Visit by OSCE Chairperson-in-Office Didier Burkhalter to the Western Balkans

Bern, Press releases, 23.04.2014

Didier Burkhalter, the Chairperson-in-Office of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), will visit Serbia, Albania and Kosovo on Thursday and Friday to meet with the countries' leaders and discuss Switzerland's engagement during its OSCE chairmanship. The Western Balkans are an important arena for OSCE operations, with six missions currently under way there. Reconciliation and cooperation efforts in this region are one of the priorities of the Swiss OSCE Chairmanship, building on Switzerland's long-standing commitment to peace policy in this part of the world.

Serbia, which will assume chairmanship of the OSCE next year, is the first stage of the president of the Swiss Confederation's visit. Mr Burkhalter will meet with the Serbian president, Tomislav Nikolic, and prime minister designate, Aleksandar Vucic, with whom he will go on to inaugurate the new Serbian-Swiss chamber of commerce. Switzerland is the third largest investor in Serbia and the launch of this chamber of commerce is intended to intensify economic relations between the two countries. A meeting with Serbia's foreign minister, Ivan Mrkic, is also scheduled.

In Albania, as well as official meetings with the president, Bujar Nishani, and minister of foreign affairs, Ditmir Bushati, Mr Burkhalter will also meet with young Albanians who are taking part in civic education classes as part of an OSCE project.

Mr Burkhalter will also have the opportunity to talk to young people during his visit to Kosovo on Friday, where he will discuss the issue of human rights with young Albanians and Serbs from Kosovo. After meetings with Kosovo's president, Atifete Jahjaga, and prime minister, Hashim Thaci, as well as members of government including the foreign minister, Enver Hoxhai, Mr Burkhalter will also visit Swisscoy, the Swiss Armed Forces company involved in the international Kosovo Force (KFOR) peace support mission. In addition to visiting KFOR's headquarters in Pristina, the head of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs will  meet with members of Swisscoy in Mitrovica in the north of Kosovo.

This visit by the Chairperson-in-Office of the OSCE to the Western Balkans is intended to facilitate three ongoing processes that are vital for stability in the region:
- normalisation of the situation in the north of Kosovo according to the terms of the historic agreement reached between Belgrade and Pristina a year ago;
- strengthening regional cooperation efforts;
- encouraging regional reconciliation and in particular the resolution of the issue of missing persons.

Further information:

OSCE Switzerland 2014
Bilateral relations between Switzerland and Serbia
Bilateral relations between Switzerland and Albania
Bilateral relations between Switzerland and Kosovo
Swiss Chairmanship of the OSCE on Twitter

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