Bilateral relations Switzerland–France
Key aspects of diplomatic relations
France is a priority country for Swiss foreign policy. Bilateral exchanges are characterised by a large number of bilateral agreements, as well as Switzerland’s relations with the European Union.
Switzerland shares 600 kilometres of border with France. Cross-border exchanges are particularly intensive, notably around the Geneva agglomeration, Lake Geneva, the area of Mont Blanc, in the upper Rhine area and along the Jura mountains. More than 150,000 French citizens regularly cross the border to work in Switzerland.
Notable examples of bilateral cooperation involve economic and financial matters, cooperation in the field of research and innovation, transport infrastructure projects and the EuroAirport Basel Mulhouse Freiburg.
France and Switzerland also conduct regular exchanges regarding matters of international concern as well as cooperation in multilateral forums.
France is Switzerland’s forth most important trading partner, accounting for 7% of foreign trade in 2013. The volume of trade, which had continued to grow since 2008, showed a slight decline in 2011 at around CHF 30 billion. Trade surplus of 2014: about CHF 694 million.
Switzerland ranked seventh as a foreign investor in France at the end of 2012. The bulk of direct Swiss investments are in the border regions and around Paris. Swiss firms employ some 140,000 persons. French direct investments in the Confederation amounted to CHF 38 billion at the end of 2012. Swiss-based French firms, over 90% of them small and medium enterprises (SMEs), employ some 49,000.
Tourism is a significant aspect of economic relations, with some 700,000 French visitors to Switzerland in 2012.
Cooperation in education, research and innovation
Franco-Swiss economic relations extend beyond the industrial sphere to education and research. Representatives of the Swiss State Secretariat for Education Research and Innovation (SERI) meet regularly with the French Ministry of Higher Education and Research to discuss scientific exchanges and cooperation.
At the multilateral level, France and Switzerland work together closely – and successfully – in a number of programmes and within the most important European research institutions such as CERN and the European Space Agency (ESA). The joint commitment of France and Switzerland led to CERN being given observer status at the UN in December 2012. Since 2013, Franco-Swiss forums for innovation have been organised regularly with the aim of providing a platform to bring together scientists and companies from the two countries.
Swiss living in France
There were 194,474 Swiss citizens registered as living in France in 2014, making it the largest Swiss community abroad.
Cultural relations between the two countries are particularly close. As well as the Swiss embassy, it is above all Pro Helvetia which through the “Centre culturel suisse” in Paris organises many cultural events. The competent authorities of each country have regular meetings on cultural matters.
History of bilateral relations
In 1798 Switzerland opened its first diplomatic representation abroad, in Paris, and as a result, a Swiss consulate was soon opened in Bordeaux. At the end of the 19th century France was the only nation with a legation in Bern.