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Bilateral relations between Switzerland and Italy
Switzerland and Italy share close economic, political and cultural ties, as well as a common language. Visits between the two countries take place frequently.
Switzerland's relations with Italy – its third most important trading partner – have traditionally been very good.
Bilateral relations between Switzerland and Italy are based on a complex set of agreements. Regular meetings are held between representatives of the governments and administrative authorities of the two countries, in addition to which there is also institutionalised contact between the parliaments. The state visit of the Italian president, Giorgio Napolitano, to Switzerland was one such notable event. During his stay from 20 to 21 May 2014, President Napolitano was also accompanied by the Italian foreign minister, Federica Mogherini.
Since May 2012, Switzerland and Italy have been in dialogue on taxation and the two countries maintain close cooperation in the transport and energy sectors as well as on infrastructure development. In addition to economic dialogue, Switzerland and Italy also conduct a dialogue on agricultural matters, which was discussed for the second time in February 2013. These ties provide a welcome opportunity for Switzerland to discuss bilateral affairs, European matters and international issues with Italy.
Switzerland and Italy exchange information in various bodies such as the working communities Regio Insubrica, Regio Sempione and Espace Mont-Blanc, which maintain cross-border cooperation. The Italian-Swiss dialogue serves to strengthen awareness of how both countries can benefit from one another on many different levels.
Switzerland will contribute a pavilion to Expo Milano 2015 under the motto "Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life". In the run-up to the exhibition, Switzerland is organising events in various Italian cities to promote awareness among the Italian public of Switzerland's innovative strengths and cultural and linguistic diversity.
Around 500,000 Italian nationals live in Switzerland, constituting the largest expatriate community in the country. They also represent an important social factor in relations between the two countries, including the fact that they give the Italian language in Switzerland greater weight.
Italy is – after Germany and the United States – Switzerland's third biggest trading partner, and posts a trade surplus with Switzerland year after year (CHF 3.8 billion CHF in 2012). More than 77,000 jobs were created through Swiss direct investment in Italy (CHF 25.7 billion) in 2012. In the same year, Italian businesses invested CHF four billion in Switzerland, representing some 13,000 jobs. Cooperation is especially close in the Swiss-Italian border region, where over 60,000 Italians cross into Switzerland every day to work.
Four Swiss schools are located in Milan, Bergamo, Rome and Catania. Swiss institutes of higher education also maintain good and long-standing contacts with partner institutions in Italy. The creation of the USI Università della Svizzera italiana in Lugano and Mendrisio, and the University of Applied Sciences and Arts of Southern Switzerland (SUPSI), have brought a new dimension to academic and cultural exchange between Switzerland and Italy.
Moreover, academic exchange has benefited from the agreement on the mutual recognition of the equivalence of university qualifications which was concluded in 2000. The Academic Commission – whose mandate is to encourage cooperation, promote dual doctoral programmes and improve the recognition of academic qualifications – met for the first time in 2010. Intensive cooperation among researchers in both countries as part of the European research programmes also plays a central role. Scholars and artists from Italy can apply for Swiss Government Excellence Scholarships to the State Secretariat for Education Research and Innovation (SERI).
In 2013, there were 50,716 Swiss citizens living in Italy.
Intensive relations between Switzerland and Italy also exist in the cultural sphere. Since 1947, Switzerland has maintained the “Istituto Svizzero di Roma” which is dedicated to cultural and scientific exchanges and has a regional office in Milan, the "Centro culturale svizzero". The FDFA is participating in joint projects throughout the world as part of the "Settimana della lingua italiana nel mondo" initiated by the Italian foreign ministry.
Switzerland and Italy have enjoyed diplomatic relations since the founding of the Italian state in 1861. Celebrations to commemorate the 150th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Switzerland and Italy were held in 2011 at the same time as the 150th anniversary of Italy's unification.
In 1957, the Federal Council upgraded the Swiss legation in Rome, which had been maintained since 1871, to an embassy.