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Relations between Berne and Berlin focus of state visit

The flags are flying for the state visit of the German president, Johannes Rau, to Berne.

(Keystone)

The German president, Johannes Rau, has begun a three-day visit to Switzerland. Rau and his wife were greeted by this year's Swiss president, Adolf Ogi at Zurich airport.

Rau will be given an official reception at parliament later on Wednesday. This week's trip is being used by both governments to stress the importance of ties between the two countries.

The formal talks with the Swiss government are expected to focus on bilateral relations, cultural exchanges and the role of Europe.

The importance of the German market for Switzerland is hard to overestimate. Accounting for 31 per cent of all Swiss imports and 23 per cent of exports, Germany is by far Switzerland's largest commercial partner.

Rau will also travel to the country's newest canton, Jura, and take in some culture in the Italian-speaking canton of Ticino.

Every German president since the founding of the federal republic has paid at least one official visit to Switzerland.

It is Rau's first state visit to Switzerland, although he was amongst those taking part in the economic forum in Davos earlier this year. He also came to Switzerland as a guest of a parliamentary group, while he was still only a candidate to succeed the former head of state, Roman Herzog.

Thursday's visit to Jura will include a look at a Swiss industry which combines the traditional and the modern. Rau will be shown around the School of Watchmaking and Microtechnology in Porrentruy.

On Friday, thoughts will turn from science to art as Lugano's Museum of Modern Art has its turn to impress the German guest. A boat trip on Lake Lugano will conclude the official programme.

The Swiss foreign ministry has said that it plans to organise a second state visit later in the year, although the guest has not yet been confirmed.

Traditionally Switzerland honours just one head of state each year. But that tradition appeared to have been broken last year when the country welcomed heads of state from both China and Portugal.


swissinfo with agencies


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