In her address, President Micheline Calmy-Rey noted that it was remarkable that a popular decision formed the basis for the Swiss enlargement contribution: "that a country’s policy on foreign assistance is decided directly by the people is likely to be unique." On 26 November 2006, the Swiss electorate approved the Federal Act on Cooperation with the Countries of Eastern Europe. This Act forms the basis for the Swiss enlargement contribution.
The Minister of Economic Affairs, Doris Leuthard, underlined the fact that the indirect impacts of the enlargement contribution on the Swiss economy would be far greater than the direct effects: "Well-implemented projects with Swiss involvement are the best form of advertising for our country and our economy. This will lead indirectly to the development of a favourable environment for our firms to establish new business links."
The Czech foreign minister, Karel Schwarzenberg, Lithuania’s finance minister, Rimantas Sadzius, and the Polish economic affairs minister, Piotr Grzegorz Woźniak, highlighted – from the perspective of their countries and regions – their experiences with EU support and the additional opportunities that the Swiss contribution can make. The leading representa-tives of the National Coordination Units were also introduced to the Swiss public for the first time during the conference. These units have the task of evaluating project applications and are responsible for the implementation of the enlargement contribution in the new EU states.
Experts and the public considered the four key themes of the enlargement contribution in a series of workshops. Short films also gave an insight into the economic and social prospects in Poland’s outlying regions and looked back on successful transition projects supported by Switzerland from the 1990s from where the enlargement contribution picks up.
The Directors of the agencies responsible for the implementation of the enlargement contri-bution, Jean-Daniel Gerber (SECO) and Walter Fust (SDC), pointed out that the operational implementation of the enlargement contribution was largely ready. Particular measures are being taken both in Switzerland and in the partner countries to ensure the efficient use of re-sources.
The framework agreements with all ten new EU member states are expected to be ready for signing this year. As soon as the agreements have been signed, the implementation of pro-grammes and projects can begin. In order to assure their smooth running, Switzerland is es-tablishing offices in Warsaw, Budapest, Prague and Riga. These are affiliated to the Swiss embassies and will be run by a Swiss expert.
The Annual Conference on Swiss Cooperation with Eastern Europe takes place each No-vember providing a broad public with an insight into SECO and SDC activities in the partner countries of Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union.