Foreign relations of Switzerland

This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of

The foreign relations of Switzerland are the primary responsibility of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA). Some international relations of Switzerland are handled by other departments of the federal administration of Switzerland.


The First Geneva Convention (1864). Geneva is the city that hosts the highest number of international organisations in the world.[1]

The Swiss Constitution of 1999 declares the preservation of Switzerland's independence and welfare as the supreme objective of Swiss foreign policy. Below this overarching goal, the Constitution sets five specific foreign policy objectives:

These objectives reflect the Swiss moral obligation to undertake social, economic, and humanitarian activities that contribute to world peace and prosperity. This is manifested by Swiss bilateral and multilateral diplomatic activity, assistance to developing countries, and support for the extension of international law, particularly humanitarian law.

Traditionally, Switzerland has avoided alliances that might entail military, political, or direct economic action. Only in recent years have the Swiss broadened the scope of activities in which they feel able to participate without compromising their neutrality. Switzerland is not a member of the European Union and joined the United Nations very late compared to its European neighbors.

Switzerland maintains diplomatic relations with almost all countries and historically has served as a neutral intermediary and host to major international treaty conferences. The country has no major dispute in its bilateral relations.

Switzerland (mainly Geneva) is home to many international governmental and nongovernmental organisations, including the International Committee of the Red Cross (whose flag is essentially the Swiss flag with colours reversed). One of the first international organisations, the Universal Postal Union, is located in Bern.

United Nations

Session in the Palace of Nations in Geneva

On 10 September 2002, Switzerland became a full member of the United Nations, after a referendum supporting full membership won in a close vote six months earlier; Swiss voters had rejected membership by a 3-to-1 margin in 1986. The 2002 vote made Switzerland the first country to join based on a popular vote.

Prior to its formal accession to the United Nations, Switzerland had maintained an observer role at the UN's General Assembly and its Economic and Social Council. Prior to full membership it had no right to a seat as one of the elected members of the UN Security Council.

Switzerland has fully participated within many of the UN's specialised institutions, including the Economic Commission for Europe, United Nations Environment Programme, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, UN Conference on Trade and Development, UN Industrial Development Organization, and the Universal Postal Union. Switzerland has also furnished military observers and medical teams to several UN operations.

Switzerland is a party to the Statute of the International Court of Justice.

Support of UN sanctions

The Swiss government on 25 June 2003, eased most of the sanctions against the Republic of Iraq in accord with UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1483. The government lifted the trade embargo, flight restrictions, and financial sanctions in place since August 1990. The weapons embargo and the asset freeze, the scope of which was extended, remain in force, and restrictions on the trade in Iraqi cultural goods were newly imposed. Though not a member at the time, Switzerland had joined UN sanctions against Iraq after the invasion of Kuwait.

Switzerland also has joined UN economic sanctions imposed on Libya, Sierra Leone, UNITA (Angola), Liberia, and Serbia/Montenegro. On 15 October 2003, the Federal Council ended the import restrictions on raw diamonds from Sierra Leone and lifted sanctions against Libya.

Switzerland in October 2000 implemented an ordinance to enforce UN sanctions against the Taliban (UNSCR 1267), which it subsequently amended in April 2001 in accord with tighter UN regulations (UNSCR 1333). On 2 May 2002, the Swiss Government eased the sanctions regime in accord with UNSCR 1388 and 1390, lifting the ban on the sale of acetic acid (used in drug production), Afghan airlines, and Afghan diplomatic representations. The weapons embargo, travel restrictions, and financial sanctions remain in force.

The Swiss Government in November 2001 issued an ordinance declaring illegal the terrorist organisation Al-Qaida as well as possible successor or supporting organisations. More than 200 individuals or companies linked to international terrorism have been blacklisted to have their assets frozen. Thus far, Swiss authorities have blocked about 72 accounts totalling U.S.$22.6 million.

Other international organizations

Switzerland is a member of many international organisations, including the World Trade Organization, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, European Free Trade Association, Council of Europe, Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, International Atomic Energy Agency, and INTELSAT. Its central bank is a member of the Bank for International Settlements, based in Basel.

Switzerland is an active participant in the OSCE, its foreign minister serving as Chairman-in-Office for 1996. Switzerland also is an active participant in the major nonproliferation and export control regimes.

Although it is surrounded by member nations, Switzerland is not a member nation of the European Union. In 1992 Swiss voters approved membership in the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, but later that year rejected the European Economic Area agreement, which the government viewed as a first step toward European Union membership.

