France and Switzerland


Political relations and latest visits

At the level of Heads of State: Mr Ignazio Cassis met with the President of the French Republic, Mr Emmanuel Macron, on the margins of the Paris Peace Forum on 11 November 2022. In 2018, the President of the Swiss Confederation, Mr Alain Berset, attended ceremonies on 10 and 11 November in Paris. President Macron travelled to Switzerland for the World Economic Forum in Davos in January 2018. Prior to that, the President of the Confederation for 2017, Ms Doris Leuthard, was received in Paris by both President Macron and Prime Minister Édouard Philippe on 18 July 2017. President François Hollande’s state visit on 15 and 16 April 2015 was the third such visit since 1910, after those of President Jacques Chirac in 1998 and President François Mitterrand in 1983. A state visit took place on 15 and 16 November 2023 at President Berset’s invitation.
In 2020, Switzerland was one of the guest countries of honour at the ceremonies on 14 July 2020 for its solidarity with France welcoming 52 French patients in its hospitals during the COVID-19 health crisis (Mr Alain Berset, Federal Councillor responsible for Health, visited France at the invitation of President Macron).

At Foreign Minister level: Mr Ignazio Cassis visited Paris on 17 June 2021 where he met with Minister Le Drian. Mr Jean-Yves Le Drian made an official visit to Bern on 16 November 2020, where he met with his counterpart Mr Cassis and the President of the Confederation for 2020, Ms Simonetta Sommaruga. Foreign Ministers Le Drian and Cassis met in Paris in March 2020. Prior to that, the Minister and his Swiss counterpart Mr Cassis met in Bern on 24 August 2018. They also met in Paris on 19 December 2017.

At the level of Ministers of State and Minister Delegates: Mr Olivier Becht, Minister Delegate for Foreign Trade, attended the World Economic Forum in Davos in January 2023 then visited Geneva on 22 and 23 June 2023 to commend the quality of French-Swiss cooperation. The Ministers Veran, Firmin le Bodo, Retailleau and Braun also visited Switzerland in winter 2023. On 30 November 2022, Ms Sarah El Haïry, Minister of State for Youth, visited Geneva and Zurich to learn more about the Swiss civic service model. On 8 November 2022, the Minister of State for Europe, Ms Laurence Boone, received her counterpart, Ms Livia Leu, in Paris. On 11 March 2022, the Minister of State Sophie Cluzel visited Switzerland regarding health cooperation. On 29 January 2022, Mr Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne, Minister of State attached to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, visited Cluse-et-Mijoux and Switzerland for the commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the crossing of the Army of the East, commanded by General Bourbaki. On 1 July 2021, he visited Geneva to discuss tourism. On 1 April 2021, Franck Riester, Minister Delegate for Foreign Trade and Economic Attractiveness, visited Geneva. Minister of State Lemoyne visited Switzerland on 26 June 2020, at the invitation of Mr Ignazio Cassis, Federal Councillor and head of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs.

At Defence Minister level: Ms Florence Parly travelled to Bern on 22 March 2021 and met with her counterpart Ms Viola Amherd. The two Ministers had previously met in Paris on 18 October 2019. Ms Parly met her counterpart Mr Guy Parmelin in Bern on 3 September 2018 and again in Paris on 23 November 2018, where they signed an intergovernmental agreement. The French Minister and her Swiss counterpart had previously met in Paris on 30 October 2017 and Munich on 16 February 2018.

