Meeting with Berset – Van der Bellen: The EU needs Switzerland

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Federal President Alexander Van der Bellen has criticized EU policy towards Switzerland. The country should not be excluded from the research program of the European Union. Van der Bellen said this on Friday after a meeting with his Swiss counterpart Alain Berset.

Switzerland is linked to the EU through a number of bilateral agreements and participates in the internal market, the free movement of persons and the Schengen area. However, almost two years ago, the government ended talks on a comprehensive agreement due to domestic political opposition. The emphasis would have been on economic and social policy. According to Austrian Federal President Alexander van der Bellen, there is also room for improvement.

Research funding declined
He pointed out, for example, that 20 Swiss universities had received money from a research program, but that the European Commission had subsequently refused to pay it out. “Austria will do everything it can to improve the relationship between the EU and Switzerland at this level,” promised Van der Bellen, himself a university professor. His counterpart Berset was ‘delighted’.

“Things are going well, things are moving forward,” he also said of current talks to resume negotiations between the EU and Switzerland. He also received support from Chancellor Karl Nehammer (ÖVP), who subsequently met the Swiss president. “Switzerland is not only our neighbour, but also an important partner in Europe,” he said. The cooperation must be “further deepened” in the coming year in the areas of security policy, crisis prevention, digitization and migration.

Talk about neutrality and Ukraine
Berset spoke with Van der Bellen about, among other things, the neutrality of both countries and the war in Ukraine. “Neutrality does not mean indifference, certainly not. On the contrary,’ Berset said. However, the situation in Austria and Switzerland is not comparable to that in Sweden and Finland (which have applied to join NATO). In Austria there is currently “no serious broad movement to give up neutrality”, according to Van der Bellen. “Nevertheless, we in Europe will have to discuss in the coming years, decades, how we as Europeans prepare for unfounded aggression and whether we can stand on our own two feet.”

Berset arrived in Vienna on Thursday to attend meetings with the Organization for Security and Cooperation (OSCE). On Thursday evening he met SPÖ leader Pamela Rendi-Wagner for dinner, followed on Friday by Federal President Alexander Van der Bellen and Chancellor Karl Nehammer (ÖVP). The program also includes meetings with the President of the National Council Wolfgang Sobotka (ÖVP) and Health Minister Johannes Rauch (Greens).

Source: Krone

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