(More complete list of memberships):


Participation in peacekeeping

While the Swiss electorate did reject a government proposition to directly deploy Swiss troops as UN peacekeepers (the Blue Helmets) in 1994, a total of 23 Swiss personnel including police and military observers (the Blue Berets) have served or are now serving for the United Nations. These dispositions are impartial, clearly defined and cover a number of UN projects around the globe.[2]

In 1996 Switzerland joined NATO's Partnership for Peace, the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council in 1997, and deployed Yellow Berets to support the OSCE in Bosnia. In June 2001, Swiss voters approved new legislation providing for the deployment of armed Swiss troops for international peacekeeping missions under UN or OSCE auspices as well as closer international cooperation in military training.

Since 1999, the Swiss army is participating through SWISSCOY in the peace keeping mission of the Kosovo Force (KFOR) based on UN-resolution 1244, with prolonged presence until 2014, after approval by the Swiss federal assembly in Spring 2011. Main duties include the supervision of civilian reconstruction efforts, monitoring and protection of patrimonial sites, military police and medical assistance.[3]

Representation of foreign entities and in foreign disputes

The ministers of foreign affairs of Germany, the United Kingdom, China, the United States, France, Russia, the European Union and Iran meeting in Geneva for the interim agreement on the Iranian nuclear programme (2013).
Between 1961 and 2015, Switzerland was the protecting power of the United States in Cuba. Switzerland also represented Cuba in the United States between 1991 and 2015.[4]

Under a series of treaties concluded after the First World War, Switzerland assumed responsibility for the diplomatic and consular representation of Liechtenstein, the protection of its borders, and the rulation of its customs.

Due to its long-standing neutrality, Switzerland has served as the protecting power for many countries that did not have diplomatic relations with each other. This reached an apex during the Second World War, when Switzerland formally undertook 219 mandates for 35 states, and represented another eight states unofficially[5] After the Second World War, Switzerland served an additional 67 mandates for various countries, including those between Cuba and other nations in the Western Hemisphere after the 1959 Cuban Revolution, between Middle Eastern nations following the outbreak of the Yom Kippur War in 1973, and between India and Pakistan prior to the formalization of relations in 1976.

Today, Switzerland has six protecting power mandates:

Switzerland played a key role in brokering a truce agreement between the Sudanese Government and Sudan People's Liberation Army for the Nuba Mountains region, signed after a week's negotiations taking place near Lucerne in January 2002. Switzerland has also sent services to allied troops in the War in Afghanistan.[6]

Switzerland is also playing a major role in Palestinian politics, trying to act as a mediator between Fatah and Hamas regarding the integration of employees in Gaza. The Swiss diplomatic efforts lead to an agreement called "the Swiss Document" which initially was approved by both Palestinian parties. [7]

Diplomatic representations

International disputes

As of 2009, there are a large number of disputes between Switzerland and Libya, and some Swiss politicians want to stop entry of Libyan nationals into Switzerland.[8][9]

On 29 November 2009, Swiss nationals voted to ban the building of new minarets in the country, provoking an angry reaction in Muslim countries.


Country Formal Relations Began Notes
 Argentina1834See Argentina–Switzerland relations

Diplomatic relations were established in 1834, with the opening of a Swiss consulate in Buenos Aires, followed in 1891 by the opening of an embassy.

 Canada1945See Canada–Switzerland relations
 Mexico1827See Mexico–Switzerland relations
 Nicaragua1956See Nicaragua–Switzerland relations
  • Switzerland has a Consulate-General in Managua, Nicaragua. The Swiss embassy in San José, Costa Rica, is responsible for diplomatic relations with Nicaragua.[16]
  • Nicaragua has a Consulate-General in Geneva, Switzerland only responsible for consular services. The Nicaraguan embassy in from its embassy in Vienna, Austria is responsible for diplomatic relations with Switzerland.
  • Relations with Nicaragua and Switzerland focus on development cooperation, humanitarian aid and trade.
 United States1853See Switzerland–United States relations

The first official U.S.-Swiss consular relations were established in the late 1820s. Diplomatic relations were established in 1853 by the U.S. and in 1868 by Switzerland. The U.S. ambassador to Switzerland is also accredited to the Principality of Liechtenstein.

The U.S. Embassy in Switzerland is in Bern. The U.S. Mission to the European Office of the United Nations and other International Organizations, the U.S. Mission to the WTO, and the U.S. Delegation to the Conference on Disarmament are in Geneva. America Centers and Consular Agencies are also maintained in Zürich and Geneva.