At Economy Minister level: On 1 July 2021, Minister of State Le Maire travelled to Geneva and on 31 March 2021 to Bern, where he met Mr Guy Parmelin, President of the Swiss Confederation, and Mr Ueli Maurer, Finance Minister.
Further information on bilateral visits on the French embassy website:

Further information (in French) on bilateral visits on the French embassy website

French presence

Our embassy’s website:
Consulates-General of France: Geneva and Zurich
French community in Switzerland: 172,580 French nationals registered abroad in 2023 (34.5% of French nationals registered abroad are nationals with dual citizenship). Approximately 200,000 French nationals living near the border work in Switzerland every day.
Swiss community in France: 198,346 Swiss nationals registered on the consular lists in France

Economic and trade relations

French-Swiss trade continues to follow a steady trajectory of strong growth: from 2010 to 2022, trade in goods between France and Switzerland increased by 74% reaching a high of €39 billion in 2022 (total value of exports and imports). After a drop in French-Swiss trade on account of the health crisis in 2020, French exports to Switzerland jumped by 18% in 2021, standing at €17 billion and surpassing their average pre-crisis amount. Meanwhile, French imports from Switzerland (€14.7 billion in 2021) have been much less buoyant the past five years. In 2021, France’s trade surplus in goods with Switzerland stood at €2.3 billion, its second highest over the 2010-2021 period. From 2020 to 2021, this surplus grew by 44%. It is France’s second largest trade surplus in Europe behind that with the United Kingdom (€6.8 billion).

Since 2013, France’s market shares in Switzerland (goods only) remain stable between 6 and 7%. They stood at 6% in 2021. The situation is even more positive for France when it comes to the trade in services. With €13.4 billion in French exports of services to Switzerland in 2020 and €7.8 billion in imports, Switzerland represents our number one bilateral trade surplus in services (€5.6 billion).

Cultural, scientific and technical cooperation

Our cooperation with Switzerland takes place under unique conditions: the cultural, educational, scientific and academic sphere is mainly controlled by the 26 cantons which play a key role in terms of skills and financing, the cities (50% of all financing in the cultural sphere) and the private sector (71% of R&D).
Switzerland is very active in the research and development field, to which it allocates 3.4% of its GDP. Swiss research is one of the best in the world. Such cooperation takes various forms:

  • Switzerland is France’s sixth leading partner in the area of co-publications.
  • Switzerland boasts more than 700 university partnerships with France, including 30 dual degrees.
  • When it comes to student mobility, Switzerland is the fourth most popular destination for French students.
  • The two countries are host States of CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, one of the largest and most highly acclaimed scientific labs in the world, and Europe’s leading particle physics research laboratory. Its Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is currently the world’s largest and most powerful particle accelerator. To maintain this lead, a new project, Future Circular Collider (FCC), is being studied.
  • Switzerland is the seventh leading 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 with Switzerland an Associate European Laboratory (LEA) in microtechnology which groups 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, the Pasteur Institute and CNES.

Switzerland is a key market for our cultural and creative industries (including films, books and art, games, videos and visual arts), 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 schools and universities in the region (distribution of the “culturethèque” platform, creation of a LabelFrancÉducation network, etc.). A network of partners beyond the eight unaffiliated Alliance Française branches in Switzerland also aims to reach out to new audiences. The Embassy cooperation and cultural action 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 fourth in terms of revenue for the International Centre for Educational Studies (CIEP), with CHF3.3 million in revenue).
This provision is supplemented by the network of the Agency for French Education Abroad (AEFE) which has five approved schools (Geneva, Lausanne, Basel, Bern and Zurich), one of which is under contract. They have a total of 1,885 pupils enrolled. The Lycée Français Marie Curie in Zurich, which has almost 1,130 pupils, was grouped together on a single site in 2016, while on 1 September 2021, the French International School in Bern (90 students) was relocated to a site with greater growth and capacity prospects.
Switzerland became a full-fledged member of Francophonie at the Dakar Summit in 1989, before joining the Agence Universitaire de la 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 led to the creation of a private-law foundation based in Geneva in March 2017 with the status of an international organization.
Since March 2022, higher education institutions can participate as associate members in alliance candidacies wishing to obtain the label of European university, for example. Four Swiss universities are affiliated with four large European universities, which also work with four French universities.

Cross-border cooperation

Cross-border cooperation is a key part of the French-Swiss relationship, as the two countries share a 570 km border. This cooperation concerns 10 Swiss cantons, representing half of the 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 200,000 people cross the border from France into Switzerland each day for work. This movement took on particular significance during the health crisis, with both France and Switzerland choosing to maintain the mobility of workers within the cross-border region.

