Libya is crucially important for Switzerland in terms of migration and security policy. Switzerland is active in providing humanitarian aid and in peacebuilding with the aim of protecting the civilian population and stabilising the country.
Key aspects of diplomatic relations
Owing to the precarious security situation, the Swiss embassy in Tripoli was closed provisionally on 31 July 2014. Switzerland's involvement in Libya is now coordinated from Tunis and Bern. Consular services for people living in Libya are carried out by the Swiss embassy in Tunis. Switzerland is supporting the peace process, and the UN resolutions and sanctions.
In 2009, Libya was Switzerland's second-largest trading partner in Africa. However trade collapsed following a diplomatic crisis between the two countries and a Libyan embargo against Switzerland which continued until 2011. After Libya lifted sanctions, which was followed by a temporary recovery, economic relations are now suffering from the political crisis in Libya. In 2016, the total trade volume with Libya amounted to CHF 235 million.
Cooperation in the domain of education
Researchers and artists from Libya can apply for Swiss Government Excellence Scholarships from the State Secretariat for Education Research and Innovation (SERI).
Development cooperation and humanitarian aid
Switzerland's interdepartmental North Africa programme covers three areas:
Democratic processes and human rights
Economic development and employment
Migration and protection
Within the framework of this programme, Switzerland is active in Libya in the fields of humanitarian aid and peacebuilding. It also contributes to the protection of vulnerable migrants, internally displaced people and the communities that accommodate them.
Resources devoted to international cooperation with Libya amounted to CHF 21 million in 2011–2016.
Swiss nationals in Libya
In 2016, about 45 Swiss nationals were living in Libya.
History of bilateral relations
Switzerland recognised the newly created Libyan state immediately after its declaration of independence in 1951. At the time there were about a dozen Swiss nationals living there. A large number of Swiss geologists, technicians, and experts went to the country when the oil companies established themselves in the country. A number of Swiss lawyers, including Eduard Zellweger (1901–1975), worked as government advisers. From 1962 to 1965, the Swiss embassy in Tunisia looked after Switzerland's interests in Libya. In 1965, Switzerland opened a consulate in the Libyan capital, followed by an embassy in 1968.