to further develop bilateral relations. There is a considerable potential to be harnessed, with regard to political cooperation, but equally with a view to strengthening our economic, financial, scientific and cultural ties. It is essential that governments, business circles, educational and cultural institutions of both countries contribute to tap and exploit this great potential as much as possible. I expect both sides to confirm their interest and intention to cooperate and take concrete action towards that goal.

We will underscore this ambition by organizing a Swiss-Polish Economic Forum. It will allow for high-level exchanges of experiences and best practices in the field of education. Switzerland’s dual system, with its strong emphasis on vocational education and training, offers valuable insights and lessons. A second topic will be cooperation in research, which is an important component of the ongoing Swiss-Polish cooperation program. Furthermore, the Forum will address the question of how to improve cooperation between research institutions and business, a topic of high relevance in both of our countries.

On the second day of his stay in Poland, it is planned that President Burkhalter will visit Cracow and the surrounding Małopolska region, a focus area of the Swiss contribution to Poland. He will meet with local authorities, project partners and beneficiaries and thus get practical insights into the biggest bilateral cooperation program Switzerland has ever undertaken. We want this program to produce the best results possible for Poland and to contribute to strengthening bilateral relations in a durable way.

What success stories are there in terms of Swiss investment in Poland?
Swiss investments in Poland as a whole are a success story. Switzerland is the second largest non-EU investor in Poland. Both multinational companies and small and medium-sized enterprises have realized the potential offered by Poland’s relatively large domestic market, its growth performance, the availability of a well-qualified work force and its favorable geographic position. Swiss investors are present in a wide variety of sectors and the regional distribution of Swiss investment varies greatly throughout the country. Despite the economic slowdown, many Swiss companies, currently employing about 39,000 people in Poland, are developing further investment plans for the country.
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