Official meeting with the Cypriot Minister of Foreign Affairs

Bern, Press releases, 11.01.2013

An official working meeting has taken place in La Chaux-de-Fonds between Federal Councillor Didier Burkhalter and his Cypriot counterpart Erato Kozakou-Marcoullis. Their talks focused on the signing of the bilateral agreement on the protection of cultural goods. The purpose of this agreement is to contribute to the preservation and the exchange of the cultural heritage and to prevent the illicit trade in protected archaeological cultural goods. The two foreign ministers also discussed EU policy and the situation in the eastern Mediterranean in the light of the civil war in Syria.

The aim of the agreement on the protection of cultural goods between Switzerland and Cyprus is to protect the cultural heritage of both states and to regulate the legal import of cultural goods. It defines methods of restituting cultural goods that have been illicitly imported and contains provisions relating to co-operation in the fight against the illicit transfer of cultural goods and the preservation of the cultural heritage. Cyprus is one of the historical cradles of European culture, with a correspondingly impressive heritage. In keeping with this background, the location chosen for the signing of the agreement was the 1912 Maison Blanche  in La Chaux-de-Fonds. This building was the first that Le Corbusier designed as an independent architect. The Cypriot and Swiss delegations were welcomed to La Chaux-de-Fonds by Philippe Gnaegi, head of the Neuchatel government, and by mayor Jean-Pierre Veya.

During the talks, Didier Burkhalter, head of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, referred to Cyprus’s successful EU presidency in the second half of 2012. One of the reasons why the Cypriot presidency was important for Switzerland was that the EU Council of Ministers approved the Conclusions on relations between the EU and the EFTA States (including Switzerland) in this period. Mr Burkhalter expressed his satisfaction that discussions between the EU and Switzerland on bilateral relations are continuing. He explained to his Cypriot counterpart the coordinated and coherent approach that Switzerland is taking in this matter. The aim is to cover all areas of mutual interest between the EU and Switzerland.

The situation in the Near East was also high on the agenda. Foreign minister Kozakou-Marcoullis had just returned from Lebanon, which borders Syria and has accepted over 100,000 Syrian refugees.  Mr Burkhalter explained the measures that Switzerland is taking to support refugees. He welcomed the initiative of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to hold an international donor conference in Kuwait at the end of January. He also referred to Switzerland's proposal that the UN Security Council should refer the case of Syria to the International Criminal Court in The Hague. He thanked his colleague for Cyprus's support for this initiative.

In 2014 Switzerland will assume the chairmanship in office of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). Mr Burkhalter explained Switzerland's priorities for this period to his Cypriot colleague. Other discussion topics included the financial and economic crisis in Europe, the regulation of financial markets and taxation questions. Relations between Switzerland and Cyprus are very good. The meeting of 11 January between the two foreign ministers is the third in the space of half a year. In addition President of the Swiss confederation Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf paid an official working visit to Nicosia in May 2012. The frequency of these visits is connected with Cyprus's EU presidency in the second half of 2012.

For further information:
Jean-Marc Crevoisier
Head of Information EDA
+41 (0)79 763 84 10

Benno Widmer
Head of the Specialist Unit for the Transfer of International Cultural Goods
Federal Department of Home Affairs FDHA
+41 (0)31 325 70 21

Further information:

Bilateral relations between Switzerland and Cyprus

Address for enquiries:

Information FDFA
Bundeshaus West
CH-3003 Bern
Tel.: +41 58 462 31 53
Fax: +41 58 464 90 47


Federal Department of Foreign Affairs