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Bilateral relations between Switzerland and Tunisia
Switzerland’s relations with Tunisia evolved during the French colonial expansion in North Africa in the 19th century. In 1939, Switzerland opened a Consulate in Tunis. At that time, around 400 Swiss citizens were living in the country, mainly farmers, merchants, clerical workers and church representatives. Between 1939 and 1943, Switzerland represented Italian interests in Tunisia. The Swiss Consul guaranteed the protection of the 120,000-strong Italian colony and organized repatriations.
Popular travel destinationTunisia gained independence in 1956. Switzerland immediately recognized the new state and opened a Mission (which became an Embassy in 1961). Violence erupted once more when ties between France and Tunisia were severed, and as a result some of the approximately 570 Swiss nationals residing in Tunisia left the country. From 1957, the Swiss Federation, in cooperation with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), supported Algerian refugees in Tunisia, and this was to evolve into a commitment to the education sector and tourism. Today, Tunisia is a favourite destination for Swiss tourists.
Economy and human rightsEconomic relations play an important role, as testified by the free trade treaty signed in Geneva at the end of 2004 between the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) and Tunisia. Numerous Swiss companies are active in Tunisia, particularly in the textiles, clothing and food sectors. Switzerland and Tunisia jointly organized the World Summit on the Information Society, the first part of which took place in Geneva in 2003 and the second in Tunisia in 2005. Bilateral contacts between the two countries are sometimes overshadowed by differing stances on respect for human rights.