EXCLUSIVE: 240,000 tourists annually, economic ties reflect strong relations with UAE, Swiss President says
By Binsal Abdulkader
ABU DHABI, 30th October, 2021 – About 240,000 annual two-way tourist traffic between Switzerland and the UAE, the presence of the region’s largest Swiss expatriate community in the Emirates, and robust bilateral business and investment ties make the UAE “an important partner for Switzerland in the Middle East,” the Swiss President told Emirates News Agency (WAM).
“With almost 3000 people, the UAE is host to the largest community of Swiss citizens in the Middle East and North Africa region.
Generally, about 140,000 Emiratis travel to Switzerland every year in summer to enjoy its beautiful nature.
On the other hand, an estimated 100,000 Swiss citizens visit the UAE yearly,” said Guy Parmelin, President of the Swiss Confederation.
In an exclusive interview in Dubai, he added, “The UAE is today Switzerland’s 11th most important trading partner worldwide.
UAE as an important partner in MENA
The UAE is an important partner for Switzerland in the Middle East and North Africa region, Parmelin stressed.
“According to the MENA strategy adopted by the Swiss government, our priorities [for relations] with the UAE include economy, finance and science, sustainable development, digitalization, as well as peace, security and human rights.
The economic relations with the UAE remain strong despite the setback from the COVID-19 pandemic, the President pointed out.
“Trade between us reached US$13 billion in 2020 and Switzerland remains an important investor with Swiss businesses creating approximately 10,000 jobs in the UAE alone,” he said, adding that more than 200 Swiss companies are operating in the UAE.
Officials talks on bilateral ties, global issues
Parmelin, who arrived in Dubai on Thursday evening on a three-day official visit, has met on Friday with H.
Sheikh Maktoum bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, at the Switzerland Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai.
The president will also be meeting with other top Emirati officials as well “to discuss how we can deepen an already very strong relationship, especially when it comes to business and investment.
The bilateral talks will also address global issues such as climate change, including the urgency for ambitious climate action by each country and the necessity to agree at the upcoming UN climate conference in Glasgow (COP26) on a robust rule book under the Paris Agreement, he revealed.
“I believe that there are various areas, in which we could support dialogue and cooperation in the region.
The UAE is an important and influential actor in the Middle East and North Africa.
Therefore, we regularly discuss political developments in the wider region together, including what is happening in Afghanistan,” he said.
“We aim to intensify these exchanges in the run up to the year 2023, when the UAE, and – hopefully – Switzerland too, will be a member of the UN Security Council.
Expo is unique
He attended the official Swiss National Day at the Expo 2020 on Friday.
“The Swiss pavilion is a unique architectural experience and I hope many Emiratis will come and see for themselves.
The Expo is unique as it is the first of its kind to be held in the Middle East, Parmelin noted.
“Secondly, it takes place at a very special moment and essentially offers the first real opportunity for meeting people from all over the world on a large scale since the beginning of the pandemic,” he said, adding that it will also offer a chance to increase the bilateral cooperation on matters related to education, research and innovation.
‘UAE reminds me of Switzerland’
This is his first official visit to the UAE.
“I can only say that I am impressed.
What this country has achieved in the merely 50 years since its foundation deserves praise and admiration.
I see a country that is both modern and open to the world and at the same time cherishes its traditions and culture.
As such, the UAE reminds me of Switzerland.
He welcomed the National Climate Change Plan of the UAE with its comprehensive strategic priorities that includes the “UAE Net Zero by 2050 Strategic Initiative,” a national drive to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, making the Emirates the first MENA nation to do so.
“At the same time, all of our efforts must concentrate on reaching the global goals set for greenhouse gas emission reduction by 2030.
Given the negative impact of COVID-19 on the economic growth situation, financing the transition to clean energy has become an even greater challenge,” he stressed.
Switzerland will host a Hydropower Conference in Geneva in the fall of 2022, taking up the topic of financing, the President said.
Parmelin, 61, had an academic background in agriculture and worked as a farmer.
“It has influenced me; it is my identity.
My education and previous work as a farmer have taught me one thing above all: you need to be rooted in the land you come from to move into the future with calm and confidence.
Also, you can only harvest if you have sown in time,” he explained.