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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 upon which to build cooperation.

Key aspects of diplomatic relations

Political relations between Switzerland and Germany are based on over 200 agreements, and are traditionally good. At national level, numerous meetings are held every year at ministerial and high-official level, and these are supplemented by the annual meetings of the presidents and ministries from the four German-speaking states (DE, AT, CH, LI). Since 2003 contact between the Swiss parliament and the German Bundestag has been on an institutionalised footing.

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 in Bern on 4 September 2012. The Council of States ratified the treaty on 7 March 2013 followed by the National Council on 6 June 2013.

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 fiscal claims made by the German authorities by means of a withholding tax and guaranteed the protection of the private sphere of bank customers in accordance with Swiss legislation. The German Bundesrat (the chamber representing the German federal states) voted against the agreement which resulted in the breakdown of the ratification process in Germany and meant that the agreement could not enter into force.

The organisation of cross-border cooperation is primarily a cantonal responsibility. Cooperation in this area is particularly close in the regions of the Upper Rhine (Basel region) and Lake Constance. Around 55,000 German cross-border commuters worked in Switzerland at the end of 2012.

Since 2007 Switzerland has been the most popular emigration destination for Germans: more than 275,000 Germans were living in Switzerland in 2011.

Economic cooperation

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 EUR 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 357,000 people in Germany. In geographic terms, the majority of Swiss direct investment is in the south of the country. Germany is the sixth most important country of origin for direct investments in Switzerland with a portfolio of CHF 28.2 billion at the end of 2011; German companies employ approx. 100,000 people in Switzerland.

Cooperation in the field of education

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.

Swiss nationals in 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.

Cultural exchange

The shared language has given rise to a long tradition of close cultural ties between the two countries. The extensive cultural exchange between Switzerland and Germany helps promote cultural activity in all parts of the country. The Competence Centre for Cultural Foreign Policy promotes various projects in Germany.

History of bilateral relations

The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and reunification in 1990 marked a historic 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 consulate-general there was turned into an embassy 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.