Bilateral relations Switzerland–United Arab Emirates

Relations between Switzerland and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are primarily of an economic nature. Thanks to regular high-level visits as well as bilateral agreements and memorandums of understanding (MoU), bilateral cooperation has also been developed in other areas.

Key aspects diplomatic relations

Diplomatic relations between Switzerland and the UAE are traditionally good and have been deepened through intensified mutual diplomatic visits. This trend was underscored with the opening of the UAE embassy in Bern in autumn 2011.

Bilateral relations are governed by the following agreements:

  • Investment protection agreement (1998)
  • Air traffic agreement (1999)
  • MoU on waiving the visa requirement for the holders of diplomatic or service passports (2010)
  • Double taxation agreement (2011).

Together with the other member states of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), Switzerland and the UAE signed a free-trade agreement in June 2009. This agreement is in the process of ratification. On the political front, in 2012 a MoU was signed on regular bilateral consultations. The first consultations took place in November 2013 at foreign-minister level in Bern.

Switzerland enjoys an outstanding reputation in the UAE and is a popular travel destination for UAE citizens especially in the summer. A number of UAE citizens own property in Switzerland.

Economic cooperation

The UAE is today one of Switzerland's most important economic partners in the Middle East. Dubai in particular, one of the constituent emirates and a dynamic trading hub linking the Asian, African and European continents, has attracted the regional headquarters of many Swiss companies thanks to its advantageous geographical location and business-friendly investment conditions.

Swiss exports to the UAE have grown strongly in parallel with the economic boom in the UAE. Switzerland is currently running a substantial trade surplus with the UAE. It exports mostly precious stones and metals, jewellery and watches, as well as machinery and pharmaceutical products. It imports mainly precious stones, precious metals and jewellery.

Cooperation in the domain of education

The opening of a branch of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne (EPFL) in Ras Al Khaimah in May 2009 signalled the beginning of a new era of cooperation between Switzerland and the UAE in the educational sector. The “EPFL Middle East” offers interdisciplinary courses in renewable energy technology and sustainability up to the Master’s and Doctorate levels.

The first ever UAE-Swiss Research Day was held at the EPFL in the summer of 2011 in the framework of the Emirati-Swiss Friendship Forum, with some 100 students from both countries attending to present their research projects.

Scholars and artists from the United Arab Emirates can apply to the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI) for Swiss Government Excellence Scholarships.

Swiss nationals in the United Arab Emirates

In September 2013, around 2,430 Swiss citizens were living in the UAE.

Cultural exchanges

The Swiss Art Gate UAE founded by Kurt Blum of Switzerland promotes cultural exchanges between the Emirates and Switzerland, organising exhibitions and cultural projects in the UAE.

History of bilateral relations

Relations between Switzerland and the UAE have developed with the regional economic upswing which started with the increase in oil production in the 1960s.

Switzerland recognised the UAE shortly after it declared independence in 1971. In 1976, Switzerland opened a trade office in Abu Dhabi under the management of an economic delegate. In 1982, it was transformed into an embassy headed by a chargé d'affaires.

In 1987, Switzerland opened a consulate in Dubai in response to the rapid economic growth in the UAE and upgraded it to a consulate-general in 2000. In addition, in 2005, Switzerland opened a Swiss Business Hub in Dubai to support Swiss SMEs in creating and taking advantage of export opportunities in the whole GCC region.

With the accreditation of the defence attaché in the UAE in 2009, the security dimension of Swiss-UAE relations was upgraded.