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Bilateral relations between Switzerland and Germany
Switzerland and Germany maintain close and intensive relations in all areas, which provide a broad and solid foundation on which to build cooperation.
Political relations between Switzerland and Germany are based on over 200 agreements, and are traditionally good. At national level, regular meetings are held at ministerial and official level and these are supplemented by the annual meeting of presidents and line ministries of the four German-speaking states (G, A, CH, FL). Since 2003 contact between the Swiss parliament and the German Bundestag has been on an institutionalised footing.
On 4 September 2012 in Bern, the State treaty on the northern flight approaches to Zurich Airport was signed by Federal Councillor Doris Leuthard and the German Minister of Transport Peter Ramsauer. The Swiss parliamentary chambers are dealing with the ratification of the Agreement.
On 21 September 2011, the Finance Ministers of the two countries, Wolfgang Schäuble and Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf, signed a taxation agreement in Berlin that provided for the implementation of the fiscal claims made by the German authorities by means of the collection of a withholding tax thereby guaranteeing the protection of the private sphere of bank customers in accordance with Swiss legislation. The German Bundesrat (chamber representing the German Federal States or Bundesländer) voted against the agreement, meaning that the ratification process on the part of Germany broke down and the agreement was not able to enter into force.
The shaping of cross-border cooperation is primarily a cantonal responsibility; this cooperation is particularly close in the regions of the Upper Rhine (Basel) and Lake Constance. At the end of 2012, about 55,000 Germans crossed the border to work in Switzerland.
Since 2007 Switzerland has been the most popular emigration destination for Germans: more than 275,000 Germans were living in Switzerland in 2011.
Germany is Switzerland’s most important trading partner. Germany is the market leader in the Swiss import market: one third of all Swiss imports originate from Germany. This is more than the imports from Italy, France, the USA and the United Kingdom together. Trading volumes (imports and exports) have now recovered from the crisis of 2009, and in 2012 amounted to approximately CHF 96.7 billion.
With direct investments of CHF 54.6 billion at the end of 2011, Switzerland is the seventh largest foreign investor in Germany. Swiss companies employ around 282,000 people in Germany. In geographic terms the majority of Swiss direct investment is in the Southern-German region. Germany is the sixth most important country of origin for direct investments in Switzerland with a portfolio of CHF 28.9 billion at the end of 2011, and German companies employ approx. 100,000 people in Switzerland.
Alongside EU research and education programmes, there are numerous bilateral cooperation and exchange programmes. The State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI) awards Swiss Government Excellence Scholarships for scholars and artists from Germany.
The number of Swiss nationals resident in Germany has increased in recent years. At the end of 2012, there were 80,715 Swiss nationals living in Germany.
The shared language has given rise to a long tradition of close cultural ties between the two countries. Cultural exchange between Swiss artists and their German counterparts is one important aspect that helps promote cultural creativity in all parts of the country. The Competence Centre for Cultural Foreign Policy promotes projects with a strong political message.
The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and reunification in 1990 marked a historical turning point: the end of a divided Germany and the political division of Europe. After the Bundestag decided to relocate the seat of government and parliament to Berlin in June 1991, the Swiss general consulate there was turned into an Embassy Branch Office specialising in cultural matters. However the Embassy itself remained in Bonn until 1999, after which it relocated to the renovated building of the former legation in Berlin where it has been ever since.