 Uruguay1828See Switzerland–Uruguay relations

Both countries share a long history of mutual economic relations, and they established diplomatic relations in 1828.[17][18] Uruguay became a popular destination for Swiss migrants starting in the 1860s.[19] In 1931 Uruguay called for a Swiss style parliamentary system.[20] In the twentieth century, Uruguay has looked to Switzerland as a model for government, historical and cultural ties go back to at least the nineteenth century.[21] There are 956 people with Swiss passports residing in Uruguay in 2009.[22] Uruguay was described as the "Switzerland of the Americas" in a 1951 New York Times article for its popularity as a haven for capital fleeing Europe at the time and its adoption of Swiss-inspired banking laws.[23] Thomas J. Knight also wrote that "Uruguay has for most of its history been the 'Switzerland' of South America."[24]


Country Formal Relations Began Notes
 Albania1 March 1922[25]See Albania–Switzerland relations

Albanians in Switzerland

  • Albania has an embassy in Bern.
  • Switzerland has an embassy in Tirana.
 Austria1687See Austria–Switzerland relations
 CroatiaSee Foreign relations of Croatia#Europe
 Denmark1875See Denmark–Switzerland relations
 European Union1972See Switzerland–European Union relations
 FranceApril 1521See France–Switzerland relations
 Germany1871See Germany–Switzerland relations
 GeorgiaSee Foreign relations of Georgia#Europe
 IrelandSee Foreign relations of the Republic of Ireland#Europe and the European Union
 Italy1868See Italy–Switzerland relations
 KosovoSee Kosovo–Switzerland relations

Switzerland recognized Kosovo on 27 February 2008.[28] Switzerland has an embassy in Pristina since 28 March 2008.[29] Kosovo will open an embassy in Bern. In September 2008, Swiss authorities initially expressed reservation for Designate Ambassador Naim Mala due to his double nationality[30] but latter accepted him. Switzerland currently has 212 troops serving in Kosovo as peacekeepers in the NATO led Kosovo Force.[31]

 Liechtenstein See Liechtenstein–Switzerland relations
 Moldova1992-09-02See Moldova–Switzerland relations
 RomaniaSee Romania–Switzerland relations

Since the 1990s, Switzerland has helped Romania financially, for a total sum of 140 million Swiss Francs between 1996 and 2006, and an additional 23 million Francs in 2006-2007. Switzerland has become the 12th largest foreign investor in Romania.[32] In 2005, Romania exported goods to Switzerland for a total of 206 million Swiss Francs, with Switzerland exporting for 547 million Swiss Francs to Romania, making Romania the biggest partner of Switzerland in South-West Europe.[33] By 2006, this had increased by 26% from Romania and 38% from Switzerland.[34]

 Russia1816See Russia–Switzerland relations

Switzerland opened a consulate in Saint Petersburg in 1816, upgrading it to a legation 90 years later. The two countries broke off diplomatic relations in 1923, when Russia was going through a period of revolutionary turmoil – and they were not resumed until 1946. Russia has an embassy in Bern and a Consulate-General in Geneva. Switzerland has an embassy in Moscow and since 2006, a Consulate-General in Saint Petersburg.

 Serbia1916See Serbia–Switzerland relations
 UkraineSee Switzerland–Ukraine relations

Rest of world

Country Formal Relations Began Notes
 Australia1961See Australia–Switzerland relations

Switzerland opened a consulate in Sydney in 1855 and one in Melbourne in 1856. Both countries established diplomatic relations in 1961. Australia is represented to Switzerland through its embassy in Berlin (Germany) and Australia also has a consulate-general in Geneva. Switzerland has an embassy in Canberra, a consulate-general in Sydney and 6 honorary consulates in Adelaide, Brisbane, Darwin, Hobart, Melbourne and Perth.

 ArmeniaSee Armenia–Switzerland relations

Switzerland recognized Armenia as an independent state on 23 December 1991. The two countries have maintained diplomatic relations ever since. The Armenian ambassador to Switzerland and the Swiss ambassador to Armenia (based in Tbilisi, Georgia) were both accredited in 2002. The Armenian ambassador to Switzerland is based in Geneva, in the Armenian representation to the United Nations.

 AzerbaijanSee Azerbaijan–Switzerland relations
 EgyptSee Foreign relations of Egypt#Other European countries

India is one of Switzerland's most important partners in Asia. Bilateral and political contacts are constantly developing, and trade and scientific cooperation between the two countries are flourishing.[44] Switzerland was the first country in the World to sign a Friendship treaty with India in 1947.[45]

 Iran1919See Iran–Switzerland relations

Switzerland and Iran have greatly reduced their bilateral economic cooperation since the UN Security Council took up Iran's nuclear enrichment program in 2005.[46]

 IraqSee Iraq–Switzerland relations

In November 2000 Switzerland opened a diplomatic liaison office in Baghdad to safeguard its interests. Bilateral relations became closer after the Iraq war in 2003. Today Iraq has an embassy in Bern and Switzerland has a representative office in Baghdad.

