"To a large extent, we design our lives together"
In an interview with the "Liechtensteiner Volksblatt" during an official visit to the Principality of Liechtenstein, Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis, head of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, speaks about the special relationship between the two countries, Switzerland's policy on Europe and the important role played by small countries in multilateral organisations.
In an interview during a visit to Liechtenstein, Ignazio Cassis speaks about the special relationship between the two countries and Switzerland's European policy. © FDFA
Friday 25 September. In just two days, the Swiss electorate will cast their votes in the federal popular initiative 'For moderate immigration' (Limitation Initiative). This is a crucially important vote for Switzerland, as its outcome will shape Switzerland's future relationship with its biggest economic partner. "If adopted, the initiative would probably lead to the termination of the whole bilateral path. We would then have to rebuild relations with the EU from scratch", emphasised Mr Cassis.
Limitation Initiative: risks for economic relations
The effects of a 'yes' vote on Swiss nationals living in Liechtenstein and on the large number of cross-border commuters is currently a matter of speculation.
"This much is clear: a 'yes' vote to the Limitation Initiative would do damage to trade relations between Switzerland and our neighbours," noted Cassis. Good relations with neighbouring countries and the regulated free movement of persons are key contributors to Switzerland's prosperity.
Speaking in Vaduz, Mr Cassis underlined the friendly relations and close economic ties that have existed between Switzerland and Liechtenstein for over a century. "We have a single market, a level playing field and fair competition. To a large extent, we design our lives together."
COVID-19: everyone is doing their part
Good relations are not only important for trade. They are especially important in times of crisis. "COVID-19 has shown how much we need to coordinate efforts, and how important good relations are," says Cassis. "The past months have been a challenge for all of us. We have been faced with a new situation." The fact that the pandemic has affected different countries and cantons differently has added to the challenge. "What I'm seeing is that everyone is doing their part. This has brought us closer."
Countries do not begin to forge friendly relations during a crisis. The bond between Liechtenstein and Switzerland is the result of over a century of cooperation, hard work and shared values. These close ties of friendship make the Principality of Liechtenstein one of Switzerland's most important partners.
Friends support each other, which is why Switzerland also champions Liechtenstein's interests in the international arena. Since 1919, Switzerland has represented the interests of Liechtenstein's nationals in countries where the Principality has no diplomatic representation of its own.
UN: joining forces in multilateral forums
Switzerland and the Principality of Liechtenstein also work closely together at the multilateral level, including within the United Nations. "The Principality of Liechtenstein is an independent state. Its UN policy is very impressive and proves that even small states can make a big difference. Liechtenstein and Switzerland often vote the same way because we share the same values and interests. This is why we often work closely with each other in the UNO", notes Cassis.
In the 30 years that Liechtenstein has been a member of the UN, it has always been committed to a rules-based international order, human rights and accountability. Because these goals are also of paramount importance to Switzerland, the two countries have often joined forces to advance their agendas.
Joint successes within the UN demonstrate that for small countries like Switzerland and Liechtenstein, cooperation at the multilateral level provides an opportunity to coordinate foreign policy with like-minded states, deepen strategic partnerships and engage in cooperation. That is why cultivating bilateral relations and promoting further exchanges is so important.
Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis, head of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, met on 25 September 2020 with Liechtenstein's Minister for Foreign Affairs, Justice and Culture Katrin Eggenberger during an official visit to the Principality of Liechtenstein. The two foreign ministers discussed cross-border and bilateral relations as well as European and international issues. That evening, Mr Ignazio Cassis will give a speech on Swiss foreign policy to a group of business leaders. Mr Ignazio Cassis also met with H.S.H. Hereditary Prince Alois of Liechtenstein. (to the press release)