Relations between Switzerland and Greece are close, reflecting a long tradition between the two countries. They extend to the economy, energy, culture, tourism and cooperation in the field of migration.
Bilateral relations Switzerland–Greece
Key aspects of diplomatic relations
Switzerland and Greece maintain good diplomatic relations. High-level visits are usually devoted to discussions on European and international matters. In July 2019, Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis met Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias and Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos in Athens.
Switzerland and Greece have common interests in the areas of migration, culture and energy. The two countries also share converging interests in international forums such as the United Nations and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).
Switzerland supported the TAP (Trans Adriatic Pipeline) project. The trans-Adriatic gas pipeline became operational on schedule in 2020, carrying gas from Azerbaijan to southern Italy via Turkey, Greece and Albania.
As a Schengen member state, Switzerland monitors the external borders of the Schengen Area. It deploys Swiss border guards through Frontex to critical locations on the Schengen Area’s external borders, including Greece.
Bilateral trade relations between Switzerland and Greece are good, but still have potential for expansion. Switzerland has historically had a positive trade balance with Greece. It exported goods worth CHF 715 million to Greece in 2020. Major exports include pharmaceuticals, watches, agricultural products, chemical products and machinery.
At the end of 2019, Switzerland was the fifth-largest foreign direct investor in Greece, with an investment volume of CHF 1.2 billion. Swiss companies established in Greece employed around 7,220 people in 2019.
In the long term the continuing presence of Swiss firms will depend on the recovery of the Greek economy. An area of potential for Swiss investment are renewable energies.
Greece is very popular with Swiss tourists. Each year some 500,000 Swiss nationals spend their holidays in Greece, making a significant contribution to the Greek economy.
Cooperation in education, research and innovation
Researchers and artists with Greek citizenship can apply for Swiss Government Excellence Scholarships to the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI). Each year the Swiss School of Archaeology in Greece (ESAG) in Eretria on the island of Euboea near Athens offers Swiss students a chance to conduct practical archaeological research over the summer. Since 1975, the school has been a cornerstone of Switzerland’s academic and cultural presence in Greece.
Swiss artists regularly appear on Greek theatre stages and cinema screens, particularly during summer festivals.
Each year the Swiss embassy organises projects for the 'Semaine de la Francophonie' and the 'Settimana della lingua italiana' with the relevant foreign cultural institutions. Swiss films are screened at Greek film festivals every year.
A major Greek cultural event in Switzerland was the 'Eretria' exhibition in Basel in 2010–11, which showcased artefacts found by Swiss archaeologists since 1972 on the site of the ancient city of Eretria.
Swiss nationals in Greece
According to the Federal Statistical Office, 2,851 Swiss nationals – 2,204 of them citizens of more than one country – were living in Greece at the end of 2020.
History of bilateral relations
Switzerland has had a diplomatic representation in Greece since 1895, when it opened a consulate general in Patras. It subsequently opened a legation in Athens, which was upgraded to an embassy in 1954.
During the German occupation of Greece from 1941–44, the Swiss consulate supported the efforts of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to assist the starving population. After the Second World War two Swiss nationals were particularly active in promoting Greek culture: Pavlos Tsermias, a correspondent for the Neue Zürcher Zeitung and professor of Modern Greek, and Bertrand Bouvier, a professor at the University of Geneva, translator and editor of Greek texts.
During the negotiations surrounding the Congress of Vienna in 1815, Ioannis Kapodistrias, a native of Corfu in the service of Tsar Alexander I of Russia, successfully secured the reorganisation of the Swiss Confederation and international recognition of Switzerland's neutrality.
The Greek uprising of 1821 against Ottoman rule led to the establishment of an independent Greek state in 1830. Prominent figures from Switzerland supported the Greek rebels. The memory of two Swiss personalities is still honoured in Greece: the banker Jean-Gabriel Eynard, and Johann-Jakob Meyer, founder of the first Greek daily newspaper.