H.E. Ivo Sieber*
Commemorating a national day is an exceptional event for any country. On August 1, Swiss nationals in Switzerland and all over the world proudly remember the founding of their country in 1291.
Observing this year’s Swiss national day here in Việt Nam is singularly special. Not only is Switzerland reminiscing the 730th centenary of its foundation. This year, Việt Nam and Switzerland are also looking back on half a century of bilateral diplomatic relations. Moreover, 2021 also marks three decades of Swiss-Vietnamese development cooperation.
The coincidence of two significant jubilees in our countries’ relations extends well beyond symbolism.
Switzerland was one of the very first Western countries to establish bilateral ties with Việt Nam on 11 October 1971. But Swiss-Vietnamese relations already started in the 19th century, thanks to adventurous Swiss trading companies coming to Việt Nam. Later, Swiss born bacteriologist Alexandre Yersin followed: he spent most of his life in Việt Nam, where he became an “honorary citizen”. In 1954, Switzerland as neutral country hosted the Geneva Conference on Indochina, in which Việt Nam was directly involved. Those initial contacts and ties created a solid foundation for the establishment of the bilateral relations.
Today, we look at a wide range of cooperation between the two countries, including between companies and individuals from academia, culture and civil society at large. Economic relations have taken a central stage, as Việt Nam has been very successful in spurring its economic development and is an attractive partner for Swiss business. Global challenges like climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic not only offer but ask for new cooperation modalities - cooperation that is geared towards a more inclusive growth and a better environment. The global need to change the way we lead our life and do business is opening up a wide field for interesting discussions.
One area I would like to personally promote are discussions on promising new technologies that not only address environmental challenges but also help ensure that the economy continues to provide jobs and incomes. In short, this comes down to searching for a new kind of prosperity, one that gives more weight to humans and the earth. Famed Swiss Bertrand Piccard has put together 1000 innovative tech solutions that he is ready to present here in Việt Nam. Another area close to my heart is the field of peace promotion and mediation: I see also here good opportunities for Việt Nam and Switzerland to work together, learn from each other and jointly progress and offer their share to global peace.
Clearly, this coincidence of two significant jubilees goes well beyond symbols. The 50-year anniversary is not only an opportunity to recall what has been jointly achieved so far but mainly also a welcome occasion to look into the future and seek the best possible ways to further boost the rich and manifold relations between the two countries. The official visit to Việt Nam by Swiss Vice-President and Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis on 4-6 August shall not only underscore the long and robust relations, but also highlight the ongoing Swiss friendship and solidarity with Việt Nam, especially in these particularly challenging times.
The Covid-19 pandemic has created countless challenges for both Việt Nam and Switzerland. Both have and continue to take great strides to meet the challenges and protect public health while doing their best to keep the economy running. Difficulties still lie ahead and cooperation in all its forms is the key to overcoming the global challenges. The partnership between Switzerland and Việt Nam is working well and will continue doing so also in the post-pandemic recovery.
We are commemorating the Swiss National Day and the 50th anniversary of Swiss-Vietnamese diplomatic relations with impressive achievements. What we have accomplished together is the solid basis for a stronger and tighter partnership on the path ahead. As Swiss Ambassador to Việt Nam, I extend to the Swiss nationals and our numerous friends in Vietnam my very best wishes on the occasion of the Swiss National Day.
*Ivo Sieber is Ambassador of Switzerland to Việt Nam