Bilateral relations between Switzerland and Sri Lanka are good. Switzerland has had commitments in various fields in Sri Lanka for many years. A number of Hhigh-level meetings between representatives of the two countries have taken place over the past 12 monthsintensified since 2015. The newWith its Sri Lanka Strategy for the period 2016-20, Switzerland intends to support reforms and reconciliation processes and to strengthen bilateral relations.
Key aspects of diplomatic relations
A number of high-level meetings have taken place over the past yeartook place in 2015: Federal Councillor Didier Burkhalter visited Sri Lanka in March, there was a working visit by SECO in May, and then President of the Confederation Simonetta Sommaruga met President Maithripala Sirisena during the UN General Assembly in September. In January 2016, and President of the Confederation Johann Schneider-Ammann met Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe at the WEF in Davos in January this year. Mr Burkhalter, the head of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, also received his Sri Lankan counterpart Mangala Samaraweera in March for an official visit in Bern.
Switzerland continues support for reconciliation and reforms in Sri Lanka and strengthens bilateral relations, press release, FDFA, 3.3.2016
The two countries have signed various agreements covering areas such as investment protection, air traffic and dual taxation. Switzerland has conducted a regular political dialogue with Sir Lanka since 2013 and signed a memorandum of understanding on this subject in 2016.
On 17 December 2015, the Federal Administration adopted the new Sri Lanka Strategy 2016-20, which follows the whole-of-government approach and has two main aims:
- to support the reform and reconciliation process with substantial and sustainable contributions in Sri Lanka;
- to intensify bilateral relations with Sri Lanka, in particular with regard to political contacts, cooperation on migration, economic relations, vocational education and training, and cultural exchange.
Sri Lankan economic growth was 6% in 2014, down from 7% in 2013. Inflation remained more or less stable in 2014 at 7%.Sri Lanka has maintained an average growth of around 6% in recent years. The bilateral trade balance has been negative for Switzerland in recent years, with a small number of exceptions. In 20154, Switzerland imported goods worth CHF 195 165.2 million were imported from Sri Lanka (up down 1523% year-on-year), compared with exports of CHF 1315.57 million (down up 1745%).
The number of tourists travelling to Sri Lanka has more than doubled since 2010. In 2014, 1.5 million people visited Sri Lanka, including 20,000 Swiss tourists.
Cooperation in education, research and innovation
Scholars Researchers and artists from Sri Lanka can apply to the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI) for Swiss Government Excellence Scholarships.
Peacebuilding and human security
Switzerland has been active engaged in the area of human security in Sri Lanka since 2001 and has sent deployed a human security advisor to the embassy in Colombo since 2003. After the HSD decideddeciding to make peace policy a priority in 2006, Switzerland stepped up and talks between the government and the LTTE in Geneva failed in October of that year, theits existing commitment in terms of human rights policy was stepped up. As of 2015, the HSDSwitzerland has been focusing on the implementation of the Human Rights Council resolution on building transitional justice mechanisms by providing active support to local authorities. It is also supporting the government in the upcoming constitutional reform, which is aimed in particular at decentralisation with a view to resolving the ethnic conflict. The HSDSwitzerland is also continuing its dialogue with the diaspora in order to ensure that it is involved in these two processes. As in previous years, Switzerland continued It also continues to focus on the key issue of the disappeared. Switzerland’s contributions played an important role in the international community’s coordinated approach to human rights.
Development cooperation and humanitarian aid
The SDC’s Swiss Humanitarian Aid Unit (SHA)Switzerland (SDC) has been activeprovided humanitarian aid in Sri Lanka betweensince 2003 and 2016. Following the Tsunami at the end of 2004 and the renewed escalation of the civil war from 2007 to 2009, its commitment was increased, and over 50,000 people benefited. More than 5,000 houses have been rebuilt in the provinces of Jaffna and Kilinochchi since the conflict endedbetween the end of the conflict in 2009 and 2015. Besides the construction of infrastructure (houses, schools, nurseries and water supply), supporting measures have also been put in place in areas such as financial and social counselling, working with parents, teachers and school governors, education and child protection. The budget for the SHA’s 2013-15 humanitarian aid strategy was roughly CHF 7 million per annum. The SHA’s SDC’s withdrawal, which hads been planned for some time, will be completed bywas completed at the end of April 2016.
The SDC’s Global Programme Migration and Development (GPMD) has been active in Sri Lanka since 2010 via its Safe Labour Migration programme. On the one hand, Switzerland supports the implementation by the authorities of legislation for migrant workers. On the other, it helps local social aid organisations to improve their service offering for the families left behind. In addition, dialogue with the destination countries and the reintegration of returnees are promoted and simplified. The next four-year phase of this programme, which begins in March 2016, includes a new presence in Jaffna and a planned “vocational education and training and migration” component scheduled to start in 2017.
Since November 2014, the SEM has been cofinancing a vocational education and training project by Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit(GIZ) with approximately CHF 750,000 over a two-year period (2014-2016). The project aims to improve people’s prospects in the regions hardest hit by the war and offers young people an alternative to irregular migration. Switzerland’s involvement has made it possible to extend the offering to eastern Sri Lanka as well.
Swiss nationals in Sri Lanka
At the end of 2015, there were 521 Swiss nationals living in Sri Lanka.
The Swiss embassy in Colombo regularly organises cultural events, including film festivals, exhibitions, conferences and concerts.
History of bilateral relations
Switzerland recognised the newly independent state of Sri Lanka in 1948. Diplomatic relations were established in 1956. In 1968, Switzerland dispatched the first Swiss ambassador to Colombo. The Confederation owns the land on which the residence (purchased in 1966) and the embassy (1990) stand.
Switzerland Sri Lanka has an embassy in Berlin which is also responsible for Switzerland, a consulate general in Geneva and an honorary consulate in Zurich.