The excellent relations between Switzerland and Croatia stem from Switzerland's humanitarian aid and reconstruction activities during and after the conflict in Croatia. Croatia is Switzerland's second biggest trading partner in south-eastern Europe. It is popular among Swiss nationals as a holiday destination. Furthermore, a substantial Croatian diaspora lives in Switzerland.
Key aspects of diplomatic relations
The number of high-level official visits and the agreements that have been signed by the two countries attest to a steady intensification of political relations. Since 2006, there have been regular exchanges between the two parliaments.
When Croatia joined the EU on 1 June 2013, the bilateral agreements between Switzerland and the EU were automatically extended to Croatia, with the exception of the Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons (AFMP). Switzerland ratified protocol III to the AFMP, extending the free movement of persons to Croatia on 16 December 2016. Since the protocol entered into force on 1 January 2017, Croatian citizens have benefited from the free movement of persons. Under the transitional arrangements set up under protocol III, Switzerland may continue to restrict access to the job market until the end of 2021.
Although Croatia is Switzerland's second biggest trading partner in south-eastern Europe, the volume of trade remains relatively small. Nevertheless, bilateral trade has increased since 2012, reaching CHF 548 million in 2019. However, the growth of imports from Croatia outweighed that of Swiss exports. Switzerland mainly exports pharmaceutical products and machinery, and mainly imports machinery, metal products, wood and textiles. More than 60 Swiss companies operate in Croatia.
The two countries have had ties for a number of years via a free-trade agreement between the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) and Croatia. After Croatia's accession to the EU, most agreements were superseded by Switzerland's bilateral agreements with the EU.
Cooperation in education, research and innovation
Researchers and artists from Croatia can apply to the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI) for Swiss Government Excellence Scholarships.
Switzerland’s enlargement contribution supports various projects, including updating Croatia’s dual vocational education and training system. The vocational training project has a total budget of approximately CHF 2 million. Measures are also in place to promote cooperation in social sciences and humanities research between Swiss and Croatian universities and academic institutions.
Switzerland's contribution to the enlarged EU
As a member of the European Union (EU), Croatia is one of the beneficiaries of Switzerland’s contribution to reduce economic and social disparities in the enlarged EU. Switzerland contributes CHF 45 million to Croatia, supporting 12 projects. On 30 June 2015 Switzerland and Croatia signed the bilateral framework agreement and all projects were approved in 2017. One project has already been implemented, with the others due to be completed by the end of 2024.
Both the Swiss Embassy in Zagreb and the Pro Helvetia Arts Council actively promote cultural exchanges between Switzerland and Croatia. Such exchanges are increasingly taking place within a private framework.
Swiss nationals in Croatia
At the end of 2019 there were 1,397 Swiss nationals living in Croatia.
History of bilateral relations
Switzerland has had a general consulate in Zagreb since 1920. It first served as the Swiss representation to the Kingdom of Yugoslavia and subsequently to the former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.
On 8 October 1991, the former Yugoslav constituent republic of Croatia declared its independence. Switzerland recognised Croatia as a sovereign state in January 1992. In the same year, Switzerland was one of the first countries to open an embassy in Zagreb. Since 1995, there has been a Croatian embassy in Bern as well as a general consulate in Zurich and a consulate in Lugano.