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Ambassador Baja and Consul Lazaro with the Foraus members

Ambassador Baja responds to comments and questions of the members

Swiss Foreign Policy Think Tank Foraus holds dialogue with Ambassador Baja 

  The Swiss Foreign Policy think tank, Forum Aussenpolitik or Foraus, as part of its Ambassadors Series events, held a dialogue with Ambassador Leslie Baja on 08 October 2013 at the Philippine Embassy in Berne.

In his remarks, Ambassador Baja provided an overview of the bilateral relations between the Philippines and Switzerland, tracing the two countries’ ties back to the establishment in Manila of the first Swiss consulate in Asia in 1862 to the current status of the two countries’ economic, political and socio-cultural relations.

Ambassador Baja also touched on issues of mutual interests to both countries and where the two countries interests interface such as their advocacy on the rule of law, democracy and human rights, as these priorities impinge on the current developments in the two countries’ bilateral relations with other countries. He also extensively discussed the parallelism between Europe and Asia and the lessons that could be drawn from their historical, political and economic experiences.

Ambassador Baja took the opportunity to discuss the Philippine advocacy of the rule of law in the peaceful resolution of the dispute surrounding the West Philippine Sea and used the platform to explain the Philippine position on the issue.

The open dialogue that followed covered diverse topics from the current political and economic conditions in the Philippines and its bilateral relations with Switzerland, to the various security arrangements and mechanisms for the establishment of a regional security architecture in the Asian region and their impact and influence on the Philippines; the different regional and pan-regional economic fora; the impact of the establishment of the ASEAN Economic Community in 2015; among other topics.

Questions were raised on the possible role of Switzerland in the South China Sea/West Philippine Sea dispute; on how Ambassador Baja thinks Switzerland should deal with China; on how Switzerland should deal with Asia in general and how relations between the two could further be advanced, as well as the areas of opportunities for advancing such relations, among others. 

The event provided an opportunity for the Philippines to explain its policies/position on certain issues, particularly the on-going arbitration case with China; promote awareness of the Philippines among young professionals in Switzerland who could potentially influence Swiss foreign policy decisions in the future, not just towards the Philippines but towards Asia in general; and clarify certain misconceptions about the Philippines such as those related to terrorism and the current situation in Mindanao; its investment policies; etc.

With the success of the event, the Embassy plans to organize similar events with other think tanks and universities, and possibly with the media, in the future to continue promoting awareness of the Philippines among Swiss young professionals, academicians and potential decision-makers and policy-shapers. END

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