4-5 October 2016

On 4 and 5 October 2016, the Delegation for Relations with the French Parliament (Del-F), headed by Fathi Derder, member of the National Council (FDP/VD), travelled to Paris. After initial visits to the Permanent Delegation of Switzerland to the OECD and the Permanent Delegation of the Swiss Confederation to UNESCO, Del-F met with both parliamentary groups of friends of France-Switzerland within the French National Assembly and Senate. Discussions focussed on cross-border policy, the status of cross-border workers, the Basil-Mulhouse Airport, EU policy and immigration.

Swiss relations with France are good and important ties of friendship exist between the two countries, as illustrated by the visit of François Hollande in April 2015. In 2016, Switzerland celebrated 500 years of the «Eternal Peace Treaty» signed in Fribourg by France and the Old Swiss Confederacy on 29 November 1516. This was a key moment in the creation of privileged relations between France and Switzerland. This historical event was recalled on several occasions in the numerous discussions held in Paris, also because the Swiss Embassy had organised a symposium devoted to this founding act in the Senate chambers on 27 September.

Del-F started its work in Paris with a visit to the Permanent Delegation of Switzerland to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Ambassador Ulrich Lehner, who represents Swiss interests within the organisation's governing body (OECD Council), spoke about the activities of the permanent delegation, the functioning of the OECD and the numerous fronts addressed by the permanent delegation. Each year, the OECD organises two information days for parliamentarians to explain future challenges in the area of finance, technology and other areas having repercussions on both policies and citizens.

For his part, Ambassador Jean-Frédéric Jauslin received the Swiss parliamentarians at the Permanent Delegation of the Swiss Confederation to UNESCO. This international organisation has 195 delegations that meet on a daily basis in the corridors of UNESCO's headquarters in Paris. The organisation is very well known for its list of world heritage sites as well as for its work in the fields of research, education and training.

Del-F then met with the parliamentary group of friends France-Switzerland of the French National Assembly, which is chaired by Claudine Schmid (sixth constituency for French residents overseas, a member of the Republicans political party). Discussions were intense, particularly on cross-border issues. The framework agreement on health initialled by Federal Councillor Alain Berset on 27 September 2016 will serve as a bilateral guideline enabling the competent French health authorities and cantonal authorities to directly discuss various aspects of healthcare management (i.e. optimisation and proximity of healthcare services in border regions) as well as aspects of healthcare worker training. French parliamentarians also informed their Swiss colleagues of the possibility that France may close the Fessenheim Nuclear Power Plant. In fact, the French electric utility company EDF, which owns the plant, will need to close one nuclear power plant in order to maintain production at current levels. Discussions are currently underway on possible compensation in the event this power plant is decommissioned.

The parliamentary group of friends France-Switzerland of the French Senate received Del-F in the Luxembourg Palace. After a brief tour of the premises, the parliamentary group held a meeting to extensively discuss cross-border issues, the situation of cross-border workers, taxation matters and transport cooperation. Swiss parliamentarians asked about French territorial reform so that Switzerland, the cantons in particular, could identify potential political partners. For their part, French senators wanted to know more about the Federal Council’s proposal to implement the popular initiative «Stop Mass Immigration».

Led by Fathi Derder, Del-F is comprised of its deputy chairman, Liliane Maury Pasquier, a member of the Council of States (SP/GE), as well as members of the National Council Alice Glauser-Zufferey (SVP/VD), Yves Nidegger (SVP/GE) and Manuel Tornare (SP/GE).

On the French side, both parliamentary groups of friends France-Switzerland are comprised of members of all political groups. The parliamentary group of friends of the French National Assembly is chaired by Claudine Schmid, a member of the National Assembly (sixth constituency French residents overseas, a member of the Republicans political party). The group of friends of the French Senate is chaired by Cyril Pellevat, member of the Senate (representing the French department Haute-Savoie, a member of the Republicans, which is the largest political group in the French Senate).