The president of the National Council, Irène Kälin (The Greens, AG), will pay an official visit to Georgia from 10 to 12 October, and to North Macedonia on 13 and 14 October. She will be accompanied by the first vice-president, Martin Candinas (The Centre, GR), and by the second vice-president, Eric Nussbaumer (SP, BL). In Georgia, Switzerland supports development and peace-building projects and represents Russia’s interests within the framework of its mandate as a protecting power. In North Macedonia, Switzerland supports sustainable development projects and the reform process as the country moves towards integration with Europe.

As part of her official visit, Ms Kälin will be welcomed to Tbilisi by her counterpart, Shalva Papuashvili, Chairman of the Parliament of Georgia. Also on the agenda are meetings with Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili, and Ilia Darchiashvili, Minister of Foreign Affairs.

In addition to discussing the functioning and priorities of their respective parliaments, talks between Ms Kälin and her Georgian hosts will focus on bilateral relations against the backdrop of 30 years of diplomatic relations, economic cooperation, development support and Switzerland’s peacebuilding efforts in the region. Ms Kälin will learn about the impact of the war in Ukraine on Georgia and the South Caucasus. She will visit the Administrative Boundary Line near Ergneti as well as houses built with Swiss humanitarian aid for the victims of the conflict. In Tbilisi, Ms Kälin will meet with representatives of Georgian NGOs and civil society in a round table discussion on women’s rights in the country.

Following her official visit to Georgia, Ms Kälin will travel to North Macedonia on 12 October. At the invitation of her counterpart, Talat Xhaferi, whom she met in Kyiv last April, she will hold talks in Skopje with Prime Minister Dimitar Kovačevski and President Stevo Pendarovski. The visit will allow the Swiss delegation to learn about North Macedonia’s accession process to the European Union and the impact of the war in Ukraine on the country’s socio-economic and energy situation. The visit will also provide an opportunity for the delegation to familiarise itself with the bilateral development cooperation programme, particularly in the areas of good governance and environmental protection.

Within the framework of bilateral cooperation, the Swiss Parliament and the Assembly of North Macedonia have been working together since 2016 on projects involving civic education, public relations and parliamentary oversight of the state budget and finances. The official visit to Skopje will therefore also be an opportunity to take stock of the technical cooperation between the two parliaments.

The president of the National Council will also address the Assembly of North Macedonia on political compromise and consensus in Switzerland, as North Macedonia might vote on changing its constitution to add the Bulgarian, Croatian and Montenegrin communities to the list of minorities. This is a highly controversial topic across the various parties but a requirement in order for North Macedonia to move forward in its negotiations on EU accession.