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Switzerland and France

Relations between France and Switzerland are close and intensive, particularly at the borders between the two countries. A shared language together with economic, cultural and interpersonal exchanges, help to bring them closer together.

Key aspects of diplomatic relations

France is a priority country for Swiss foreign policy. Bilateral exchanges are characterised by a large number of bilateral agreements, as well as Switzerland’s relations with the European Union, notably with regard to the free movement of persons.

Switzerland shares 600 kilometres of border with France. Cross-border exchanges are particularly intensive, notably around the Geneva agglomeration, Lake Geneva, the area of Mont Blanc, in the upper Rhine area and along the Jura mountains. More than 160,000 French citizens regularly cross the border to work in Switzerland.

Notable examples of cross-border cooperation involve transport infrastructure projects, the Basel Mulhouse “EuroAirport” as well as financial matters.

Economic cooperation

France is Switzerland’s third most important trading partner, accounting for 7.8% of foreign trade in 2011. The volume of trade, which had continued to grow since 2008, showed a slight decline in 2011 at around CHF 30 billion, leaving Switzerland with a trade deficit of about CHF 1 billion.

Switzerland ranked seventh as a foreign investor in France at the end of 2010. The bulk of direct Swiss investments are in the border regions and around Paris. Swiss firms employ some 160,000 persons. French direct investments in the Confederation amounted to CHF 42 billion at the end of 2010. Swiss-based French firms, over 90% of them small and medium enterprises (SMEs), employ some 44,000.

Tourism is a significant aspect of economic relations, with some 680,000 French visitors to Switzerland in 2011, and more than 5.5 million Swiss visitors to France in the same year, accounting for 7.1% of the total.

Cooperation in the field of education

Franco-Swiss economic relations extend beyond the industrial sphere to education and research. Representatives of the Swiss State Secretariat for Education Research and Innovation (SERI) meet regularly with the French Ministry of Higher Education and Research to discuss scientific exchanges and cooperation.

French and Swiss research groups participated together with four out of six pilot projects in a flagship initiative of the European Commission, the Future and Emerging Technologies (FET) framework programme. The year 2013 will see the realisation of a number of events for the promotion of innovation.

Swiss living in France

There were 186,615 Swiss citizens registered as living in France in 2012, making it the largest Swiss community abroad.

Cultural exchanges

Cultural relations between the two countries are particularly intensive. As well as the Swiss Embassy, it is above all Pro Helvetia which through the “Centre culturel Suisse” in Paris organises many cultural events. The competent authorities of each country have regular meetings on cultural subjects.

History of bilateral relations

France has been represented by an Ambassador in Switzerland since the beginning of the 16th century. In 1798 Switzerland opened its first diplomatic representation abroad, in Paris, and a Swiss consulate was soon opened in Bordeaux. At the end of the 19th century France was the only nation with a legation in Bern.