Bilateral relations Switzerland–France
Key aspects of diplomatic relations
France, Switzerland's neighbour and a founding member of the European Union (EU) is a priority country for Swiss foreign policy. Bilateral exchanges are regulated by a large number of bilateral agreements, as well as Switzerland’s relations with the European Union.
Switzerland shares nearly 600 kilometres of border with France. Cross-border exchanges are particularly intensive, notably around the Geneva agglomeration, Lake Geneva, the Mont Blanc region, in the upper Rhine area and along the Jura mountains. More than 160,000 French citizens regularly cross the border to work in Switzerland.
Notable examples of bilateral cooperation involve economic, tax and financial matters, cooperation in 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 fourth most important trading partner after Germany, the United States and Italy (sum of Swiss exports and imports, not including trade in gold). On 2015 6.85% of Switzerland's foreign exports went to France. In 2014, Switzerland was France's ninth biggest customer and its ninth biggest supplier. The volume of trade, which had grown steadily until 2008, has shown a slight decline in recent years. In 2015 it was approximately CHF 27 billion, with Switzerland's trade surplus amounting to around CHF 576 million.
Swiss investments in France amounted to CHF 34 billion in 2014. The bulk of Swiss investments are in the border regions and in and around Paris. France's direct investment stock in Switzerland was CHF 45 billion at the end of 2014. France is Switzerland’s fourth most important foreign investor.
Tourism is a significant aspect of economic relations. French visitors to Switzerland accounted for over 1.25 million overnight stays in 2015. France is therefore the fifth most important country for Swiss tourism after Germany, the United States, the United Kingdom and China. In 2014 Swiss tourists accounted for 3.1 million overnight stays in France.
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.
Finally, 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
There were over 200,000 Swiss citizens registered with the Swiss embassy and consulates general in France in 2015 – 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.