Relations between Switzerland and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are primarily of an economic nature. Thanks to regular high-level visits as well as bilateral agreements and memorandums of understanding (MoU), bilateral cooperation has also been developed in other areas.
Key aspects of diplomatic relations
Diplomatic relations between Switzerland and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are traditionally good and have become stronger over the years through mutual official visits. This trend was underscored with the opening of the UAE embassy in Bern in autumn 2011.
Bilateral relations are governed by a series of agreements:
- investment protection agreement (1998)
- air traffic agreement (1999)
- MoU on waiving the visa requirement for the holders of diplomatic or service passports (2010)
- double taxation agreement (2011)
Together with the other member states of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), Switzerland and the UAE signed a free-trade agreement in June 2009. This agreement took effect on 1 July 2014 and was fully implemented on 1 July 2015. On the political front, in 2012 a MoU was signed on regular bilateral consultations. The latest consultations took place in May 2015 in Abu Dhabi.
Switzerland enjoys an outstanding reputation in the United Arab Emirates. and is a popular travel destination for United Arab Emirates citizens, especially in the summer. A number of United Arab Emirates citizens own property in Switzerland.
The United Arab Emirates is today one of Switzerland's most important economic partners in the Middle East. Dubai in particular, one of the constituent emirates and a dynamic trading hub linking the Asian, African and European continents, has attracted the regional headquarters of many Swiss companies thanks to its advantageous geographical location and business-friendly investment conditions.
Swiss exports to the United Arab Emirates have grown strongly in parallel with the economic boom in the country. Switzerland is currently running a substantial trade surplus with the United Arab Emirates. It exports mostly precious stones and metals, jewellery and watches, as well as machinery and pharmaceutical products. It imports mainly precious stones, precious metals and jewellery.
Education, research and innovation
The opening of a branch of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne (EPFL) in Ras Al Khaimah in May 2009 signalled the beginning of a new era of cooperation between Switzerland and the United Arab Emirates in the educational sector. The “EPFL Middle East” offers interdisciplinary courses at master’s level and PhD programmes in renewable energy and sustainability.
Furthermore, scholars and artists from the United Arab Emirates can apply to the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI) for Swiss Government Excellence Scholarships. Foreign residents of the United Arab Emirates must contact the Swiss embassy of the country of which they are a national.
The website "studyinginswitzerland" provides information in English for students wanting to continue their studies in Switzerland and for universities looking for cooperation partnerships. The "swissuniversities" website also provides extensive information in French, German and Italian.
Swiss nationals in the United Arab Emirates
In 2015, 2,850 Swiss citizens were living in the United Arab Emirates.
History of bilateral relations
Relations between Switzerland and the UAE have developed with the regional economic upswing which started with the increase in oil production in the 1960s.
Switzerland recognised the UAE shortly after it declared independence in 1971. In 1976, Switzerland opened a trade office in Abu Dhabi under the management of an economic delegate. In 1982, it was transformed into an embassy headed by a chargé d'affaires.
In 1987, Switzerland opened a consulate in Dubai in response to the rapid economic growth in the UAE and upgraded it to a consulate-general in 2000. In addition, in 2005, Switzerland opened a Swiss Business Hub in Dubai to support Swiss SMEs in creating and taking advantage of export opportunities in the whole GCC region. The consulate general in Dubai is currently only responsible for trade relations. Since April 2014 the Swiss embassy in Abu Dhabi has been responsible for all consular matters.
With the accreditation of the defence attaché in the UAE in 2009, the security dimension of Swiss-UAE relations was upgraded.
Entry in the Historical Dictionary of Switzerland (de, fr, it)