Swiss President Didier Burkhalter in his opening speech at the Ambassadors and International Network Conference in Lugano on Monday highlighted the important role Switzerland is playing in the wider international community.
The four-day conference will serve as a platform for 257 Swiss and foreign-based representatives of Switzerland to discuss the latest issues in foreign and economic policy as well as Switzerland's response to the challenges arising from them.
In his speech, entitled “Swiss neutrality and openness: our raison d'être and our reason to help”, Burkhalter argued that in terms of international relations Switzerland was more than capable of punching above its weight.
He said that the world could benefit from the Swiss political culture of compromise giving the example of current trouble spots like Libya, Gaza, Ukraine and Iraq, where “compromise solutions involving all relevant groups are necessary”.
More than halfway through his term as chairman for Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), he also spoke about the challenge Europe is facing because of the Ukrainian crisis, which is endangering the European security structure and bringing new East-West tensions. He did not rule out a further escalation in the conflict.
Burkhalter also underlined the independence and neutrality of Swiss foreign policy through non-membership of the EU but cautioned that “neutrality does not mean free-riding”.
He stated the importance of Swiss openness towards the EU, Switzerland’s principal trading partner, emphasising that the commitment to renew the bilateral approach must be tempered with a control over immigration.