200 years of diplomatic relations between Switzerland and Russia

200 years of diplomatic relations between Switzerland and Russia
The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) of 9 November 2007 is an important pillar of Swiss-Russian relations. © FDFA

In 2014, Switzerland and Russia celebrated 200 years of diplomatic relations. Bilateral relations have become closer in recent years in particular. The memorandum of understanding of 2007 is an important basis for cooperation.

Switzerland and Russia have maintained diplomatic relations for 200 years. In recent years, diplomatic relations have become significantly closer. There are regular meetings at various official levels. In 2009, the then Russian President, Dmitry Medvedev, paid the first visit by a Russian head of state to Switzerland.

Press release, 21.9.2009 

Russia is the world's largest country by land mass as well as a significant global player. It is a member of the UN Security Council, the Council of Europe, the OSCE and the WTO. In 2014, Russia chairs the G8, and is also a member of the G20, the BRICS (the club of the emerging economies of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), and ASEAN (the Association of Southeast Asian Nations).

In 2006, Switzerland opened a consulate general in St Petersburg, and in 2007 and 2009 Russian honorary consulates were established in Zurich and Lausanne.

In 2014, Switzerland was present in the Olympic Winter Games in Sochi.

Key aspects of diplomatic relations

The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) of 9 November 2007 is an important pillar of Swiss-Russian relations. It forms the basis for exchanges in various policy areas, such as international relations, disarmament, human rights, trade, justice, and security. Relations became considerably closer with the signing of the MoU of 2007.

As a non-member of the EU and the Northern Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), Switzerland is in political terms an independent and neutral partner for Russia. The Swiss Chairmanship of the Organization of Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) in 2014 enables further cooperation within a multilateral framework.

Switzerland has a dual mandate in Russia and Georgia, representing Russian interests in Georgia and vice versa. Switzerland also facilitated Russia's accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO) on 22 August 2012.

Economic relations

Economic relations between Switzerland and Russia are close. Numerous large Swiss companies have operations in Russia. With an investment volume of more than 12 billion CHF (2012), Switzerland is one of the largest investors in Russia.

In 2013, Switzerland exported goods worth approximately three billion CHF to Russia, and imported goods valued at approximately one billion CHF.

The Swiss embassy in Moscow promotes good framework conditions for Swiss businesses in Russia. To this end, it draws up a three-year action plan. A joint economic commission holds a bilateral meeting once a year.

The Swiss embassy houses a Swiss Business Hub that advices Swiss companies on how to enter the Russian market and promotes Switzerland as a business location.

History of diplomatic relations

Switzerland and Russia can look back on 200 years of diplomatic relations. Even before, there was a wide range of ties between the two countries. In the 17th century, Swiss nationals, including many skilled workers, emigrated to Russia in search of better economic prospects. After the Napoleonic Wars (1792–1815), Russia promoted Switzerland's re-emergence as an independent and neutral state.

In 1814, Tsar Alexander I appointed Count Kapodistrias as Russia's first envoy to the Swiss Diet. A few years later, Switzerland opened an honorary consulate in St Petersburg. Since 1906, Switzerland has been present in Russia with a professional representation and its own envoy. Diplomatic relations were interrupted between 1918 and 1946, following the October Revolution of 1917.

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