Switzerland

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France and Switzerland

Political relations and latest visits

The pace of bilateral political meetings has increased in recent years:

  • At the Head of State level: Ms Doris Leuthard, President of the Swiss Confederation, was received in Paris by both President Emmanuel Macron and Prime Minister Édouard Philippe on 18 July 2017. President François Hollande met with his Swiss counterpart, Ms Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf on 7 December 2012 and her successor, Mr Didier Burkhalter, on 30 October 2014. He visited Switzerland on 23 January 2015, during the Davos Forum, and then on 15-16 April 2015 for a State visit during which he was received by the President of the Swiss Confederation, Ms Simonetta Sommaruga. His was only the third State visit by a French President since 1910, following that of Jacques Chirac in 1998 and François Mitterrand in 1983. President Hollande also met President Johann Schneider-Ammann in Colmar on 23 January 2016, then again for the inauguration of the second Saint-Gothard tunnel in Switzerland on 1 June 2016.
  • At Foreign Minister level: Mr Jean-Yves Le Drian and his Swiss counterpart, Mr Ignazio Cassis, met in Paris on 19 December 2017. Previous meetings between Minister Laurent Fabius and his counterpart Mr Didier Burkhalter, on 6 September 2012, 9 February 2014 and 21 January 2015 had brought major progress on tax and banking issues. Mr Jean-Marc Ayrault and Minister of State for Europe Harlem Désir met with Mr Burkhalter in Paris on 23 March 2017. Mr Désir and Mr Burkhalter then signed the intergovernmental tax agreement applicable within EuroAirport Basel Mulhouse Freiburg (which took effect on 28 December 2017). Mr Ayrault and Mr Burkhalter also met in Paris on 3 June 2016 and in the margins of the 71st UN General Assembly in New York in September that year.
  • At Finance Minister level: Mr Pierre Moscovici and later Michel Sapin and Emmanuel Macron met their Swiss counterpart Ms Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf on several occasions from 2014 to step up tax cooperation between the two countries in the context of the introduction of new international standards and the planned elimination of bank secrecy.

For further information, visit:
Website of the French Embassy in Switzerland

Trade and economic relations

Trade in goods between France and Switzerland stood at €30.3 billion in 2017, with French exports up slightly (+2.7%) to reach €15.7 billion. In 2017, Switzerland remained France’s ninth-largest customer and ninth-largest supplier. It now accounts for 3.4% of total French exports and 2.7% of total French imports. France produced a considerable trade surplus with Switzerland in 2017 (€1.079 billion), having posted an even greater one in 2016 (€1.259 billion). The bilateral surplus is, however, as in 2016, essentially due to exceptional exports, particularly a peak in exports of vessels and floating structures.

Our imports of jewellery from Switzerland are continuing to grow strongly (+29.8% to €944 million).

Cultural, scientific and technical cooperation

Our cooperation with Switzerland takes place in a special context, as the cultural, educational, scientific and academic fields are largely outside the competences of the Confederation. The 26 Cantons have a leading role in terms of competences and financing, as do cities (50% of funding in the culture field) and the private sector (71% of R&D spending).

Switzerland is very active in the research and development field to which it devoted 3.4% of its GDP in 2015. Swiss research is one of the best in the world. Such cooperation takes various forms:

  • France is Switzerland’s third-largest partner in terms of scientific co-publications (behind the United States and Germany).
  • Switzerland is the seventh-largest destination for missions conducted by researchers from the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS), excluding the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN). Since 2001, the CNRS has maintained an Associate European Laboratory (LEA) in microtechnology which includes a dozen French and Swiss research institutions.
  • Virtually all French research agencies maintain relations with Swiss institutions: the leading of those agencies is the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research (INSERM) of which Switzerland is the sixth-largest global partner with around 315 partnerships; other agencies include INRA, IFREMER, INRIA and the Pasteur Institute.

Switzerland is a key market for our cultural and creative industries (including film, books and art), and the French Embassy supports a number of cultural institutions and festivals promoting French creation. French’s loss of ground in German-speaking Switzerland, despite being one of the national languages, has led to the development of numerous activities aimed at school and university publics (distribution of the “culturethèque” platform, creation of a LabelFrancÉducation network, etc.). The creation of a network of partners beyond the seven unaffiliated Alliance Française branches in Switzerland also aims to renew our publics. The Embassy cultural and cooperation adviser also chairs the Esprit Francophonie Foundation, providing DELF-DALF language certifications in the various Cantons (10,000 candidates each year, making Switzerland the ninth-largest country for exam sittings and the second in terms of revenue for the International Centre for Educational Studies (CIEP)).

This provision is supplemented by the network of the Agency for French Education Abroad (AEFE) which has five approved establishments (Geneva, Lausanne, Basel, Bern and Zurich), two of which are under contract. The Lycée Français Marie Curie in Zurich, which has almost 1,000 pupils, was grouped together on a single site in 2016, while the French International School in Bern (150 pupils) is looking for a new location.

Switzerland became a full-fledged member of Francophonie at the Dakar Summit in 1989, before joining the University Agency for Francophonie (AUF).

It also supports the International Alliance for the Protection of Heritage in Conflict Areas (ALIPH), which grew out of a France-UAE initiative that gave rise to the creation of a private-law foundation based in Geneva in March 2017 with the status of an international organization.

Cross-border cooperation

Cross-border cooperation is a key area in the French-Swiss relationship, concerning 10 Swiss cantons and half of the country’s population. On the French side, three regions border Switzerland, concentrating 47% of the volume of bilateral trade: Grand Est (20.3%), Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes (18.6%) and Bourgogne-Franche-Comté (8.1%). Some 175,000 people cross the border daily from France to Switzerland to work.

Despite intense exchanges regarding cross-border relations, the diversity of issues and different breakdown of powers between central government and the various local governments in France and Switzerland make such issues complex.

The institutional component of cross-border cooperation is based on a comprehensive legal framework, the Karlsruhe Agreement and three neighbourhood agreements under which commissions have been set up in the France-Geneva area, the Upper Rhine region and the Jura Arc.

In this framework, the thirteenth France-Switzerland political dialogue on cross-border issues was held in Geneva on 26 March 2018. It addressed issues including the environment, rail transport, the project for a cross-border community around Geneva and judicial and police cooperation.

On 23 March 2017, Switzerland and France signed an intergovernmental agreement on the taxation applicable within EuroAirport Basel Mulhouse Freiburg, a major piece of regional economic infrastructure. This agreement took effect on 28 December 2018, establishing a long-term legal regime which will foster the attractiveness of the airport and its activities.

Updated: 12.04.2018