Cooperation with Eastern Europe is an integral component of Swiss foreign policy and foreign economic policy and is based on the Federal Act on Cooperation with Eastern Europe. This legislation provides the foundation for both transition assistance and the enlargement contribution.
The fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989 marked the start of transition assistance. Just a few weeks later the Federal Council approved the first credits for humanitarian aid in Central and Eastern Europe. Since 1990, Parliament has used a number of framework credits to allocate resources for the political, economic and social transition in countries of the former Soviet Union and in the Western Balkans. The objective is to support building pluralistic democracies as well as socially and environmentally orientated market economies. This commitment is founded on the Federal Act on Cooperation with Eastern Europe, which came into force on 1 June 2007.
Switzerland supports governments, the private sector, and civil society to meet the challenges of their democratic transition. It does so in cooperation with other states, the European Union, development banks, and UN agencies. Switzerland will commitCHF 1.125 billion to transition assistance efforts between 2013 and 2016. Around half of this amount will benefit the Western Balkans with the other half earmarked for the states of the former Soviet Union.
The SDC and SECO jointly administer the framework credit, with SECO administering one third of the budget and the SDCtwo thirds. The resulting programmes complement one another.
EU enlargement contribution
In November 2006 Swiss voters accepted the Federal Act on Cooperation with the States of Eastern Europe. In doing so, they signalled their approval for financial support aimed at reducing economic and social disparities in the enlarged EU. The Eastern Europe Cooperation Act, which establishes the legal basis for Switzerland’s enlargement contribution, will remain in force until the end of May 2017. The Federal Council had initiated the work needed to continue the law at the end of 2014.
Switzerland has concluded a bilateral framework agreement with each partner state. It decides which projects it supports in consultation with the partner countries and independently of the EU. Project partners generally bear at least 15% of the project costs themselves.
The enlargement contribution is administered jointly by the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO), the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and their offices in Warsaw, Riga, Prague, Bratislava, Budapest, Bucharest, and Sofia. Employees in these offices are familiar with local conditions and are in direct contact with the relevant authorities. This ensures an optimum investment. If irregularities are suspected, Switzerland can stop payments and request a refund of illegally paid contributions.