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Bilateral relations between Switzerland and Sri Lanka
Political relations between Switzerland and Sri Lanka intensified early in the 1980s, when ethnic conflict resulted in numerous Tamils fleeing to Switzerland. The Confederation intensified its efforts on behalf of peace and human rights and has also provided humanitarian aid.
The political relations between the two countries are good. The fact that Switzerland has never attempted to prohibit the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) has contributed to an intensification of the political dialogue.
During the long conflict in Sri Lanka, Switzerland worked for a peaceful solution and a lasting ceasefire. The country hosted peace talks in Geneva in February and October 2006.
In 2011, around 50,000 people of Tamil descent were resident in Switzerland. Approximately 21,000 have acquired Swiss nationality. The strong presence of the Tamil refugees who live in Switzerland is an important reason for the country's efforts in the areas of peacebuilding, development cooperation and humanitarian aid.
Sri Lanka charted economic growth of 8.3% in 2011 – the highest yearly increase since its independence in 1948. Since the end of the civil war, capacity utilisation and consumption have increased and the infrastructure has been developed, which has led to a stable economic situation. Trade volume has risen steadily since 2007 and grew in 2011 by about 15%. At 4.2% unemployment is at the lowest ever level.
Switzerland's imports from Sri Lanka in 2011 consisted primarily of machines, equipment and electronics (approx. CHF 40 million), textiles and shoes (approx. CHF 18.3 million) as well as precious metals, gemstones and semi-precious stones (approx. CHF 12.1 million). During the same period, Switzerland exported mainly machinery, equipment and electronics (approx. CHF 34.1 million), chemicals (approx. CHF 33.9 million) as well as precious metals, gemstones and semi-precious stones (approx. CHF 7.1 million). A total of 9426 Swiss nationals visited Sri Lanka in 2010; the number of Swiss tourists there increased compared with previous years.
Since 2010 Switzerland has focused its contribution to development cooperation on the issue of migration. Lasting solutions must be found for internally-displaced persons returning to the former conflict regions in the north. At the same time, the rights of economic migrants who emigrate to the Gulf states should be strengthened, and the social costs in Sri Lanka of this migration must be reduced.
In the area of humanitarian aid, Switzerland supports multilateral and international organisations, helping migrants to return home, protecting displaced populations and demining. It also assists in rebuilding homes and schools in village destroyed not just by conflict, but also by the tsunami. Furthermore, Switzerland is active in the promotion of income for underprivileged population groups.
The budget for the new humanitarian aid strategy for 20132015 has an annual volume of around CHF 7 million.
There were 441 Swiss nationals resident in Sri Lanka in mid 2012, of whom 194 have dual citizenship.
The Swiss embassy in Colombo organises regular cultural events, including film festivals, exhibits, conferences and concerts.
Switzerland would like to intensify cultural relations, as they represent a primary aspect of Swiss foreign policy in the area of peacebuilding and promoting human rights.
Sri Lanka achieved independence in 1948 following colonisation of the country by Portugal, the Netherlands and Great Britain. Switzerland immediately recognised Sri Lanka, and diplomatic relations began seven years later. In 1968 the Federal Council sent the first ambassador to Colombo.
Sri Lanka has an ambassador in Berlin who is also responsible for Switzerland.