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Bern's man in Berlin starts with a bash

Bern is hoping that the German economy will take off

(Keystone)

The Swiss government and various sectors of industry are very confident that Germany's economy will take off in 2006, says the new Swiss ambassador to Berlin.

Christian Blickenstorfer started in his new post in May, in good time to host the largest Swiss National Day celebrations outside Switzerland.

Economists forecast that Germany's gross domestic product (GDP) will pick up to two per cent in 2006, from a sluggish 0.8 per cent last year.

"We hope that Germany's ongoing economic recovery is sustainable," said Blickenstorfer. "Germany is one of our key partners – commercial activity with Switzerland is greater than that with either Russia or Japan."

In 2005 one fifth of all Swiss exports (SFr31 billion) went to Germany and one third of its imports (SFr48 billion) came from that country.

According to official statistics, Switzerland is the sixth biggest investor in Germany - SFr36 billion – and Swiss companies employ some 250,000 people.

Up to now Swiss firms have mainly been interested in southern Germany, but since reunification the number of companies setting up business in eastern regions has increased.

Noise dispute

An ongoing bone of contention between the two nations concerns flight restrictions over southern Germany for planes using Zurich airport, Switzerland's main hub.

These were imposed to curb noise pollution over Switzerland's northern neighbour and, while Blickenstorfer is confident that differences can be sorted out, he admits it might take some time.

"The Baden-Württemberg regional government is keen to improve its cooperation with Zurich and bordering cantons – Thurgau, St Gallen, Aargau and Basel," explained the Swiss diplomat.

"But the issue is not just about flights. It's also about other transport questions – road and rail – as well as scientific cooperation between northern Switzerland and Baden-Württemberg; both regions have common problems and interests. For me this is the correct way of tackling the issue."

Technical discussions between both countries are due to start shortly.

Celebrations

Close Swiss-German relations will also be on show on August 1, when Berlin hosts the largest Swiss National Day celebrations outside its borders.

Zurich has invested around SFr800,000 in the festivities, which will take place on Berlin's main avenue, Unter den Linden, and at the Swiss embassy.

The general public will be able to get a flavour of Zurich and Switzerland thanks to a special programme developed by the Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich.

Swiss scientists have developed a series of natural aromas from the region – flowers, trees and fruit - that will fill four specially designed fragrance rooms on the famous boulevard.

Students from Belvoirpark Hotel School will also be preparing special Zurich cuisine for some 10,000 guests.

The ambassador describes the huge party as "unique, and an excellent tool for cultivating relations".

"It will be a special occasion, particularly as it's my first party here in Berlin and is organised by my home canton," added Blickenstorfer.

swissinfo, Juan Carlos Tellechea in Berlin

Key facts

At the end of 2005 there were 634,200 Swiss abroad.
169,400 in France
71,800 in the United States
71,100 in Germany
46,300 in Italy
26,400 in Britain

end of infobox

August 1 around the world

In France the Swiss embassy is organising celebrations on the eve of August 1. They will take place in the Swiss pavilion at the university campus in Paris.

In the United States, August 1 has already been celebrated on Ellis Island, New York, which is also hosting an exhibition on Swiss immigration to the US.

Swiss citizens have been invited to a party at the embassy in Senegal, complete with home specialities.

There will be a barbeque at the Swiss embassy in Delhi, India. A bigger celebration will take place in the autumn after the monsoon.

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