WBJ: This year we are celebrating 100 years of relations between Switzerland and Poland. How would you describe the past century in terms of Polish-Swiss relations?
Jürg Burri: Polish-Swiss relations, which are based on long traditions and cover various areas, have never been better. Before and during World War I, a number of famous Polish exiles found refuge in Switzerland. Between 1940 and 1945, Switzerland also took in some 13,000 Polish servicemen. They had been enlisted in the French army and entered Swiss territory to escape the German advance.
Since the fall of the Iron Curtain, relations between Poland and Switzerland have become closer and have developed rapidly ever since. Having observed the hard work and effort made by the country throughout the past few decades and the strong position it holds today, I am confident that our mutual connections will continue to thrive. Our economic relations have been developing very fast in recent years. Both countries work hard to embrace innovation and digital transformation. As an example, the annual Polish-Swiss Health dialogue explores new ways and tools to improve the health sector in our countries.
Switzerland is one of the countries in Europe most affected by climate change – some experts say that temperatures in Switzerland will rise the fastest among European countries. What is your country’s strategy to combat/prepare for the upcoming changes?
As elsewhere in the world, where since the 1980s global warming has generally sped up, the past 30 years in Switzerland have seen particularly large increases. There is an urgent need to act globally, nationally and locally and to think out of the box. Climate change is also an opportunity to foster new innovative technologies, enhance circular business models, and create new lifestyles, so that future generations have a valuable and healthy life. There is fast growing awareness of climate change in Switzerland and it has become a very important domestic political topic. The CO2 Act, the heart of Swiss climate policy, pursues an emission reduction and is concerned with different instruments for buildings, transport and industry.
Switzerland also invests/transfers a lot of funds to EU countries – including Poland – that are used for e.g. thermal outfitting to increase energy efficiency. What do you think about Poland’s environmental policies?
For Switzerland a sound environmental policy is a keystone for long-term economic success and well-being. The majority of Swiss people are aware of the importance of energy efficiency and renewable energies. In May 2017 Swiss voters adopted the new energy act by 58.2 percent of the vote. This should enable Switzerland to maintain its high supply standard and at the same time reduce Switzerland's energy-related environmental impact.
We appreciate the dialogue and cooperation with Poland and other countries. Under the Swiss Contribution financial mechanism, we supported Polish partners in projects dedicated to asbestos removal, installation and promotion of renewable energy sources and increasing energy efficiency of selected hospitals, among others. These initiatives brought tangible results which not only helped to reduce polluseasons. In general, the diversity of the lifestyle Switzerland has to offer makes it an appealing destination for people of many backgrounds and interests. This is a valuable asset for our country.
How do the Swiss see Poles? Are they considered valuable partners and a source of talent?
More and more Swiss people are becoming familiar with Poland. In my personal experience, Swiss and Polish people have many things in common. You may observe many hardworking and open minded people in both countries. And Poland has also become more diverse and attractive to foreigners in recent years. Swiss companies in Poland are mostly run by Poles. It is a sign of mutual engagement and trust. I hope that even more Swiss people will discover Poland and vice versa. There has been a tremendous trend for more overnight visits to Switzerland by Polish guests in recent last years. Fostering talent is key to both our countries. That’s why we would also like to share our experiences when it comes to professional training.
There are a number of Swiss companies investing in Poland. Do you think that Poland will continue to attract investors from Switzerland in the future?
Poland offers many opportunities to Swiss and other international companies looking for the best location for their investments. It is one of the leaders in attracting foreign direct investment, not only in the CEE region, but in Europe generally and even globally. Poland is the most important destination for Swiss foreign capital in Central and Eastern Europe. Swiss companies have created 50,000 workplaces and invested CHF 6.5 billion so far. At the moment, the labor market is slowing down a little bit, but I am confident that the positive trend will continue. More and more investments also focus on high-quality, sophisticated businesses. Recently we have also seen Polish companies investing more in Switzerland. This is a promising sign as well. tion, but also improved the quality of life of thousands of people. Let me also give you another, topical, example of Polish-Swiss cooperation and dialogue:
This year’s Polish-Swiss Innovation Day is dedicated to the topic “Better Urban Life” and takes place on October 10, 2019. It provides an opportunity for our countries to discuss sustainable solutions for city growth and development. A focus point of of the conference is two remarkable skyscraper projects, VARSO and ENSEMBLE, in Warsaw and Zurich respectively.
Switzerland is one of the most desirable places to live in Europe. What do you think makes it so attractive?
The livability of countries has become an international benchmark, which is crucial in attracting talent. I guess Switzerland lives up to its reputation of being safe, efficient and clean. Children can walk by themselves to school during the day and the streets are safe at night. Located in the heart of Europe, the country has outstanding transport infrastructure. Major intercity connections make it easy to get anywhere in an efficient manner. Lovers of sports and outdoor activities enjoy exploring the enormous selection of lakes and mountains, and they are spoilt for choice in all