Mandate of cooperation with Eastern Europe

Cooperation with Eastern Europe is an integral component of Switzerland's foreign policy and foreign economic policy. It includes cooperation with Eastern Europe ("transition") and the Swiss contribution to selected EU member states. Its mandate is based on the Federal Act on Cooperation with the States of Eastern Europe.

Cooperation with Eastern Europe

A worker in the factory of the metal processing company "Cromex d.o.o" in Prijedor, Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Vocational education and training is an important thematic area of Swiss cooperation with Eastern Europe. © Sulejman Omerbasic for SDC and UNDP

The fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989 marked the start of Switzerland's cooperation with Eastern Europe. Just a few weeks later the Federal Council approved the first credits for humanitarian aid in Central and Eastern Europe. Since 1990, Parliament has used a number of framework credits to allocate resources for the political, economic and social transition in countries of the former Soviet Union and in the Western Balkans. This commitment is founded on the Federal Act on Cooperation with Eastern Europe, which came into force on 1 June 2007 and was revised on 1 June 2017.

Switzerland supports governments, the private sector, and civil society to strengthen democracy and the rule of law, and to promote environmentally sound social market economies – in cooperation with other states, the European Union (EU), development banks, and United Nations (UN) agencies. Switzerland will commit CHF 1.025 billion for cooperation with Eastern Europe between 2021 and 2024.  

The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) jointly administer the framework credit, with SECO administering one third of the budget and the SDC two thirds. This shared commitment is defined by coherent strategies and complementary activities. 

Swiss contribution to selected EU states

Pupils attend a lesson on traffic.
In Croatia, Switzerland supports road safety education. © SDC

In November 2006, Swiss voters accepted the Federal Act on Cooperation with the States of Eastern Europe. In doing so, they signalled their approval for financial support aimed at reducing economic and social disparities in the enlarged EU. The Eastern Europe Cooperation Act, which establishes the legal basis for Switzerland’s contribution, was revised on 1 June 2017 and is valid until the end of 2024. 

Since 2007, Switzerland has participated in various projects designed to reduce economic and social disparities in the EU. All projects under the enlargement contribution for the EU10 (those countries that joined the EU in 2004) were successfully completed by the end of 2017; projects in Bulgaria and Romania were also brought to a successful close in 2019. The enlargement contribution in Croatia runs until the end of 2024. 

In December 2019, Parliament approved a second Swiss contribution to selected EU member states. However, it also decided that no commitments would be entered into with respect to the framework credits if and as long as the EU adopts discriminatory measures against Switzerland.

Switzerland decides itself which projects to support and negotiates this directly with its partner countries. Switzerland’s engagement is an investment in security and prosperity in Europe that also consolidates its economic and political relations with the EU and individual member states. 

The second Swiss contribution is jointly implemented by the SDC and SECO.