The programme included a discussion on progress in the energy revolution in both countries, the storage of radioactive waste, transnational transport projects and managing major construction projects. Talks were also held with State Secretary Jacques de Watteville on the status of negotiations between Switzerland and the EU and with State Secretary Mario Gattiker on the refugee and asylum situation in both countries.

The party headed first to Ticino, where the German guests and the Del-D discussed the completion of the New Rail Link through the Alps (NRLA) and the management of major construction projects over dinner with representatives of the SBB and Alptransit Gotthard AG. The Swiss delegation pointed out that the infrastructure built in Switzerland can only be fully effective if it forms an integral part of the European system. The German delegation acknowledged this and gave assurances that there was cross-party agreement in Germany that extending the northern approach lines is an urgent priority.

The two delegations began the following day by visiting the ETH’s Swiss National Supercomputing Centre (CSCS) in Lugano. The director and deputy director of the Centre explained with the aid of practical examples how their supercomputers enable and support cutting-edge research in Switzerland.

In Bellinzona, the delegations met representatives of the Swiss Federal Office of Energy (SFOE) and the National Cooperative for the Disposal of Radioactive Waste (NAGRA). After short presentations on the 2050 Energy Strategy and the current position on selecting geological repositories for radioactive waste, the two sides discussed the issue of sustainable energy provision. In contrast to the Swiss energy strategy, in its move away from non-renewable energies Germany has set decommissioning dates for all its nuclear power stations. In view of the forthcoming popular vote in Switzerland on the Nuclear Withdrawal Initiative, the delegations also discussed the cost of decommissioning nuclear power stations, energy supply security and the disposal of radioactive waste. The parties agreed that they face similar challenges and that communication was important in order to learn and benefit from each other’s experiences.

In Bellinzona, Paolo Beltraminelli, the president of the cantonal government of Ticino, and Arnoldo Coduri, cantonal chancellor, had the opportunity to draw the attention of their northern neighbours to the special circumstances of Switzerland’s most southerly canton. They argued that the geographic and demographic factors specific to this border canton and the challenges they bring play an important role in relations between north and south. Because of the influx of workers and capital from other countries, Ticino is under more pressure than ever before, they claimed. Their hope is that the opening of the NRLA will lead to a change in traffic flows within the canton and its connections with other regions and thus help to make the canton more economically competitive.

The delegations rounded off their stay in Ticino by inspecting and travelling through the Gotthard Base Tunnel, a key element in the NRLA and, at a length of 57 kilometres, the longest railway tunnel in the world.

The following day in Bern, the delegations met Switzerland’s chief negotiator with the European Union, State Secretary Jacques de Watteville. Mr de Wattewille spoke in particular of the excellent relations and intensive diplomatic dialogue between the two countries. In view of the forthcoming debate in the winter session of parliament, the parties discussed the implementation of the Mass Immigration Initiative. The Swiss delegation explained the measures proposed by the National Council, which will have to be either approved or amended by the Council of States in a further stage.

Asylum and migration issues were top of the agenda at the subsequent meeting with State Secretary Mario Gattiker at the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM). The State Secretary provided an update on the migration situation in Swiss border regions and on the implementation of the revised Asylum Act, which was approved by Swiss voters in June of this year. He also stressed that there is excellent cooperation with the Italian and German border control authorities and cooperation under the Dublin Agreement. The German delegation explained that Germany faces serious challenges as a result of the high numbers of asylum seekers and would welcome further talks with Switzerland about procedures for reducing the processing times for asylum applications.

At the end of the three-day programme, the delegations agreed that these regular bilateral meetings at parliamentary level are important in furthering relations between the two parliaments and in providing updates on how current challenges are being dealt with in their respective countries.

The Delegation for Relations with the German Bundestag was led by Joachim Eder (FDP, ZG), member of the Council of States. Also participating in the meeting were the Vice President of the National Council, Thomas Hardegger (SP, ZH), members of the Council of States Pirmin Bischof (CVP, SO) and Roland Eberle (SVP, TG), and members of the National Council Kathy Riklin (CVP, ZH), Albert Rösti (SVP, BE), Peter Schilliger (FDP, LU) and Hansjörg Walter (SVP, TG).

The German-Swiss Parliamentary Group of the Bundestag was represented by its chairman Thomas Dörflinger (CDU/CSU, Baden-Württemberg) and the following members of the Bundestag: Rita Schwarzelühr-Sutter (SPD), deputy chairwoman, Dieter Stier (CDU/CSU), Oswin Veith (CDU/CSU) and Heike Baehrens (SPD).