Switzerland to strengthen its partnership with Austria at the consular level

Bern, Press release, 03.12.2015

Didier Burkhalter, the head of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA), met on Thursday with Sebastian Kurz, Austria's Minister for Foreign Affairs, on the margins of the 22nd OSCE Ministerial Council meeting held in Belgrade on 3 and 4 December. They signed a new consular agreement between Switzerland and Austria that will allow the two countries to step up their cooperation at various levels. In addition, Mr Burkhalter and Mr Kurz discussed a number of bilateral and international issues, including security in Europe and the Middle East, the migration crisis and relations between Switzerland and the European Union (EU).

The new consular agreement signed on Thursday in the Serbian capital by Mr Burkhalter and Mr Kurz reflects the excellent relationship based on trust that exists between the two countries. Switzerland and Austria have worked together at the consular level since 1979. In addition to consular affairs, the two countries also cooperate closely in areas as diverse as economic and financial matters, education and training, research and innovation and the Schengen area.

The conclusion of this new consular agreement makes Austria Switzerland's key partner within the EU in consular matters. It allows for consular protection and various other administrative services to be mutually provided by Swiss and Austrian representations in more countries. Specifically, Swiss citizens requiring assistance while abroad can henceforth turn to an Austrian representation, and vice versa. New forms of cooperation will also be established, especially with regard to the training and assessment of consular staff. Finally, the new agreement provides for institutionalised exchanges of information between the competent Austrian and Swiss authorities. By signing this agreement with Austria and, in general, by developing its cooperation with third-party states at the consular level, the FDFA is actively pursuing its aim of improving efficiency and optimising the services offered by its external network, thus providing a highly effective public service to Swiss nationals abroad. At present, Austria is the sole country with which Switzerland has signed an agreement on consular cooperation; however the FDFA is currently in contact with a number of Schengen countries on this subject, with a view to exploring further partnerships.

At their meeting, Mr Burkhalter and Mr Kunz also addressed the situation in Europe with reference to the current migration crisis, emphasising that it is necessary for all the countries of Europe to work together in this context. On the subject of relations between Switzerland and the EU, the head of the FDFA underlined the Federal Council's commitment to maintaining and developing the bilateral path, while at the same time finding a solution on the free movement of persons. 

Recent events and the series of terrorist attacks, especially in France, also featured on the discussion agenda. In this context, Mr Burkhalter voiced his concerns and expressed Switzerland's willingness to commit fully to preventing violent extremism. The head of the FDFA and his Austrian counterpart also tackled recent developments in the Syria conflict.

Further information:

Bilateral relations Switzerland–Austria

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Federal Department of Foreign Affairs