SEC 2021 in Review

We are excited to welcome 2022, but before we want to reflect on the year past. We look back on the work and progress of the Chamber of Commerce Switzerland- Central Europe (SEC) and are happy with the progress we made.

New strategy, new leadership

Entering 2020 there were several uncertainties including the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic which negatively affected what the chamber was able to do.   

In Q1 the SEC board decided to have a massive makeover of our governance. Oliver Bertschinger took over as president from Richard Friedl and also as Managing Director ad interim when the collaboration with Felicitas Gawenat ended at the end of March. Also, the Board of SEC was enhanced with a new member (Dr. Daniel C. Schmid) and two “guests”, Marek Dutkiewicz and Dr. Andrej Vckovski.  

It was also decided that SEC needed a new strategy and new services in order to provide more value to our members, clients and partners. Oliver led a comprehensive strategy project including an online workshop with 15 SEC stakeholders. The new strategy for the “new SEC” was defined and the first measures were put in place in the second half of 2021.  

Oliver Bertschinger

Raoul Keller

Reto Iten

Dr. Daniel C. Schmid

Marek Dutkiewicz

Andrej Vckovski

General Assembly

The 22nd SEC General Assembly took place online in July 2021. The newly elected Vice President Raoul Keller showed the importance of the region for the Swiss MEM industry and the new Executive Director Oliver Bertschinger spoke about the future vision of the “new” SEC! With 4.7% of Swiss exports and 3.9% of imports (both growing massively in recent years) and with 457000 people from CEE living in Switzerland, the relations between CEE and Switzerland are in many ways of enormous importance.   

The General Assembly also marked the start of the “new SEC”. With a new management team, new board members and a new strategy, SEC’s main two goals as an organization are to strengthen the mutually extremely important relations of Switzerland with the 17 CEE countries and to help our members, clients and partners to be more successful.  


In early September, the annual CEE Day 2021 in partnership with S-GE, SERV and Western Union Business Solutions was successfully organised in Zurich as the first face-to-face event in a long time. The event topic was “Switzerland-CEE: Quo Vadis Post Covid?” and the participants could hear relevant information and interesting presentations from distinguished speakers among others: Dr. Peter Grünenfelder, Director Avenir Suisse, Simone Wyss Fedele, CEO Switzerland Global Enterprise, Burkhard Varnholt, Chief Investment Officer, Crédit Suisse AG, Dr. Andrej Vckovski, Found and CEO Netcetera Gruppe, Dario Germann, General Manager Croatia Variosystems AG, Beat Merkli, Country Director Western Union Business Solutions and Verena Utzinger, Vice President Acquisition and Representation, SERV. In their presentations, the speakers presented their views on the influence COVID has had and will have on the countries and the dynamic relations of Switzerland with the CEE region.  

Closer collaboration with the CEE embassies

SEC wants to grow a community of organizations and people that work and live between Switzerland and CEE. One important objective in year one of this new strategy was to strengthen the collaboration with the Embassies of the CEE countries in Switzerland. Our president visited many Ambassadors in Berne and SEC also initialized the first “CEE ambassador meets SEC board get-together” event in Bern where most CEE ambassadors, senior representatives from EDA and SECO and representatives of the SEC board gathered to talk about new initiatives to grow the relationships between Switzerland and the 17 CEE countries. It was a very constructive atmosphere and there was much goodwill to do more starting in 2022. We all agreed that there is so much potential worth exploiting for the good of our countries, companies and people. 

Closer collaboration with the Swiss Chambers of Commerce in CEE and creation of our new CEE-Swiss Impulse Sessions

In addition to the Chamber’s ongoing events, the SEC together with the 10 chambers of commerce in the CEE region started organising the so-called CEE – Swiss Impulse Sessions, a monthly series of short, inspiring webinars delivered by outstanding speakers on exciting, current and relevant topics concerning Switzerland and CEE. Topics were so far: The Digital Revolution, strengthening the mindset for personal and business success, and successful cross-cultural collaboration. These sessions attracted around 80-100 participants each and will continue in 2022.  

Additional partnership projects

SEC was also supporting important initiatives by our partners like e.g. the Polish Economic Forum which was organized by the Polish embassy and held in Bern in September 2021. Oliver Bertschinger hosted the first panel about Polish exports to Switzerland. Other projects that we supported were the “B2B Matchmaking Event for Swiss and Estonian companies” co-organised by the Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, swissICT, and three main digital clusters in Estonia: ICT, Connected Health and Defence as well as a webinar about doing Business in Bulgaria, where Oliver also hosted the panel. More to come!  

COVID struck again, but less than in 2020

One element of the new strategy includes regular SEC Business Lunches. Unfortunately, our first edition in partnership with Swissmem and with Martin Hirzel, president Swissmem, as our guest speaker, had to be canceled last minute due to COVID. The event will take place in 2022 and we will keep you informed about the new event date and look forward to seeing you then! 

New members and addition to the SEC team

Additional to the mentioned news and events, last, but not least, we are very happy that we were able to attract several new members and that our team was strengthened with the addition of  Ms Irena Belcheva who supports SEC part-time. Welcome aboard Irena!

All is set for a successful 2022!

For SEC 2021 was an important turn-around year and where we have set the foundation to become an organization that really matters in the important intersection between Switzerland and CEE. 2022 will see a consolidation of what we have started last year and hopefully many successful events, collaborations and projects.  

As we all begin the year 2022, we want to take a moment to thank each of our members, partners and collaborators and to wish them success, good health and prosperity in the upcoming year. We are looking forward to seeing and collaborating with you soon again!