On November 23, 2017, the Swiss Confederation pledged to donate $1.3 billion in development aid to the European Union. The funds are proposed to target and address social inequalities in Europe, a plan that would serve Switzerland’s long-term national and economic interests. The donation will be spread over a ten-year period and will principally focus on struggling nations in Central and Eastern Europe. The move was also made in an attempt to resolve dwindling relations between Switzerland’s capital of Bern and European Union capital, Brussels.
Swiss President Doris Leuthard announced the donation during a visit to Bern, and in response, European Commission President stated that “Switzerland shows it is a reliable partner,” clearly appreciative of the donation. Of the 1.3 billion, 200 million is projected to equip affected nations by the onslaught of non-EU migration. Meanwhile, funds have also been allocated to ameliorate the quality of labour markets through professional training in order to stimulate economic growth and prevent growing unemployment. This donation is not the first of its kind, with the Confederation making a similar payment scheme to the EU during the last decade.
The generous ‘cohesion payments’ are an omnipotent move that should be echoed by equivalently wealthy nations. While Switzerland boasts one of the highest GDP per capita figures in the world, its decision to allocate additional funds to worthy causes should be heeded by economic counterpart, the United States. Despite being a financial superpower, the misallocation of funds in the U.S and the disproportionate military expenditure prevent gestures similar to those made by Switzerland. In contrast, a heightened focus on military bodies has visibly produced fatal consequences. A reevaluation of fund allocation schemes in nations falling in the same socio-economic category as Switzerland could feasibly alleviate global issues including famine and poverty.
The meeting in which the donation was discussed between Junker and Leuthard also involved discussion on the creation of an institutional framework accord between Switzerland and the EU, which will produce further bilateral ties between the two actors. The Swiss Confederation has a principally positive relationship with the European Union, and they collaborate to make deals primarily concerning trade, labour and migration among other issues. However, their relationship was compromised in 2014 when Swiss citizens voted in favour of immigration quotas, potentially supressing the quantity of EU citizens able to work in Switzerland. Since labour is the biggest import and export exchange between the EU and Switzerland, the passing of this regulation could have contravened the most significant bilateral agreement between the EU and Switzerland.
While certain parties have speculated that the cohesion payments are a ploy to restore goodwill between the EU and Switzerland, the EU immigration quotas and development aid are relatively unrelated. Contribution from a wealthier nation-state to its floundering neighbours is an act that pertains strongly to diplomatic bilateral ties and in turn, global peace.
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