Libya plays a critical role in Switzerland's migration and security policy. Swiss humanitarian aid and peacebuilding programmes are helping to protect the civilian population and stabilise the country.
Key aspects of diplomatic relations
In light of the unstable security situation, the Swiss embassy in Libya has been temporarily closed since 31 July 2014. Switzerland's activities in Libya are currently coordinated from Tunis and Bern, with consular services for residents of Libya provided by the Swiss embassy in Tunis. Switzerland supports the peace process, as well as the resolutions and sanctions adopted by the United Nations.
As recently as 2009, Libya was Switzerland's second largest trading partner in Africa. The diplomatic crisis between the two countries and an embargo imposed by Libya against Switzerland resulted in a significant drop in trade, which continued until 2011.
Libya was for many years Switzerland's leading supplier of crude oil. Since 2015, however, Swiss imports of Libyan oil have fallen sharply. Swiss exports to Libya, in contrast, have remained relatively stable over the last decade, totalling between CHF 97 and 346 million per year.
Cooperation in education, research and innovation
Researchers and artists from Libya can apply for Swiss Government Excellence Scholarships from the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI).
Peacebuilding and human security
Switzerland's cooperation strategy for North Africa for the 2017–2020 period is composed of three pillars:
Democratic processes and human rights
Economic development and employment
Migration and protection
As part of this strategy, Switzerland supports dialogue and conflict transformation projects in Libya at both local and national levels. It supports the UN process and the international community's conflict-sensitive approach – including issues related to migration – and projects aimed at improving detention conditions and prisoners' rights. It also works to ensure that violations of the human rights of migrants are documented. In addition, it supports projects aimed at strengthening the capabilities and resilience of human rights defenders.
Development cooperation and humanitarian aid
Switzerland's activities in Libya are focused on the first pillar of its cooperation strategy for North Africa (democratic transition, human rights and peacebuilding, under the aegis of the FDFA's Human Security Division) and third pillar (migration and protection) under the aegis of Swiss Humanitarian Aid and the Federal Office for Migration. Switzerland also provides funding to protect vulnerable migrants, displaced persons and host communities.
Switzerland allocated nearly CHF 21 million for international cooperation with Libya between 2011 and 2016. A budget of over CHF 16 million has been earmarked for the 2017–2020 period.
Swiss nationals in Libya
In 2018, there were 40 Swiss nationals living in Libya.
History of bilateral relations
Switzerland recognised the newly established Libyan state upon its declaration of independence in 1951. About a dozen Swiss nationals were living in Libya in the early 1950s. This number grew significantly after oil companies had established operations in Libya, most of them being geologists, technicians and UN. A number of Swiss lawyers, including Eduard Zellweger (1901–75), worked as consultants for the young state. From 1962 to 1965, Switzerland's interests in Libya were represented by the Swiss embassy in Tunisia. In 1965, Switzerland opened a consulate in Tripoli, followed by an embassy in 1968.