 IsraelSee Israel–Switzerland relations

Switzerland recognized Israel on 25 January 1949 and opened a consulate in Tel Aviv. Israel has an embassy in Bern. Since 1958, Switzerland has an embassy in Tel Aviv and an honorary consulate in Eilat.[47] But recently, relations have been strained, due to the 2009 Durban Review Conference, which Israel had recalled its ambassador to Switzerland.[48]

 Japan1864-02-06See Foreign relations of Japan
 Malaysia1963See Malaysia–Switzerland relations

Switzerland has an embassy in Kuala Lumpur,[49] and Malaysia has an embassy in Bern.[50] The diplomatic relations has been established since 1963.[51]

 New Zealand1963

Switzerland opened a consulate in Auckland in 1912. Both countries established diplomatic relations in 1963. New Zealand is represented to Switzerland through its embassy in Berlin (Germany). Switzerland has an embassy in Wellington and consulates-general in Suva, Fiji and Apia, Samoa.

 North KoreaDecember 1974[52]See Foreign relations of North Korea

Switzerland recognised Pakistan's independence from Great Britain in 1947, and the two states established diplomatic relations in 1949.[54] Switzerland ranks fifth in terms of foreign direct investment in Pakistan.[55][56] Pakistan has an embassy in Bern, whilst Switzerland has an embassy in Islamabad, a Consulate-General in Karachi and an honorary consulate in Lahore.


Bilateral ties between the Philippines and Switzerland dates back to the early 19th century when Swiss traders, missionaries and travelers went to Southeast Asia. A Swiss representation in the Philippines was proposed in 1851, which was realized with the opening of a Swiss honorary consulate in Manila in 1862. Formal relations was established between the two countries on 30 August 1956.[57] The Philippines has an embassy in Bern and Switzerland has an embassy in Manila.

 SingaporeSee Singapore–Switzerland relations
 South AfricaSee South Africa–Switzerland relations
 South Korea11 February 1963[58]See South Korea–Switzerland relations

