Bilateral relations Switzerland–Greece

Relations between Switzerland and Greece are good, reflecting a rich tradition. Greece is a favourite holiday destination for many Swiss, who thus contribute to the country’s economic development. Switzerland on the other hand attracts many Greeks for university studies.

Key aspects of diplomatic relations

Switzerland and Greece have common interests in the areas of energy, taxation and migration. There are also converging interests in such international forums as the United Nations and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).

Switzerland is providing support to the TAP project for a Trans Adriatic Pipeline. It is expected to transport Azerbaijani gas to Italy via Georgia, Turkey, Greece and Albania as of 2019/2020.

As a member of the Schengen Area Switzerland is committed to solving the problem of illegal migration to Greece and in the framework of “Frontex”deploys Swiss border guards to neuralgic points of the Schengen Area’s external borders.

Switzerland has a fundamental interest in helping Greece, a country particularly affected by the economic and financial crisis, to become a stable and prosperous EU member state and has offered to conclude a compensation agreement with regard to the anonymous taxation of Greek assets held in Switzerland.

Economic cooperation

The balance of trade has long been positive for Switzerland. It exported goods worth CHF 906 million to Greece in 2013. The major industrial exports include pharmaceuticals (68%), watch and clock industry products (9%), chemicals (8%) and machinery (4%). At the end of 2011, Switzerland was the eleventh largest foreign investor in Greece, mainly in trade (44%), industry (42%), and the hotel and restaurant sector (6%). There are around 60 Swiss companies in Greece employing up to 6400 people.

In mid-2012 there were 65 Swiss companies operating in Greece, although there may since have been closures. In the long term the continuing presence of Swiss firms will depend on Greece’s return to growth. There is potential for Swiss investment in renewable energy sources.

The bilateral movement of persons in mid-2012 was scarcely affected by the economic and financial crisis. SWISS operated four daily flights to Switzerland. The availability of Swiss financial sector products in Greece has been stable.

Greece is a favourite destination for Swiss tourists. Each year some 400,000 Swiss holiday in Greece, making a significant contribution to the Greek economy.

Greece is a favourite destination for Swiss tourists. Each year some 400,000 Swiss holiday in Greece, making a significant contribution to the Greek economy.

Cooperation in the domain of education

Scholars and artists from Greece can apply to the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI) for Swiss Government Excellence Scholarships. The Swiss Archaeological School in Eretria on the island of Evia near Athens each year offers Swiss students a chance to conduct archaeological research.

Swiss nationals in Greece

At the end of 2013 there were 3256 Swiss living in Greece, of which about two thirds have dual nationality.

Cultural exchanges

The Swiss Archaeological School in Greece (SASG) has been a cornerstone of Switzerland’s academic and cultural presence in Greece.

Swiss stage and screen artists appear frequently in Greece, often in the context of summer festivals. Among the regular guests in Athens are the Béjart Ballet and the Zimmermann & de Perrot theatre group.

Each year the Embassy helps with the organisation of the Semaine de la Francophonie in March and the Settimana della lingua italiana, in collaboration with the respective Swiss cultural institutes. Swiss films regularly feature in Greek film festivals.

A highlight of the Greek cultural presence in Switzerland was the major exhibition “Eretria” in Basel in 2010–2011, It was dedicated to the finds of Swiss archaeologists from excavations carried out in Eretria since 1975.

History of bilateral relations

Before and during the Congress of Vienna in 1815, Ioannis Capodistria, a native of Corfu in the service of Tsar Alexander I of Russia, laboured successfully for reorganisation of the Swiss Confederation and for the international recognition of Swiss neutrality.

The Greek uprising against Ottoman domination in 1821 led to the formation of an independent Greece in 1830. Among the Swiss honoured by Greeks are the banker Jean-Gabriel Eynard and Johann-Jakob Meyer, founder of the first Greek daily newspaper.

During the German occupation of Greece from 1941–1944 the Swiss consulate supported the efforts of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to assist the starving population. Following the Second World War two Swiss citizens -- Pavlos Tsermias, correspondent for the Zurich newspaper NZZ and Professor of Modern Greek; and Bertrand Bouvier, a professor in Geneva, translator and editor of Greek texts -- did much to promote an understanding of Greek culture.

Switzerland has had a Consulate General in Greece since 1895, when it was located in Patras, followed by a Legation in Athens and since 1954 an Embassy.