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Bilateral relations between Switzerland and Benin
Bilateral relations between Benin and Switzerland are smooth and friendly but not very intensive. They focus on the long-standing cooperation programme between Benin and Switzerland.
Benin maintains permanent representation in Geneva. This representation is also accredited in Switzerland as an embassy. Switzerland is represented in Cotonou by a cooperation office of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation.
In 2007, the then President of the Swiss Confederation, Micheline Calmy-Rey, made an official visit to Benin and was received by President Thomas Boni-Yayi. In 2010, Boni-Yayi and the then President of the Swiss Confederation, Doris Leuthard, met in Montreux (Switzerland) on the occasion of the Francophonie Summit.
Switzerland and Benin have concluded a number of bilateral agreements: in 1966 on trade, investment protection, investments and technical cooperation, in 1975 on air traffic, in 1981 on technical cooperation, and in 2010 on personal entry, residence and return.
Bilateral trade between Benin and Switzerland is limited: in 2010 goods with a total value of CHF 29.31 million were exported from Switzerland to Benin, in particular vehicles and chemical products. During the same period goods with a value of CHF 0.13 million were imported into Switzerland. Most of these imports were agricultural products.
Benin has been a major beneficiary of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) since 1983. Switzerland concentrates its activities on the poorer regions in the north of the country (the departments Borgou and Alibori). The SDC's aim is to reduce poverty and inequality by supporting women, men, children and institutions in developing their potential on the basis of their own strengths.
The Swiss-Beninese cooperation strategy envisages three main areas of activity: decentralisation and local development, adult literacy and vocational training programmes and economic development in rural areas. Switzerland is also participating in general budgetary assistance and utilising the political dialogue with the government of Benin and its development cooperation partners to strengthen governance and promote the equality of women and men. The cooperation office in Cotonou plays an active role in implementing the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness in order to coordinate and harmonise international aid.
Switzerland's financial commitment to Benin amounted to CHF 11.85 million in 2010.
Today approximately 80 Swiss nationals live in Benin. Around a third of them have both Beninese and Swiss passports.
Benin, formerly Republic of Dahomey, gained independence on 1 August 1960: Switzerland has recognised Benin since its independence in 1960 and the two states established diplomatic relations that same year. These relations were managed initially from the embassy in Abidjan (Ivory Coast), later from the embassy in Abuja (Nigeria), and are managed today from the embassy in Accra (Ghana). In 1964 the Benin established a consulate in Switzerland.
Since Benin's independence the two countries have been working together in the area of development. This cooperation has become more intensive and formal since 1981: that year the two countries concluded a framework agreement governing their cooperation and in 1983 Switzerland opened its cooperation office in Cotonou. In 2011 Switzerland and Benin celebrated 30 years of cooperation with a number of anniversary events in Parakou and Cotonou.