Minister sees coronavirus crisis as opening for diplomacy

Foreign Minister Cassis (right) during one of his rare appearances at a news conference during the cornonavirus crisis. Keystone/Alessandro Della Valle

Swiss Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis says the Covid-19 pandemic could create a new spirit of solidarity in talks about future ties with the European Union. 

This content was published on May 16, 2020 - 11:34

Cassis says the cooperation with neighbouring countries, notably repatriating stranded tourists across the globe and the hospitalisation of Covid-19 patients from France would not be forgotten.

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“Everything that’s been done to help during a crisis will be remembered,” Cassis told the RTS public radio on Friday. “The help you receive in difficult times is precious and is also of symbolic value.” 

He said the cooperation with neighbouring countries – France, Germany, Italy and Austria – on a number of issues has been close over the past few months and he hoped this would have an impact on bilateral relations. 

Free movement 

Cassis also said that the crisis had shown the importance of a global response and the possibility of free movement of people. 

“We’re too weak on our own, we need the others,” he said. “Many people have learned to appreciate the value of freedom. The possibility to move freely is a psychological necessity.” 

Cassis said he confident that Swiss voters would reject a right-wing proposal to suspend a deal with the EU on the free movement of people. It will come to a nationwide vote in September. 

The Swiss government closed its borders in mid-March to stem the spreading of the Covid-19 pandemic and imposed a lockdown on public life as well as part of its economy. 

However, it stopped short of a general curfew like in Italy or France.

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