Relations between Switzerland and Austria are close and diverse, which is reflected mainly in the high number of diplomatic visits, in trade between the two nations and in the cultural sphere.
Bilateral relations Switzerland–Austria
Key aspects of diplomatic relations
Switzerland and Austria have traditionally worked closely together in many areas, including services for their citizens living abroad, economic and financial matters, education, research and innovation, and culture. Visits take place frequently and at all levels. Both countries regularly hold talks with Liechtenstein and Germany in the interests of political coordination.
They also work together at the multilateral level, for example at the United Nations, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and the Council of Europe. According to tradition, the first visit abroad by a new federal president or foreign minister in either Switzerland or Austria is traditionally made to the other country.
Since 2015, trade in goods and services between the two countries has exceeded the EUR 20 billion mark. Switzerland is Austria's fourth most important trading partner for both exports and imports. However, trade in services between the two countries is also becoming increasingly important and accounts for about a quarter of total bilateral trade. According to Austrian figures, in 2018 Switzerland was Austria's most important sales market for services outside the EU. After Germany, Switzerland is the second most important target country for services from Austria. In terms of service imports from Austria, Switzerland ranks third – behind Germany and Italy.
Switzerland is also one of the biggest foreign investors in Austria. At the end of 2018, total investments by Swiss companies stood at CHF 10 billion. Around 34,000 people are currently employed by Swiss companies in Austria. Austrian direct investment in Switzerland has risen sharply since 2000 and at the end of 2018 amounted to CHF 7.4 billion.
Cooperation in education, research and innovation
Austria is a key partner for Switzerland in this area. Cooperation between the two countries is diverse and particularly extensive in the fields of transport, energy, health and future technologies. The current EU research framework programme 'Horizon 2020' greatly facilitates the excellent networking and cooperation between researchers and institutions in both countries. With almost 450 collaborative projects to date, Austria is one of Switzerland's top ten partner countries in this field. Between mid-2014 and mid-2019, the Swiss National Science Foundation also supported over 400 projects that included Austrian involvement. Students from Austria form the fifth largest group of foreign students in Switzerland (around 1,300 in 2018/19); there are also around 500 Swiss nationals studying in Austria.
Swiss living in Austria
At the end of 2019, there were 16,707 Swiss nationals living in Austria.
Switzerland is actively engaged in promoting a diverse presence of Swiss artists in all parts of the Austrian cultural scene. The diplomatic representations and cultural institutes of both countries work closely together in that respect. An informal bilateral culture dialogue takes place at government level every two years. During these discussions, Switzerland and Austria agreed to increase cooperation in the organisation of cultural events in third countries. An example of this is the collaborative project between the FDFA/Pro Helvetia and the 61 Austrian libraries abroad, which was agreed in 2013 and has since been successfully implemented.
History of bilateral relations
Switzerland officially recognised the Republic of Austria on 2 November 1945. Diplomatic representations were set up in the course of the following two years. Since the end of the Second World War Switzerland and Austria have enjoyed particularly close and friendly relations. In 1955, Austria became a neutral state like Switzerland. Austria is considered a privileged partner in the European context and acceded to the EU in 1995. It was the first EU member state to ratify the agreements under Bilaterals I and also supported Bilaterals II during its EU presidency in 2006.
The official contact point for all companies from Switzerland and Liechtenstein with export and trading activities in Austria is the Swiss Business Hub Austria.