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200 years of diplomatic relations between Switzerland and Russia

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Bilateral relations between Switzerland and the Russian Federation

In 2014, Switzerland and Russia celebrate 200 years of diplomatic relations. Russia is a priority country of Swiss foreign policy. Relations between the two countries have become closer since the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding in 2007.

Key aspects of diplomatic relations

Russia is a priority country of Swiss foreign policy. The two countries share many interests. As a member of the UN Security Council, the G-8 and G-20, Russia is a major international player.

Since the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) in 2007, bilateral relations have developed significantly. The MoU defines the framework for systematic and closer cooperation in the areas of: 

  • Foreign policy and security
  • Justice, police and migration
  • Economics and science
  • Education and cultural affairs.

Representatives of both foreign ministries meet regularly for consultations. There are close contacts at the parliamentary level too, with active parliamentary friendships groups in both countries.

Since 2009, Switzerland has represented Russia’s interests in Georgia and Georgia’s interests in Russia, after the two countries broke off diplomatic relations.

Economic cooperation

Russia is a large market with great potential for Swiss companies. Switzerland is committed to creating optimal conditions for Swiss businesses and has an action plan on developing economic relations to achieve this. A bilateral mixed economic commission meets on an annual basis.

The Swiss Business Hub, which is integrated within the Swiss embassy, advises Swiss companies intending to enter the Russian market and promotes Switzerland as a business location.

In 2013, Switzerland exported goods to Russia to the value of roughly CHF 3 billion, accounting for 2% of its exports; it imported goods from Russia to the value of about CHF 1 billion. In 2012, Switzerland was the 12th largest foreign investor in Russia with CHF 12.5 billion in direct investments.

Cooperation in the domain of education

In the fields of education and science, the Swiss embassy fosters close contacts with the relevant ministries and with many Russian universities and research institutes. It promotes exchanges and cooperation between education and research institutes in both countries and supports their potential for innovation. For this reason, on 17 December 2012, Russia and Switzerland concluded a bilateral agreement on science and research.

Scholars and artists from Russia can apply for Swiss Government Excellence Scholarships to the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI).

Peace promotion and human security

Switzerland and Russia regularly consult on human rights issues. Since 2003, bilateral consultations have taken place on an annual basis in Switzerland and Russia alternately. The two countries also regularly discuss regional conflicts.

Switzerland supports small projects on the integration of migrants and, since 1997, has been working together with Russia to reform the juvenile penal system.
At the multilateral level, cooperation takes place within the framework of international organisations, especially the UN Human Rights Council, the Council of Europe and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

Humanitarian aid

In the field of humanitarian aid, Switzerland cooperates with the Russian disaster protection authorities.

Swiss nationals in Russia

At the beginning of 2014, 713 Swiss citizens were registered at the Swiss embassy in Moscow, the majority of them living in the greater Moscow area, followed by St Petersburg. The number of Swiss nationals in Russia has fallen slightly for reasons including the fact that Swiss companies increasingly recruit local non-Swiss managers.

The embassy offers the full range of consular services and provides consular protection for Swiss nationals travelling through Russia.

Cultural exchanges

Russia has a rich cultural heritage and a lively and diverse cultural life. Cultural exchanges with Switzerland are intensive. The embassy supports cultural activity, provides information about Switzerland’s cultural presence in Russia and on cultural life in Switzerland to interested parties in Russia.

In 2014, the embassy is offering an ambitious programme within the framework of the Swiss cultural season in Russia as part of the celebrations marking 200 years of diplomatic relations.

Pro Helvetia is conducting a priority programme from the end of 2012 until mid-2015. This Swiss cultural institution aims to cater for the great interest in cultural exchanges and to promote contacts among cultural institutions.

History of bilateral relations

In 2014, Switzerland and Russia can look back on 200 years of diplomatic relations. After the Napoleonic Wars (1792–1815), Russia supported Switzerland’s re-emergence as an independent and neutral state. In 1814, Tsar Alexander I appointed an envoy to the Swiss Diet for the first time. A few years later, Switzerland opened an honorary consulate in St Petersburg. Since 1906, Switzerland has been present in Russia with a diplomatic representation.

Diplomatic relations with Moscow were broken off following the October revolution in 1917 and restored after the Second World War. Since the signing of the bilateral MoU in 2007, relations have deepened. A high point was the state visit of the then Russian president, Dmitry Medvedev, in 2009.