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Leuenberger in Hungary for presidential swansong

Moritz Leuenberger is set to go on his last official visit as Swiss president Keystone

Moritz Leuenberger in is Hungary on Tuesday on his final official overseas visit as Swiss president.

Leuenberger, who is also transport minister, finishes his one-year term in the largely ceremonial role of president at the end of the year. The finance minister, Kaspar Villiger, will take over as Swiss president in 2002.

Swiss officials say issues such as European Union integration and the global fight against terrorism will be high on the agenda when Leuenberger meets his opposite number, Ferenc Madl, for bilateral talks.

Before he returns to Bern, Leuenberger will also find time to hold talks with the Hungarian prime minister, Viktor Orban, as well as the country’s transport minister, Janos Fonagy.

This week’s official two-day visit to Budapest is not only the last to be made by the outgoing Swiss president: it also marks the first official visit to Hungary by a head of the Swiss confederation.

The former Hungarian president, Arpad Göncz, made an official visit to Bern in 1997.

Strong bilateral relations

Csaba Mohi, special adviser to the Hungarian embassy in Bern, said Hungarians were “very attached” to certain values for which Switzerland is famous, including “democracy, tolerance, multiculturalism and the principle of subsidiarity”.

“There is a very strong psychological bond between Hungary and Switzerland,” Mohi said.

“There is absolutely no taboo in our bilateral relations and we are very grateful for everything that Switzerland has given to our country,” she added.

A significant turning point in bilateral relations between the two countries took place in 1956, when some 13,000 Hungarians fled Soviet intervention in their homeland and sought refuge in Switzerland.

By the beginning of the 1990s, Switzerland had introduced a long-term programme of development aid to Hungary and its neighbouring countries in Eastern Europe.

More recently, the Swiss government offered emergency disaster relief to Hungary in April 2000, when part of the country was severely affected by the flooding of a tributary of the Danube.

Before he leaves, Leuenberger will a lecture on intercultural dialogue in Europe to a specially invited audience at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences.

swissinfo with agencies

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR