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.
Bilateral relations Switzerland–Greece
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, which is expected to start transporting Azerbaijani gas to Italy via Georgia, Turkey, Greece and Albania by 2019/2020.
As a Schengen member state, Switzerland is committed to monitoring the external borders of the Schengen Area. It deploys Swiss border guards through Frontex to critical locations on the Schengen Area’s external borders, including Greece.
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 roughly 6,400 people.
In the long term the continuing presence of Swiss firms will depend on whether Greece returns to growth. An area of potential for Swiss investment is renewable energies.
The bilateral movement of persons in mid-2012 was scarcely affected by the economic and financial crisis.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.
Cooperation in education, research and innovation
Researchers and artists from Greece can apply to the State Secretariat for Education Research and Innovation (SERI) for Swiss Government Excellence Scholarships. Each year the Swiss School of Archaeology in Greece (ESAG) in Eretria on the island of Euboea near Athens offers Swiss students a chance to conduct practical archaeological research over the summer. Since 1975, the school has been a cornerstone of Switzerland’s academic and cultural presence in Greece.
Swiss nationals in Greece
At the end of 2013 there were 3256 Swiss living 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 organises projects for the "Semaine de la Francophonie" in March and the "Settimana della lingua italiana" with the relevant foreign cultural institutions. Greek film festivals regularly screen Swiss films.
A highlight for Greek culture in Switzerland was the “Eretria” exhibition in Basel in 2010–2011. The exhibition was dedicated to the finds of Swiss archaeologists, who have been carrying out excavations in Eretria since 1975.
History of bilateral relations
Switzerland has had a diplomatic representation in Greece since 1895, when it opened a consulate general in Patras. Later a legation was established in Athens, followed by an embassy since 1954.
During the German occupation of Greece from 1941 to 1944 the Swiss consulate supported the efforts of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to assist the starving population. After the Second World War two Swiss citizens did a great deal to promote Greek culture in Switzerland: Pavlos Tsermias, a correspondent for the Neue Zürcher Zeitung and professor of Modern Greek; and Bertrand Bouvier, a professor at the University of Geneva, translator and editor of Greek texts.
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 the reorganisation of the Swiss Confederation and for the international recognition of Swiss neutrality.
The Greek uprising of 1821 against Ottoman rule led to the creation of an independent Greek state in 1830. Prominent figures from Switzerland supported the Greek rebels. Two Swiss personalities famous in Greece are the banker Jean-Gabriel Eynard, and Johann-Jakob Meyer, founder of the first Greek daily newspaper.