Myanmar president visits Switzerland

Myanmar president Thein Sein, right, is on a ten-day visit to several countries across Europe Keystone

This content was published on September 5, 2014 - 18:18 and agencies

Swiss President Didier Burkhalter has welcomed the president of Myanmar, Thein Sein, to Switzerland as part of a ten-day European tour that also includes trips to Germany and the Netherlands.

The foreign ministry said in a statement that Switzerland actively supports the democratic transition in Myanmar and the official visit of Thein Sein is part of this.

Discussions between the two presidents will cover Switzerland’s engagement in the transition and will aim to intensify bilateral relations. Other issues will be the presidential and parliamentary elections in 2015, peacebuilding on Myanmar’s borders and respect for human rights.

Thein Sein was elected head of state of the southeast Asian country in February 2011 after half a century of military dictatorship. His election was followed by a process of democratisation, the foreign ministry said, adding that “2012 therefore marked a turning point in bilateral relations between Myanmar and Switzerland”.

In May 2012, the cabinet lifted the sanctions that were in place in order to encourage the country’s democratic transition. The following month Switzerland opened an embassy in Yangon and tripled its annual development cooperation contribution.

Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi’s visit to Switzerland in June 2012 underscored the closer relationship between the two countries.

Foreign policy strategy

The development of good bilateral relations with MyanmarExternal link is part of Switzerland’s foreign policy strategy 2012–2015External link.

This strategy emphasises the importance of participating in the development of the Asia-Pacific region, which currently accounts for half of global economic growth and over half of the world’s population.

“Myanmar is a choice partner in this context, notably because of its location between China and India. Its significant natural resources and large labour force give it strong economic potential,” the foreign ministry said.

It added, however, that despite this potential, Myanmar faces major challenges. “It needs to address its internal conflicts and join the global market economy quickly to ensure sustainable growth.”

The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), the Human Security Division (HSD) and the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) are working together with this aim in mind. Swiss development cooperation contributes to four main areas: employment and the development of professional skills; agriculture and food security; health, social services; and the promotion of local governance and peace.

The budget for Swiss development cooperation in Myanmar in 2014 (SDC and HSD) is CHF21.75 million ($23.4 million). 

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