Despite the significance of cross-border relations, the diversity of issues (health, taxation, transport, environment) and the different breakdown of powers between the State and the various local governments in France and Switzerland make such relations complex.

The institutional component of cross-border cooperation is based on a comprehensive legal framework, the Karlsruhe Agreement signed in 1996 by France, Germany, Luxembourg and Switzerland, and three neighbourhood agreements under which commissions have been set up in the France-Geneva area, the Upper Rhine region and the Jura Arc. Each year French-Swiss political dialogue on cross-border issues is held. The last dialogue was held on 4 April 2023 in Neuchâtel (chaired by Switzerland).

Switzerland and the European Union

Located in the heart of Europe, Switzerland founded the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) in 1960. On 16 June 2016, Switzerland withdrew its application for accession to the European Union (accession application submitted in May 1992 but rendered null and void by the people’s refusal to accede the EEA on 6 December of the same year). It is therefore neither a member of the European Union or the European Economic Area, but prefers the bilateral path, a complex set of more than 120 agreements “Bilateral Agreements I” in 1999 and “Bilateral Agreements II” in 2004. This path has enabled it to participate in EU cooperation on a negotiated basis on a case by case basis and to benefit from the opening of the markets while retaining it specific features. However, it is part of the Schengen Area.

Between 2014 and 2021, the EU and Switzerland negotiated an institutional framework agreement to consolidate Switzerland’s participation in the internal market over the long term. This means aligning the legal framework concerning Switzerland’s participation in the EU Single Market. The Institutional Framework Agreement (IFA) was meant to provide a dispute settlement mechanism ensuring consistent application of the acquis throughout the internal market, and therefore compliance with the jurisprudence of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU); horizontal rules regarding state aids; free movement of people with the effective and dynamic adoption of the acquis (end of excesses of “accompanying measures” and compliance with the acquis whose adoption is already set out by the Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons (AFMP), a section covering a maximum of bilateral agreements and particularly those whose full implementation raises problems.

Despite the agreement being given notice on 23 November 2018 by the European Commission and the Swiss negotiators, after years of prevarication, Switzerland decided on 26 May 2021 to end negotiations on its relations with the European Union. After a year and a half without any further progress, attempts to resume Swiss-EU relations were made in summer 2023. Current discussions on the basis of negotiations, a prelude to official negotiations, are not considering just an institutional framework agreement like in 2018, but rather provisions structuring the Swiss-EU relationship with new assurances on compliance with EU law and the compensation for access to the internal market (four freedoms, financial contributions), with participation in the Horizon programme and three new agreements (electricity, health and food security, in response to Swiss offensive interests). The updating of the 1972 Free Trade Agreement (particularly agricultural products) is still on hold.

Although Switzerland is not a member of the EU, it adheres to the European Union’s key values: the commitment to democracy and human rights, expansion of international humanitarian law and mediation in conflict situations to re-establish peace and security for the population. Therefore, Switzerland’s contributions to operations and missions conducted under the CSDP are significant and frequent (EUNAVFOR Atalante, to deter and disrupt piracy, the civilian mission Eulex Kosovo and Operation ALTHEA in Bosnia-Herzegovina). Moreover, Switzerland’s entry into the Schengen Area led to the removal of land border controls, on 12 December 2008 and the end of air border controls on 29 May 2009.

The EU and Switzerland are also important economic partners. In 2020, Switzerland was the EU’s fourth leading trade partner after China, the United States and the United Kingdom. The EU is by far Switzerland’s leading trade partner. It accounts for 42% of Switzerland’s exports of goods and 60% of its imports. Their economic and trade relations are governed by the 1972 Free Trade Agreement and by 1999 bilateral agreements. These agreements give Switzerland direct access to key sectors of the EU’s internal market including:

The absence of trade barriers is an important source of wealth for both sides. Switzerland’s participation in other areas of the internal market, such as electricity, health or services, depends on the conclusion of an institutional framework agreement.

Updated: February 2024