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Bilateral relations between Switzerland and Serbia
Bilateral relations between Switzerland and Serbia are dynamic, varied and well developed, characterised by meaningful human and cultural ties and a wide range of bilateral agreements in many areas as well as good cooperation in the multilateral organisations.
There are regular, frequent contacts at the level of foreign affairs ministers and secretaries of state. Many agreements exist, notably in relation to economic questions, migration and social insurance. The presence in Switzerland of a large Serb community also influences relations.
Cooperation in the multilateral area is excellent, with the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Chair to be held by Switzerland in 2014 followed by Serbia in 2015, as well as cooperation within the Swiss group at the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.
Economic cooperation includes annual government level meetings in the form of mixed economic commissions and forums, making it possible to establish priorities, discuss any difficulties and develop opportunities for investment.
There is potential in trade relations, which have suffered from the economic crisis, and the same can be said for Swiss direct investment in Serbia, which remains at attractive market for the Swiss companies present.
Scholars and artists from Serbia can apply to the State Secretariat for Education and Research (SER) for Swiss Government Excellence Scholarships.
Cooperation between universities, and notably between the Universities of Zurich and Belgrade, has resulted in even more dynamic scientific exchanges.
Serbia having been granted Associate Membership status at CERN, a new level of cooperation can begin with that organisation.
One of the four pillars of the Swiss programme of cooperation with Serbia is education, focusing in particular on inclusion of the most vulnerable groups in the educational system, beginning with the Rom population.
Active since 1991, with a cooperation programme initially devoted to humanitarian aid, Switzerland has launched several initiatives aimed at peacebuilding and reconciliation, notably with regard to transitional justice and dealing with the past. Since 2009 the Swiss Embassy has provided financial support for programmes of the OSCE Mission in the Serb region of Sandzak and participates in diplomatic initiatives of the group of Friends of Sandzak and of South of Serbia.
Through its cooperation programme Switzerland has supported Serbia’s transition since 1991 for a total of 300 million CHF, with an annual contribution of 15 million CHF. Having begun as a mainly humanitarian effort, this programme has since become a classic case of cooperation. The main thrust of the strategy for 2010–2013, established in agreement with the principal Serb partners, both governmental and non-governmental, is to promote the integration of Serbia in Europe. The focus is on improving the conditions for social inclusion, a reduction in poverty and stimulating economic competitiveness. These efforts involve four specific areas: economic development, the rule of law and democratisation, education, and the efficient use of energy plus the development of renewables.
At the end of 2011 there were 1220 Swiss registered in Serbia, many of them with dual nationality.
Cultural relations between Switzerland and Serbia are particularly diverse, extending from dance, music and theatre to film and literature. Switzerland supports a number of cultural festivals in Belgrade which enable Swiss artists and groups to be heard. The same is true in Switzerland, where the Serb community contributes much to the diversity of cultural exchanges.
In 1919 Switzerland recognised the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, which in 1929 become Yugoslavia. A Legation was opened in Belgrade in 1940, being upgraded to an Embassy in 1957. The Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was founded on the eve of the Second World War. Its constituent republics seceded in 1991 and 1992, leaving just the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia which in 2003 was renamed the «Union of Serbia and Montenegro». In 2006 Montenegro opted out of the Union. As the only remaining state, Serbia took upon itself all of the treaties signed with Switzerland.