Relations between Switzerland and the Portuguese Republic are traditionally good and characterised by mutual goodwill. Social exchange is a significant element in their relations, given the large number of Portuguese nationals living in Switzerland. Portugal is also a popular holiday destination for the Swiss.
Bilateral relations Switzerland–Porutgal
Key aspects of diplomatic relations
Relations between the two countries have a rich tradition, not least owing to the 260,000 Portuguese nationals living in Switzerland. The Portuguese community is the third-largest foreign community in Switzerland.
Switzerland and Portugal cooperate at the multilateral level, especially within the UN, where, in particular, Portugal is an important partner for Switzerland vis-à-vis the Security Council. During its term as a non-permanent member of the Security Council, Portugal supported reform of the organisation’s working methods.
In 2021, the volume of bilateral trade amounted to approximately CHF 2.3 billion, making Portugal Switzerland’s 31st biggest trading partner. Switzerland primarily exports pharmaceutical products, precision instruments, watches and jewellery, machines and appliances to Portugal, while it imports mainly vehicles, textiles, clothing and shoes, agricultural, forestry and fishery products.
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 (CCISP) was established in Lisbon in 1987. The AICEP Portugal Global – Trade & Investment Agency is located at the Portuguese embassy in Bern. A Swiss-Portugal Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCISSP) based in Geneva also promotes economic relations between the two countries.
Cooperation in education, research and innovation
Lisbon's Instituto Superior Técnico and the Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne run a joint doctoral programme in robotics and hydraulics. Architecture being an important field of cooperation between the two countries, numerous exchanges of teaching staff and students take place especially between the Faculty of Architecture of the University of Porto and the Academy of Architecture in Mendrisio. In 2016, Portuguese schools of tourism and the Swiss Education Group (SEG) signed a protocol that provides for direct entry for Portuguese students into the second year of the programmes offered by the SEG schools.
Scholars and artists from Portugal can apply for Swiss Government Excellence Scholarships to the State Secretariat for Education Research and Innovation (SERI).
Swiss contributions to cultural life in Lisbon and Porto take place partially through direct collaboration with the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation and the Serralves Foundation, while Pro Helvetia and/or the Swiss Embassy in Lisbon mostly support events held outside these main cultural centres. In 2019, the embassy stepped up its focus on collaborations with Portuguese creatives and cultural institutions in other countries (Goethe Institut, Institut Français du Portugal, Instituto Italiano de Cultura). This spawned more than 40 Swiss-backed cultural events in Portugal in 2020.
Swiss nationals in Portugal
According to the Statistics on the Swiss Abroad, 5379 Swiss nationals were living in Portugal at the end of 2021.
History of bilateral relations
The government of Portugal recognised Swiss neutrality in 1815. 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, which was upgraded to a consulate general in 1874. A Swiss diplomatic chancery was established in the Portuguese capital in 1936, and was upgraded to a legation in 1945 and an embassy in 1959. Portugal first established a consulate in Switzerland in 1855 in Geneva. A Portuguese legation was set up in Bern in 1892, and was replaced by an embassy in 1959.
Membership of both countries of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) served to foster intergovernmental relations in the period between 1960 and 1985. From 1963 to 1975, Switzerland represented Portuguese interests in Senegal.
Reciprocal visits became more frequent as of 1977. President of the Swiss Confederation Pascal Couchepin visited the Portuguese president in 2003, as did Federal Councillor Samuel Schmid in 2004 and 2006, and Swiss President Micheline Calmy-Rey in 2007. On 17–18 October 2016, President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa of Portugal paid a state visit to Switzerland, and Swiss President Doris Leuthard returned the visit from 28–29 November 2017.