Bilateral relations Switzerland–France
Key aspects of diplomatic relations
France, as a neighbouring country and founding member of the European Union (EU), is a priority partner of Swiss foreign policy. Relations between the two countries are governed by numerous bilateral treaties, as well as by a series of agreements concluded between Switzerland and the EU.
Switzerland and France share a border of almost 600 km in length. Cross-border exchanges are very intensive, especially in the Geneva conurbation, the Lake Geneva and Mont-Blanc regions, the upper Rhine and along the Jura chain. More than 160,000 people cross the Swiss-French border every day to work in Switzerland.
Bilateral cooperation focuses in particular on economic, fiscal and financial issues, cooperation in research and innovation, infrastructure projects and the Basel-Mulhouse airport (EuroAirport).
France and Switzerland also conduct regular exchanges on current international issues and on cooperation in multilateral bodies.
France is Switzerland’s fourth most important trading partner (total imports and exports, excluding trade in gold) after Germany, the United States and Italy, and absorbed 6.85% of Swiss exports in 2015. For France, in 2015, Switzerland was its ninth biggest customer and ninth supplier. The volume of trade, which had grown steadily until 2008, has shown a slight decline in recent years. In 2016, it was approximately CHF 27 billion with Switzerland’s trade surplus in the region of CHF 580 million.
At the end of 2015, Swiss investments in France amounted to CHF 47 billion, focused mainly on the border regions and in and around Paris. These investments have created 104,000 jobs. French investments in Switzerland amounted to CHF 44 billion at the end of 2015, creating some 56,000 jobs. France is the third largest foreign investor in Switzerland.
Tourism is a significant aspect of the two countries’ economic relations. In 2016, French visitors to Switzerland accounted for over 1.24 million overnight stays in Switzerland, making France Switzerland’s fourth most important partner in terms of tourism after Germany, the US and the UK. In 2014, Swiss travellers spent some 3.1 million nights in France.
Cooperation in education, research and innovation
Franco-Swiss economic relations extend beyond the industrial and scientific spheres to education and research. Representatives of the Swiss State Secretariat for Education Research and Innovation (SERI) meet regularly with officials from the French ministries of national education and of higher education, research and innovation to discuss exchanges and cooperation in science and technology between Swiss and French universities.
At the multilateral level, France and Switzerland work together closely – and successfully – in many 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.
Lastly, since 2013 the Swiss embassy has organised regular talks and panel discussions on innovation, education and research under the label ‘Think Swiss: A Vision of the Future’. The discussions are designed to offer a platform for scientists and companies from the two countries to meet.
Swiss nationals in France
According to the Statistics on the Swiss over 200,730 Swiss nationals were living France at the end of 2016 – 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 that, 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 diplomatic representation in Bern.