See also

Notes and references

  1. (French) François Modoux, "La Suisse engagera 300 millions pour rénover le Palais des Nations", Le Temps, Friday 28 June 2013, page 9.
  2. International peace-keeping operations. Federal Department of Foreign Affairs. Federal Administration Retrieved 22 December 2013.
  3. Federal Department of Defence, Civil Protection and Sport. Federal Administration Retrieved 22 December 2013.
  4. ""La voix suisse des Etats-Unis à Cuba se tait". Le Temps (in French). 11 September 2015. ISSN 1423-3967. Retrieved 17 February 2016.
  5. Schelbert, Leo (2014). "Good offices". Historical Dictionary of Switzerland. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 153. ISBN 9781442233522.
  7. "The Swiss Role in Palestinian Politics". Retrieved 20 April 2015.
  8. "Switzerland suspends normalization deal with Libya_English_Xinhua". Retrieved 20 February 2015.
  9. Thomasson, Emma (26 October 2009). "Swiss caution on Libya travel due Gaddafi row". Reuters.
  10. "Embajada de la República Argentina en Confederación Suiza". Retrieved 20 February 2015.
  11. "Embajada de Suiza en Argentina". Retrieved 20 February 2015.
  12. "Government of Canada - Gouvernement du Canada". Retrieved 20 February 2015.
  13. "Embassy of Switzerland in Canada". Retrieved 20 February 2015.
  14. "Bienvenidos a la portada". Retrieved 20 February 2015.
  15. "Embajada de Suiza en México". Retrieved 20 February 2015.
  16. "Uruguay and Switzerland — cultural and economic Benefits from new Market opportunities". Mercosur. Retrieved 14 May 2009. Switzerland and Uruguay feature relatively stable and reliable democracies. And both countries share a long history of mutual economic relations. ... This Swiss settlement was soon to become known for the exceptional quality of its cheese and other dairy products. As transport developed, the farmers began selling their products on an unprecedented scale, notably to Argentina and even to Switzerland. ... Uruguay and Switzerland laid down the cornerstone of their cooperation in 1938: The two countries signed a trade agreement aimed to enhance commercial cooperation. And in 1991, an agreement on the mutual protection of investments became effective.
  17. "Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs about relations with Uruguay". Switzerland. Retrieved 14 May 2009. The independent Republic of Uruguay came into being in 1828 and became a popular destination for Swiss migrants. It was German-Swiss farmers who in 1862-63 founded the colony of Nueva Helvecia. They introduced cheese-making and other agricultural innovations. Immigrants from Ticino were successful as skilled builders, artists and also footballers.
  18. "Uruguay to Honor the Swiss". New York Times. 4 June 1944.
  19. "President Calls for Commission Government Like Switzerland's to Overcome Defects.". New York Times. 21 September 1931. Retrieved 14 May 2009. President Terra said today that Uruguay's experiment with the commission form of government, with divided executive power, had failed and the time had arrived to rewrite the Constitution and adopt a commission form like that of Switzerland or abolish the ...
  20. Lijphart, Arend (1980). Democracy in plural societies. Yale University Press. ISBN 0-300-02494-0. Switzerland and republican Austria have not been colonial powers, but some attention should be paid to the case of Uruguay for which Swiss democracy served ...
  21. "Key data for the Oriental Republic of Uruguay". Switzerland Federal Department of Foreign Affairs. Retrieved 14 May 2009.
  22. "Gold Flows to 'Switzerland of Americas' Since Korean War". New York Times. 3 January 1951. Retrieved 14 May 2009. Uruguay's role as the "Switzerland of the Americas" was emphasized late in 1950 as ...
  23. Thomas J. Knight, Latin America comes of age (Scarecrow Press, 1979), 24.
  24. Ngritja e marrëdhënieve diplomatike, Balkanweb (in Albanian)
  25. "Swiss representation in Belarus". Retrieved 20 February 2015.
  26. "".
  27. "Bundesrat anerkennt Kosovo" (in German). Tages-Anzeiger. 27 February 2008. Retrieved 27 February 2008.
  28. "Switzerland set to open embassy in Kosovo". Swissinfo. 28 March 2008.
  29. "20 minutes - Berne a émis des réserves sur la nomination de Naim Mala - Suisse". 20 Minutes.
  30. "Kosovo Force (KFOR)" Link accessed 21-07-09
  31. "Les relations économiques entre la Roumanie et la Suisse s'amélioreront après l'adhésion à l'UE, estime la ministre suisse des AE" (in French). Investir en Roumanie. 6 June 2006. Retrieved 7 May 2009.
  32. "Micheline Calmy-Rey est en visite officielle en Roumanie" (in French). Swissinfo. 6 June 2006. Retrieved 7 May 2009.
  33. "Suisse-Roumanie: du pain sur la planche" (in French). Swissinfo. 4 December 2007. Retrieved 7 May 2009.
  34. "Embassy of Switzerland in Serbia". Retrieved 20 February 2015.
  35. "Serbian embassy in Bern". Retrieved 20 February 2015.
  36. "Erstmals über eine Million EU- und EFTA Angehörige in der Schweiz". Neue Zürcher Zeitung. 14 October 2008.
  37. "Посольство України в Швейцарській Конфедерації та в Князівстві Ліхтенштейн (за сумісництвом)". Retrieved 20 February 2015.
  38. "Switzerland". Retrieved 20 February 2015.
  39. "Error".
  40. Embassy New Delhi. Retrieved 12 November 2011.
  41. Representations in Switzerland. (14 October 2011). Retrieved 12 November 2011.
  42. "Error".
  43. "La présidente indienne Pratibha Devisingh Patil sera en Suisse lundi et mardi pour une visite d'Etat". Retrieved 21 February 2015.
  44. "Switzerland-Iran Foreign Relations - IranTracker". Retrieved 20 February 2015.
  45. "Error".
  46. "Walkout at Iran leader's speech". BBC News. 20 April 2009. Retrieved 2 April 2010.
  47. "Embassy Kuala Lumpur". Federal Department of Foreign Affairs. Retrieved 7 February 2014.
  48. "Official Website of Embassy of Malaysia, Bern". Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Malaysia. Retrieved 7 February 2014.
  49. "Bilateral relations between Switzerland and Malaysia". Federal Department of Foreign Affairs. Retrieved 7 February 2014.
  51. "Eidgenössisches Departement für auswärtige Angelegenheiten EDA".
  52. "Bilateral relations Switzerland–Pakistan". Retrieved 20 February 2015.
  55. "Philippine Embassy | Bern, Switzerland". Retrieved 2 June 2012.
  56. 1 2 Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Republic of Korea. "Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Republic of Korea-Europe". Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Republic of Korea.
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