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 600km 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 Arc region. More than 180,000 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, and infrastructure projects.
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 accounted for 6.6% of Swiss exports in 2019. Switzerland was France's ninth biggest customer and ninth supplier of goods and services in 2019. The volume of trade between the two countries stood at CHF 38 billion in 2017.
At the end of 2018, Swiss investments in France amounted to CHF 63.8 billion, focused mainly on the border regions and in and around Paris. These investments have created around 110,000 jobs. French investments in Switzerland amounted to CHF 48.7 billion at the end of 2018, creating some 60,000 jobs. France is the fifth largest foreign investor in Switzerland.
Tourism is a significant aspect of the two countries' economic relations: in 2018, French visitors to Switzerland accounted for over 1.24 million overnight stays in Switzerland. France is therefore Switzerland's fifth most important partner in terms of tourism after Germany, the US, the UK and China. In 2016, Swiss travellers accounted for some 3.1 million overnight stays 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
In 2019, approximately 200,000 Swiss nationals were registered with the Swiss embassy and consulates general in France. Swiss nationals in France form the largest Swiss community abroad.
Cultural exchanges between Switzerland and France are long-standing, rich and diverse. For more than 30 years, Pro Helvetia has been financing the «Centre culturel suisse» in Paris, which is mandated to promote and disseminate contemporary Swiss cultural production. The Swiss Embassy in Paris, as well as the Consulates General of Lyon, Marseille and Strasbourg, facilitate and support communication around Swiss cultural events programmed by numerous French partner institutions. The relevant state bodies meet regularly for cultural exchange.
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.