Switzerland established regular contacts with Macedonia immediately upon the latter’s independence, integrating the new nation in its transition support programme. Switzerland’s current cooperation strategy focuses on supporting reform processes which are already under way in the areas of democratic governance, development of the economy and jobs, infrastructure and the environment. The presence of a sizeable Macedonian diaspora in Switzerland helps strengthen ties between the two countries.
Bilateral relations Switzerland–Macedonia
Key aspects of diplomatic relations
Switzerland recognised Macedonia on 12 May 1993 and in bilateral relations uses the official name 'Republic of Macedonia', as do more than 130 other nations. Relations are good, being dominated by questions concerning the substantial Macedonian community in Switzerland (family reunifications, police cooperation) as well as the keystone development cooperation programme.
Economic relations and trade between the two countries remain modest. There is potential for further development both in terms of trade and Swiss direct investment in Macedonia. So far the attractions and business potential of Macedonia have been recognised mainly by Swiss citizens of Macedonian origin who have studied or worked in Switzerland. A small number of these 'Swiss Macedonians' have created small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in their homeland, either with their own funds or in partnership with a Swiss company.
Cooperation in education, research and innovation
Scholars and artists from Macedonia can apply to the State Secretariat for Education and Research (SER) for Swiss Government Excellence Scholarships. Since 1964, Macedonian nationals have been awarded 48 scholarships.
Switzerland participates in various cultural events, notably in the context of the 'Francophonie' and Italian language week.
Development cooperation and humanitarian aid
Switzerland has undertaken bilateral cooperation projects in Macedonia since 1992, while contributing to regional and international programmes. Its current cooperation strategy with Macedonia (2017–20) focuses on supporting reform processes already under way in the areas of democratic governance, the economy, infrastructure and the environment.
Having only recently gained independence, Macedonia now finds itself in a phase of development and building a national identity. As it moves towards integration with Europe this new nation, despite relative stability and steady growth, still faces a number of challenges. The Orhid Framework Agreement of 2001, which marked the end of a violent conflict over Albanian minority rights, is the basis for the government’s political programme, particularly with regard to minority rights and the process of decentralisation. It is against this background that Switzerland’s cooperation programme is being implemented.
Swiss nationals in Macedonia
According to statistics on the Swiss Abroad, 321 Swiss nationals were living in Macedonia at the end of 2017.
History of bilateral relations
In 1994, a year after Switzerland recognised Macedonia’s independence, the Swiss ambassador in Sofia was also accredited to Macedonia and participated in diplomatic missions aimed at increasing the country’s stability. Switzerland seconded six police officers within the framework of United Nations peacekeeping operations, and provided financial support for the census of 1994. The following year Switzerland helped create a local radio station aimed at minorities in Skopje.
Since 1996 Macedonia has been a priority country for Swiss cooperation with Eastern Europe. In view of the growing importance of Switzerland’s activities, an embassy was opened in Skopje in 2000. Switzerland is much appreciated as a partner in Macedonia thanks to the extent of the resources it employs, its unique capabilities in certain areas, and the way in which its development aid complements EU programmes.