Relations between Switzerland and Portugal are traditionally good and characterised by mutual good will. Social exchange is a significant element in their relations, based on the large number of Portuguese nationals living in Switzerland. Portugal, on the other hand, is a popular holiday destination for the Swiss.
Bilateral relations Switzerland–Portugal
Key aspects of diplomatic relations
Switzerland and Portugal cooperate at the multilateral level. In particular, Portugal is an important partner of Switzerland vis-à-vis the UN Security Council. During its term as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council, the country supported reform of the organisation’s working methods.
Economic relations between the two countries are steeped in tradition, not least owing to the some 270,000 Portuguese citizens living in Switzerland. The Portuguese community in Switzerland represents the third-largest group of foreigners. Nonetheless, commercial trade between the countries remains at a low level.
By international comparison, both as purchaser and as supplier of goods, Portugal ranks number 13. Switzerland mainly exports pharmaceutical products, machines and watches to Portugal, while primarily importing agricultural products, clothing, paper and motor vehicles from Portugal.
The protocol of amendment that entered into force in October 2013 brought the double taxation agreement of 1974 up to date.
A Swiss-Portuguese chamber of commerce and industry has been operating in Lisbon since the late 1980s, while its Portuguese counterpart, the aicep Portugal Global - Trade & Investment Agency, is located at the Portuguese Consulate-General in Zurich.
Cooperation in education, research and innovation
The Ecole hôtelière de Lausanne EHL (Lausanne Hospitality Management School) is cooperating with the Portuguese State Secretariat for Tourism in the certification of 16 national hotel schools. Lisbon's Instituto Superior Técnico (IST) and the Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL) run a joint doctorate-degree programme in robotics and hydraulics. Swiss architects are regularly welcomed at Portuguese universities as high-calibre guests.
Scholars and artists from Portugal can apply for Swiss Government Excellence Scholarships to the State Secretariat for Education Research and Innovation (SERI).
Swiss music featured prominently in Portugal in 2015 with numerous concerts given throughout the country by Swiss musicians, involving various jazz groups, the choirs Calliope from Lausanne and Le Chêne from Gland, and the groups Juventus Musica Basel, Jugend Sinfonie Orchester Konservatorium Bern and Konsi Big Band Konservatorium Bern. This year Baldur Brönnimann was the principal conductor of the Porto Symphony Orchestra. Lisbon hosted the dancer Simon Wehrli and performances by King Size and Cinema Apollo of the Théâtre Vidy-Lausanne. The books Le Retour aux Indes by Éric Masserey and The Freak, Le dernier film de Chaplin by Pierre Smolik have been published in Portuguese.
Swiss nationals in Portugal
At the end of 2015, there were 3,463 Swiss nationals living in Portugal, more than half of whom were holders of dual citizenship.
History of bilateral relations
Paracelsus visited Portugal in 1515 and wrote about his impressions as the first Swiss visitor. Leonhard Thurneysen, a natural scientist from Basel, visited the kingdom in 1555–56. From the early 1800s, the Swiss began going to Lisbon more and more frequently, one of whom was the royal banker David de Pury, who settled there in 1736.
In 1815, the Portuguese government recognised Swiss neutrality. At this time too, consular relations were established between the two countries, even though the first formal agreement was only signed in 1883.
Switzerland opened a consulate in Lisbon in 1817, to be transformed into a consulate-general in 1874. A Swiss diplomatic chancery began operations in the Portuguese capital in 1936, turning into a legation in 1945, and later raised to embassy status in 1959. Portugal set up its first consulate in Switzerland in 1855. In 1892, a Portuguese legation was established in Bern and upgraded to an embassy in 1959.
The membership of both countries in the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) from 1960 to 1985 served to foster intergovernmental relations. From 1963 to 1975, Switzerland represented Portuguese interests in Senegal.
Reciprocal visits became more frequent beginning in 1977. Visits were paid to their Portuguese counterparts by Swiss President Couchepin in 2003; Federal Councillor Schmid in 2004; and Swiss President Calmy-Rey in 2007.