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.
Key aspects of diplomatic relations
Bilateral relations between Switzerland and Italy are based on a complex set of agreements. Regular meetings are held between government and official representatives of both countries, in addition to which there is institutionalised contact between the two parliaments. The last state visit by an Italian President took place from 20 to 21 May 2014, when Giorgio Napolitano visited Switzerland.
In May 2012, Switzerland and Italy initiated a dialogue on their respective financial and fiscal sectors. On 20 April, the Senate gave its final approval on the agreement of 23 February 2015 between Switzerland and Italy, amending the double taxation agreement (introduction of the exchange of information on request). With respect to energy and transport policy, as well as the development of infrastructure, close cooperation is already under way.
Switzerland and Italy consider dialogue on agriculture to be important, and discussions on that subject took place in February 2013 for the second time. Dialogue of this kind provides Switzerland with a welcome opportunity to raise bilateral, European and international issues with its third-largest trading partner. Agencies such as Regio Insubrica, Regio Sempione and the Italian-Swiss cross-border dialogue provide an institutional framework for cross-border cooperation.
Around 500,000 Italian citizens live in Switzerland. They represent an important part of relations between the two countries.
Italy is Switzerland’s third-largest trading partner, after Germany and the United States, with a balance of trade which is regularly in surplus (CHF 3.8 billion in 2015).
With direct investments of CHF 16.2 billion, Switzerland created around 51,000 jobs in Italy in 2014. In the same year, Italy made CHF 4.2 billion of direct investments in Switzerland, providing jobs for 14,000 people.
Activity is particularly intense along the two countries’ shared border, where close to 70,000 Italians cross into Switzerland every day in order to go to work.
Cooperation in education, research and innovation
There are four Swiss schools, located in Milan, Bergamo, Rome, Como and Catania. Swiss universities also maintain good and long-standing contacts with partner institutions in Italy. The creation of the USI Università della Svizzera italiana and the University of Applied Sciences and Arts of Southern Switzerland (SUPSI) have helped to consolidate academic and cultural bonds between Switzerland and Italy.
Moreover, academic cooperation has benefited from the agreement on mutual recognition of university qualifications. The scientific commission, whose mandate is to encourage cooperation, promote double doctorate programmes and improve the recognition of academic qualifications, met for the first time in 2010.
Italian researchers and artists can apply for a Swiss Government Excellence Scholarship from the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI).
Intensive 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 is participating 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
51,535 Swiss citizens were living in Italy in 2014.
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.