Switzerland and Bulgaria maintain very good, friendly relations. An important aspect is the cooperation programme as part of Switzerland's EU enlargement contribution. The two countries have interests in common, for example stability in the Balkans. In recent years, Bulgaria has become an increasingly attractive manufacturing location for Swiss SMEs.
Bilateral relations Switzerland–Bulgaria
Key aspects of diplomatic relations
High-level visits are usually devoted to an exchange of views on European and international topics.
The implementation of the cooperation programme as part of Switzerland's contribution to EU enlargement is also an important theme for bilateral relations between the countries.
Since 2011, all consular tasks for Swiss nationals living in Bulgaria are dealt with by the Regional Consular Centre in Bucharest, Romania.
Trade relations are modest. Switzerland is nonetheless one of the biggest investors in Bulgaria. At the end of 2016 Switzerland was Bulgaria's eighth-largest source of foreign direct investment. Alongside the major Swiss investors who have had a presence in Bulgaria for many years, recently a growing number of SMEs have also discovered Bulgaria as an attractive manufacturing location and are investing in high-tech industry. Bulgaria's central location in south-eastern Europe and its EU membership are two important reasons for this.
The partnership between Switzerland and the Bulgarian-Swiss Chamber of Commerce (BSCC) promotes bilateral economic relations.
Cooperation in education and research
As part of Switzerland's enlargement contribution to Bulgaria, Switzerland supports Bulgaria's introduction of a modern dual vocational education and training system tailored to the needs of the employment market. The agreed vocational education and training project has a total budget of roughly CHF 3.5 million. Furthermore, cooperation on research projects between Swiss and Bulgarian universities and academic institutions will be promoted, for example in the area of ecological agriculture and forestry.
Scholars and artists from Bulgaria can apply to the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI) for Swiss Government Excellence Scholarships.
Switzerland’s contribution to EU enlargement
Bulgaria is one of the 13 new EU member states to receive support through Switzerland's contribution to the enlarged EU. The total contribution for Bulgaria is CHF 76 million. The framework agreement for this bilateral cooperation programme with Bulgaria was signed in September 2010 in Bern. The funding-commitment period for projects in Bulgaria ran until December 2014.
The State Secretariat for Economic Affairs and the SDC share the running of the programme. The implementation of the projects will continue until 2019. Important themes are sustainable development, environmental protection, security and research.
Privately-funded projects, e.g. by Pro Helvetia, facilitate Swiss-Bulgarian ties in music, sport and dance. Partnerships between towns and cities in the two countries also promote mutual cultural understanding. One example is the partnership between Thun and Gabrovo, a city in the Balkan Mountains.
Swiss nationals in Bulgaria
According to the Statistics on the Swiss Abroad, 289 Swiss nationals were living in Bulgaria at the end of 2016.
History of bilateral relations
Switzerland has had a diplomatic representation in Bulgaria since 1911 when a Swiss consulate was opened in Sofia.
Before the opening of a diplomatic representation in Sofia in 1945, Bulgaria came under the responsibility of the Swiss embassy in Ankara.