Since the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1992, bilateral relations have developed on a somewhat irregular basis. Between 2001 and 2010, Switzerland supported Belarus with humanitarian aid. A bilateral dialogue is held annually, and the themes discussed include human rights, in particular abolition of the death penalty.
Key aspects of diplomatic relations
Although Switzerland and Belarus differ in their ideas on democracy and human rights, there is some contact between the two countries. After the violent repression following the presidential elections in 2010, Switzerland supported the EU- and US-led introduction of visa and financial sanctions against Belarus. The sanctions have been lifted as of 1 March 2016, with the exception of continuing measures against four persons. The EU decided against extending the sanctions on 15 February 2016, which has guided Switzerland's actions in this area
Until now, the development of trade between the two countries has been sluggish, and it is for this reason that Switzerland continues to be interested in better utilising existing potential. The basic treaties necessary to extend trade have been concluded, and agreements on trade and economic cooperation, on investment, and on double taxation are all in place.
Switzerland primarily imports agricultural products and exports pharmaceuticals, machinery and chemical products. Around 30 Swiss companies are represented in Belarus.
Cooperation in the domain of education
Scholars and artists from Belarus can apply to the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI) for Swiss Government Excellence Scholarships.
Peacebuilding and human security
Switzerland is committed to the global abolition of the death penalty and supports Belarus in its efforts for a criminal justice system without capital punishment.
Development cooperation and humanitarian aid
Beginning with 2000, the SDC became increasingly active in Belarus. In May 2010, all Swiss projects were transferred to local partner organisations.
The activities undertaken concentrated on measures to alleviate the consequences of the Chernobyl power plant disaster (child mortality, rehabilitation of health and social security services, disabled children, strengthening civil society) as well as the enhancement of disaster protection and rescue services. Civil society organisations also received support. The budget for 2001–2010 amounted to 25 million CHF.
Swiss nationals in Belarus
At the end of 2015, there were 20 Swiss living in Belarus.
History of bilateral relations
After the break-up of the Soviet Union, the Republic of Belarus declared its independence on 25 August 1991. Switzerland recognised the new state on 23 December of the same year. Since 1992, the Swiss ambassador in Poland has also been accredited in the Belarusian capital Minsk. In July 2007, Switzerland also opened a representation office in Minsk, which is under the supervision of the embassy in Warsaw.