Switzerland and Germany maintain close relations in all areas, providing a broad and solid foundation on which to build cooperation.
Bilateral relations between Switzerland and Germany
Key aspects of diplomatic relations
Political relations between Switzerland and Germany have traditionally been good. They are based on a comprehensive set of over 200 agreements. At the national level numerous meetings are held each year between ministers and high-ranking officials. They are supplemented with annual meetings between the presidents and relevant ministries of German-speaking states. Since 2003 contact has been institutionalised between the Swiss Federal Assembly (Delegation for relations with the German Bundestag) and the German Bundestag (German-Swiss Parliamentary Friendship Group of the German Bundestag).
On 1 January 2014 the bilateral agreement on cross-border supervisory cooperation entered into force, facilitating market access for Swiss financial institutions in Germany. From July 2015 Swiss banks wishing to provide cross-border financial services in Germany can request a simplified exemption from the German Federal Financial Supervisory Authority BaFin.
Germany is a key partner in the energy sector, especially in the areas of innovative technologies and energy efficiency, in which closer cooperation is sought.
Improving cross-border, regional transport links and the connection of the German rail network to the New Rail Link through the Alps (NRLA) are matters of importance in bilateral relations.
Cooperation with the Swiss Chairmanship of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) in 2014 was intense and will be continued this year as part of the Troika with Serbia (current chair). In 2016 Germany will assume the chairmanship of the OSCE and thus give still greater weight to its active role as mediator in the Ukraine conflict. Germany will also continue to be a priority partner for Switzerland in matters regarding security in Europe.
Cross-border cooperation is primarily the responsibility of the cantons and is especially close in the regions of the Upper Rhine (Basel) and Lake Constance. Almost 60,000 German cross-border commuters were employed in Switzerland at the end of 2015.
Over 302,000 German nationals were living in Switzerland in 2015, making them the second largest group of foreign residents after Italian nationals.
Germany is Switzerland's most important trading partner and the market leader in Swiss imports, with one third of all imports coming from Germany – more than those from Italy, the United States and China combined. The volume of trade has picked up since the crisis of 2009 and in 2015 amounted to approximately CHF 83 billion.
With a total amount of CHF 51.4 billion at the end of 2013, Switzerland is the sixth largest foreign investor in Germany (5.7% of the total). Swiss companies employ approximately 379,500 people in Germany. Geographically, the focus of Swiss direct investment is in southern Germany (Baden-Württemberg and Bavaria) and in North Rhine-Westphalia.
Germany is the sixth largest source of direct investment in Switzerland, with a total of CHF 32 billion at the end of 2014. German companies employ over 118'000 people in Switzerland.
Cooperation in education, research and innovation
Alongside EU research and education programmes, there are numerous bilateral cooperation and exchange programmes. The State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI) awards Swiss Government Excellence Scholarships for scholars and artists from Germany.
Swiss nationals in Germany
The number of Swiss nationals living in Germany has risen in recent years. At the end of 2015, there were 86,774 Swiss citizens living in Germany.
The close cultural relations between the two countries have a long tradition and are based on their shared language. Exchanges between Swiss artists and their German counterparts take place on a significant scale and have led to fruitful artistic creativity in all parts of Switzerland. Presence Switzerland promotes various projects in Germany.
History of bilateral relations
In 1867 the Bundesrat decided to establish a diplomatic mission in Berlin. In 1919 Switzerland acquired a building located near the Spree, which today is home to the Swiss embassy. Starting in 1920 the building provided office space and was used as the minister’s residence.
After the Second World War and the division of Germany, Switzerland resumed diplomatic relations with the Federal Republic of Germany in 1951. The Swiss mission in Cologne was opened the same year before being upgraded to an embassy in 1957 and transferred to Bonn in 1977.
As German chancellor Willy Brandt pursued a policy of easing tensions with the East, Switzerland recognized the German Democratic Republic as a state in 1972. One year later the Swiss Confederation opened an embassy in the embassy district in East Berlin. The former mission situated near the Spree was from then on used as a Swiss general consulate in West Berlin.
The fall of the Berlin wall in 1989 and German reunification in 1990 marked a turning point in European history, bringing an end to the division of Germany and the political split within Europe. After the Bundestag decided to transfer the government and parliament to Berlin in June 1991, the Swiss consulate general in Berlin became a branch office of the embassy in Bonn, focusing on cultural affairs. The Swiss embassy remained in Bonn until 1999. In 2001 Switzerland opened its embassy in Berlin and moved to the restored and expanded premises of the previous Swiss legation.