Emmanuel Macron was entitled to a warm welcome when he got off the presidential plane onto the tarmac at Bern-Belp airport this afternoon. The President of the French Republic and his wife arrived in the Swiss capital this Wednesday, November 15 for a two-day official visit, until Thursday.
A trip as rare as it is symbolic, during which the head of state will be alongside his counterpart Alain Berset, who assumes the rotating presidency of the Swiss Federal Council until the end of the year. With a program of visits focused on Europe, economic investment and basic sciences.
A visit which confirms diplomatic warming
Beyond the precise content of the visit, this two-day trip by Emmanuel Macron is especially important for its symbolism. First, because it is the first visit by a French head of state in eight years, after that of François Hollande in 2015. Despite the geographical proximity, a common language and culture, the visits of French presidents in Switzerland can be counted on the fingers of one hand: besides these last two, only Jacques Chirac in 1998, François Mitterrand in 1983 and Armand Fallières in 1910 had made the trip.
But above all, because the arrival of the French president attests to a warming of relations between Paris and Bern. In 2022, Switzerland greatly irritated Paris by choosing to order American F-35 fighter jets to modernize its air force, rather than French Rafales. A contract worth more than 6 billion euros passed under the nose of French industry.
Despite this diplomatic bickering, relations seem to be in good shape this Wednesday. After welcoming his French counterpart at the airport, Swiss President Alain Berset reserved the honors for the Macron couple: a welcoming ceremony with fanfare, inspection of the Swiss army guard, meeting with the seven members of the Federal Council, speech at the Palace of Parliament then gala dinner. Respect reserved for the most important guests, which can be explained in particular by the bonds of friendship forged between the two men “for several years”, says the Swiss daily Freedom.
For his official speech to the Swiss Parliament, Alain Berset even praised on Wednesday “the historical links between the two countries” reports the Swiss newspaper The weather, even specifying that Switzerland has “a political debt” to France which helped it to modernize. For his part, Emmanuel Macron announced that he wanted to include the treaty of “perpetual peace” signed between France and Switzerland in 1516 as a world heritage site, adds the Swiss media.
Accelerate negotiations with the European Union
A rapprochement also possible thanks to the context of war in Europe and the rapprochement of European countries against Russia. The Elysée thus indicated ahead of the trip that the visit would be “an opportunity to discuss” on “strengthening cooperation” in the face of current geopolitical crises, quotes AFP.
More precisely, Emmanuel Macron’s trip will be an opportunity to put the European Union issue back on the table, while Berne had recently turned its back on the 27 member states. In May 2021, the Swiss government surprised the Union by announcing the abandonment of negotiations for a framework agreement with the 27, after years of discussions. If the Swiss government finally announced its return to Brussels last Thursday, with a view to new negotiations with the European Commission by the end of the year according to Swiss radio and television RTSthe French president hopes through his visit to put a pedal to this process.
“This dynamic must now materialize,” adds an advisor to Emmanuel Macron quoted by AFP, specifying that the latter will preach to “relaunch negotiations in order to reach an agreement as quickly as possible”. The Swiss government may have raised the European flag in front of its Federal Palace for the occasion, but nothing indicates that the will of the two presidents will be enough to go all the way this time. The rapprochement with the EU remains a very sensitive political subject in Switzerland, keen to protect its sovereignty, its judicial independence and its salaries.
Strengthen diplomatic, economic and scientific ties
A distrust on the part of certain Swiss political parties and voters which has not escaped the French president. Less formal, the second day of his official visit will be partly dedicated to European exchanges. Emmanuel Macron will visit the Jean Monnet Foundation for Europe in Lausanne on Thursday before meeting students to talk about the “major societal issues” of the European Union, specifies AFP. He will also answer questions from the public.
The Head of State will also have the opportunity to discuss economic ties between Switzerland and France: the two countries are important trading partners, and Switzerland is the third largest investor in France. Emmanuel Macron will meet economic leaders in Lausanne on Thursday, before taking a special train to Geneva in the company of start-up managers.
Finally, the French president intends to highlight Franco-Swiss scientific cooperation. After announcing on Wednesday that a “Franco-Swiss conference will be organized next year to talk about the flow of health personnel”, reports The weather, Emmanuel Macron will promote scientific research. The trip will conclude with a visit to Cern, this European laboratory for nuclear research and particle physics located on the Franco-Swiss border. The opportunity to promote the pharaonic project of the Future Circular Collider, a particle accelerator with a circumference of 100 kilometers which is not unanimously accepted within the scientific community.