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19 Апреля 2019
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Napoleon Brought Switzerland And Belarus Together Long Ago

Napoleon Brought Switzerland And Belarus Together Long Ago
By Marina Rakhley
Belorusskie Novosty
Minsk is celebrating the 16th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Belarus and Switzerland. Despite the fact that bilateral relations can hardly be called active, both sides say they are pleased with cooperation and the way it is progressing.
Swiss Ambassador Benedict de Cerjat, the Warsaw-based ambassador of Switzerland to Poland and Belarus, visited Belarus on 11-12 February. It is his first visit to our country after the handing in the credentials in July 2007.
The Swiss Ambassador toured the Borisov district, Minsk region, on February 12. He visited Borisov Medical Drugs Plant and Frebor (Belarusian-German joint enterprise), and met with Vasily Dylyuk, chairman of the Borisov District Executive Committee.
Bernard de Cerjat also visited the Belarusian emergency management ministry’s training center in the village of Svetlaya Roshcha near Borisov, which the Swiss government has supported since 2002.
In addition, the ambassador visited the place near the village of Studyonka where Napoleon Bonaparte’s army tried to cross the River Berezina when retreating from Moscow in 1812. He laid flowers at a monument to all those fallen in that war. The monument was put up by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) in 2002. The remains of 223 soldiers of Napoleon's "Grand Army" were reburied in front of the monument last year.
This river connected the history of Belarus and Switzerland for 200 years. Switzerland sent 8.5 thousand soldiers to Napoleon’s expedition to Russia. Only every tenth Swiss soldier came back home. About a thousand Swiss soldiers were killed while crossing Berezina. An 18th-century poem was adapted for song Beresinalied which turned into a Swiss folk song today. A special reception was organised on Benedict de Cerjat’s arrival in Minsk on 11 February. The Minsk Section of the Embassy of the Swiss Confederation in Poland and Belarus was officially declared to be open as well. The Section in fact has been working for half a year already and brought together the former General Consulate and the SDC.
The diplomat said that Swiss interests are quite modestly represented in Belarus and bilateral relations are far from being active. He said that the first step to broaden cooperation was the participation of Switzerland in the Minsk International Book Exhibition last week.
Benedict de Cerjat also noted that there are some areas where cooperation is quite active: humanitarian technical assistance, trade, and tourism,. Most of the attention is traditionally given to humanitarian activity. For instance, the SDC has spent 12 million dollars during the past seven years for social rehabilitation, encouraging local communities, preventing and dealing with emergencies.
With regard to political affairs, the Ambassador noted that he really hopes that the Parliamentary elections in Belarus in September 2008 will be free and just, which “will open up some new possibilities in bilateral relation”. He also expressed hope that Belarus “will be increasingly open for Western Europe”.
Deputy Foreign Minister Valery Voronetsky also commended on the opening of the Section of the Swiss Embassy and its wider diplomatic presence. He thanked the Swiss government for their efforts in helping to overcome the consequences of the Chernobyl accident.
The Belarusian Foreign Ministry spokesman also said that economic, political, humanitarian, and cultural relations with Switzerland have been on the increase lately. “Belarus is interested in developing bilateral relation with Switzerland,” stated Voronetsky, as he gladly raised a glass of Champaign to successful cooperation in the future.



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