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President’s Europe visit: Broadening prospects of future partnership

President’s Europe visit: Broadening prospects of future partnership

President Ramchandra Paudel recently paid an official visit to Germany and Switzerland, countries with which Nepal established diplomatic relations in 1958 and 1956, respectively. He also served as the keynote speaker at the ILO’s 112th International Conference. The timing of these diplomatic ties coincided with global instability and the Cold War. Nepal joined the ILO in 1966, during this period of geopolitical tension.

This visit, his first since taking office in March 2023, had been postponed due to a devastating 6.4 magnitude earthquake in November 2023. The earthquake, centered in the Jajarkot and Rukum districts of western Nepal, caused significant loss of life, injuries, and property damage. Consequently, President Paudel chose to remain in Nepal to support the affected families.

Reviving bilateral ties

High-level exchanges between Nepal and Germany and Switzerland had been absent for decades. The last significant visit from Switzerland to Nepal occurred twenty-seven years ago when President Arnold Keller paid an official visit from 9-12 Nov 1997. From Nepal’s side, late King Birendra visited Germany in 1986, which was reciprocated by President Roman Herzog in 1996. Before Herzog’s visit, President Heinric Luebke visited Nepal in July 1967, following the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries in 1958. More recently, in June 2017, President Bidya Devi Bhandari visited Switzerland to address the 106th International Labour Conference on “World of Work Summit: A Better Future for Women at Work.” Given the close and friendly ties with these European nations, a high-level visit from Nepal’s head of state was long overdue and imminent.


Solidarity for social justice

Nepal joined the ILO in 1966, and President Paudel’s participation in the 112th International Conference was a key part of his visit. The conference theme was “Global Solidarity for Social Justice.”  At the inaugural session, ILO Director-General Gilbert F Houngbo welcomed President Paudel, highlighting his democratic credentials and his life-long struggle for democracy and social justice, which included over fourteen years of imprisonment under despotic rule. In his address, President Paudel affirmed Nepal’s commitment to the ILO’s international campaign and emphasized Nepal’s efforts in implementing international labor agreements. He noted that Nepal's constitution guarantees rights to employment, the formation of trade unions, and participation in collective bargaining.

President Paudel also addressed the challenges posed by the IT revolution, which has given rise to digital, gig, and care economies. He stressed the urgent need for safe and decent working conditions globally. Emphasizing the theme of social justice, he stated, “Without justice to the helpless and economic gains to the destitute, nations around the world can’t achieve the goal of Social Justice.” He also highlighted climate-induced socio-economic inequalities and the issue of climate refugees in Nepal, a topic also raised during COP26 in Glasgow. President Paudel’s voice on climate change and its socio-economic impacts was echoed by Brazil’s President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in his address at the conference’s concluding session. President Paudel’s speech received a standing ovation from delegates, including government representatives, workers, employers, activists, and institutions dedicated to labor causes worldwide.

Broadening prospects of partnership

On June 12, President Paudel met with Swiss President Viola Amherd for bilateral talks in Geneva. After a brief exchange of pleasantries and introductions, President Amherd expressed satisfaction with the current state of bilateral relations. She emphasized that democracy, peace, and human rights are areas of interest for Switzerland and expressed a desire to see these areas flourish in Nepal. She also mentioned transitional justice as an area where Switzerland is interested in collaborating.

In response, President Paudel praised Swiss democracy and governance, highlighting the progressive provisions of Nepal’s constitution, particularly its inclusiveness and the 33 percent representation of women in the legislature. This aspect of Nepal's constitution impressed the Swiss side. President Paudel also discussed Nepal’s efforts toward socio-economic progress and prosperity following the establishment of a democratic system. The discussions covered mutual interests such as climate change and the need for enhanced assistance to Nepal after it graduates to a middle-income nation in 2026. President Paudel emphasized that while Nepal is least responsible for environmental degradation, it suffers significantly from climate change impacts. He suggested areas for Swiss investment, including agro-forestry, mountain tourism, and hydropower development, to aid Nepal’s socio-economic transformation. He also expressed gratitude for Switzerland’s continued support in Nepal’s socio-economic endeavors.


In Germany, President Paudel met with German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier on June 17 at the presidential palace in Berlin. Nepal and Germany established diplomatic relations in 1958, and Germany began its development cooperation with Nepal in 1961, initially focusing on technical assistance. Over the past six decades, this relationship has expanded to include scientific collaboration, academic exchanges, technology transfer, and cooperation in governance and democracy. More recently, the ‘Ausbildung’ or Dual Vocational Training program has provided employment opportunities for Nepali youth in Germany, which was a significant topic during the bilateral talks.

During their meeting, President Steinmeier praised Nepal for its support for Ukraine at the UN and expressed concern over the recruitment of Nepalis by the Russian army. President Paudel addressed the climate crisis and its impact on resource-poor nations like Nepal. He also requested support for the release of six Nepalis held as prisoners of war by Ukraine and the lifting of the ban on Nepali airlines in European airspace.

Special gestures 

Throughout his visit, President Paudel was accorded state-level receptions, marked by significant gestures of goodwill from both his German and Swiss counterparts. In Berlin, President Steinmeier displayed a remarkable degree of humility and support, assisting President Paudel when he appeared momentarily frail during the guard of honor. This visit included a surprise one-on-one meeting between the two heads of state, during which they recalled their countries’ historic leaders, Willy Brandt and BP Koirala, who both had notable backgrounds in the struggle for social democracy.

In summary, President Paudel’s week-long official visit to Germany and Switzerland from 11-19 June 2024, significantly reinvigorated Nepal’s bilateral relations with these European nations. His participation in the ILO’s 112th International Conference reinforced Nepal’s solidarity with the ILO’s campaign for “Global Solidarity for Social Justice.” Throughout his visit, President Paudel highlighted the progressive aspects of Nepal’s constitution, including its inclusive character and the constitutional guarantee of 33 percent representation for women in the national legislature. He also solicited enhanced support from these friendly nations for Nepal’s post-2026 challenges.

President Paudel’s meaningful participation at the ILO conference and his bilateral engagements emphasized the global need for climate justice and highlighted Nepal's ongoing socio-economic challenges and aspirations. His interactions with entrepreneurs and stakeholders in the environment and SME sectors broadened the prospects for future partnerships, underscoring Nepal’s commitment to socio-economic transformation and its dedication to a socially just world. The official visits not only strengthened Nepal’s bilateral relations with Germany and Switzerland but also enhanced its international standing and reinforced its commitment to the ILO’s goals.

The author is foreign relations advisor to President Paudel