The traditionally good relations between Switzerland and Italy are characterised by close economic, political, human and cultural ties, a common language and frequent visits at all levels.
Bilateral relations Switzerland–Italy
Key aspects of diplomatic relations
Bilateral relations between Switzerland and Italy are based on a complex set of agreements. Representatives of the Swiss and Italian governments and administrative authorities meet on a regular basis, and there are also formal institutional contacts between both nations’ parliaments. The last state visit by an Italian president to Switzerland was made by Giorgio Napolitano from 20 to 21 May 2014.
Switzerland and Italy have been engaged in a dialogue on tax-related matters since May 2012. On 23 February 2015, the two countries signed a roadmap on taxation matters and a protocol to amend the double-taxation agreement, marking a major step towards resolving outstanding questions in this area. On 22 December 2015, Switzerland and Italy marked a key commitment to implementing the roadmap with the initialling of an agreement on the taxation of cross-border commuters.
The two countries maintain close cooperation in the transport, energy and infrastructure development sectors. In addition to dialogue on economic matters, Switzerland and Italy are also engaged in dialogue on agricultural matters, and met for the second time in February 2013 to discuss this issue. These ties provide a welcome opportunity for Switzerland to discuss bilateral affairs, European matters and international issues with Italy.
Switzerland and Italy exchange information in various bodies such as the working communities of “Regio Insubrica” and “Espace Mont-Blanc”, which maintain cross-border cooperation. The Italian-Swiss dialogue serves to strengthen awareness of how both countries can benefit from one another on many different levels.
Around 320,000 Italian nationals live in Switzerland, constituting the largest expatriate community in the country. The Italian expatriate community is also an important social factor in relations between the two countries, not least because it gives the Italian language in Switzerland greater weight.
Italy is Switzerland’s fifth most important trading partner. It regularly posts a trade surplus with Switzerland (2016: CHF 4.8 billion, with a trade volume of CHF 34 billion).
About 51,000 jobs were created in 2015 through Swiss direct investment in Italy (CHF 15.6 billion). In the same year, Italian businesses invested CHF 4.1 billion in Switzerland. Italian direct investments account for 13,000 jobs in Switzerland.
Exchanges are especially close in the Swiss-Italian border region, where over 70,000 Italians cross into Switzerland every day to work.
Cooperation in education, research and innovation
There are five Swiss schools in Milan, Bergamo, Rome, Catania and Como. Swiss institutes of higher education also maintain good and long-standing contacts with partner institutions in Italy. The establishment of the ‘Università della Svizzera italiana (USI)’ in Lugano and Mendrisio and the ‘University of Applied Sciences and Arts of Southern Switzerland (SUPSI)’ have given a new dimension to academic exchanges between Switzerland and Italy.
Academic exchanges have benefited from the agreement on the mutual recognition of the equivalence of university qualifications which was concluded in 2000. The Academic Commission – whose mandate is to encourage cooperation, promote dual doctoral programmes and improve the recognition of academic qualifications – met for the first time in 2010. Close cooperation among researchers in both countries as part of the European research programmes also plays a central role.
Scholars and artists from Italy can apply for Swiss Government Excellence Scholarships to the State Secretariat for Education Research and Innovation (SERI).
Close relations between Switzerland and Italy also exist in the cultural sphere. Since 1947, Switzerland has maintained the ‘Istituto Svizzero di Roma’ which is dedicated to cultural and scientific exchanges and has a regional office in Milan, the ‘Centro culturale svizzero’. The FDFA participates in joint projects throughout the world as part of the ‘Settimana della lingua italiana nel mondo’ initiated by the Italian foreign ministry.
Swiss nationals in Italy
At the end of 2016, there were just under 52,000 Swiss nationals living in Italy.
History of bilateral relations
Switzerland and Italy have enjoyed diplomatic relations since the founding of the Italian state in 1861. Celebrations to commemorate the 150th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Switzerland and Italy were held in 2011 at the same time as the 150th anniversary of Italy's unification.
In 1957, the Federal Council upgraded the Swiss legation in Rome, which had been maintained since 1871, to an embassy.