Relations between Switzerland and Egypt are good and wide-ranging. Egypt is a priority country for Swiss international cooperation within the framework of the development programmes of the FDFA and the EAER. Egypt has always featured prominently in Switzerland's trade with the Middle East and Africa.
Bilateral relations Switzerland–Egypt
On 14 October 2020 the Federal Council adopted a specific strategy for the Middle East and North Africa region (MENA Strategy) for the 2021–24 period. It identifies five thematic priorities: peace, security and human rights; migration and protection of people in need; sustainable development; economic affairs, finance, science; and digitalisation and new technologies.
These priorities are weighted differently across the various regions and countries. In North Africa, Switzerland's activities focus on good governance, sustainable economic development and cooperation in the area of migration. The political upheavals of 2011 have paved the way for a long transition process in North Africa. Switzerland's commitment is aimed mainly at supporting these countries in their political, economic and social transition. Switzerland supports reforms aimed at improving economic prospects and increasing civic participation.
Switzerland's priorities in Egypt
The MENA Strategy 2021–24 identifies the following priorities for Switzerland in Egypt:
1. Peace, security and human rights
Switzerland raises human rights issues with the authorities and provides support and protection to human rights defenders. It offers civil society organisations platforms to discuss cross-cutting issues. Peace, security and human rights are taken into account in all areas as transversal themes.
2. Migration and protection of people in need
In cooperation with local and international partners, Switzerland runs projects to combat human trafficking and smuggling of migrants, to promote the integration of migrants and to improve access to the labour market.
3. Sustainable development
Switzerland supports initiatives in water management, recycling and the green economy to help mitigate the effects of climate change and urbanisation.
4. Economic affairs, finance, science
Through its projects, Switzerland places particular emphasis on strengthening macroeconomic processes, infrastructure development and local SMEs. It focuses on access to financial resources, greater participation of women and young people in the labour market and vocational training with locally based Swiss companies.
Egypt is an important partner country for Switzerland in Africa, particularly in the Middle East and North Africa region. It is also Africa's main export market for Swiss companies. In 2020 the volume of trade between the two countries amounted to CHF 1.2 billion. Switzerland has concluded a number of agreements with Egypt. A bilateral agreement on reciprocal promotion and protection of investments came into effect in 2012, while a framework agreement on technical and financial cooperation and humanitarian aid entered into force in 2013. A free trade agreement between Egypt and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) entered into force in 2007.
Other areas of cooperation
Education, training, research and innovation
Researchers and artists who are citizens of Egypt can apply to the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI) for a Swiss Government Excellence Scholarship.
There are lively cultural exchanges in a number of areas between Switzerland and Egypt, especially in the fields of music, theatre and film. The Cairo branch of Swiss arts council Pro Helvetia is responsible for promoting Swiss arts and culture in the Middle East and North Africa. The foundation promotes cultural links in Egypt, initiates joint projects between artists and arranges artists' residencies.
The Swiss Institute of Egyptian Architectural and Archaeological Research has existed in Cairo since 1949. In 2017, Switzerland commemorated the 200-year anniversary of the discovery of the Abu Simbel temples by Swiss explorer J.L. Burckhardt. 2018 saw the launch of Swiss Trail, a phone application showcasing 20 Swiss-influenced landmarks across Cairo. Each year, Swiss films are screened at such events as the CIFF, the Panorama of the European Film and the Ismailia International Film Festival.
Switzerland regularly participates in events to promote the French language as part of the International Day of La Francophonie and also the Italian culture week (Settimana della Lingua Italiana nel Mondo). It also organises various cultural events.
Swiss nationals in Egypt
At the end of 2020, there were 1,389 Swiss citizens living in Egypt.
History of bilateral relations
Switzerland took part in important steps of the process leading to Egypt's independence. A peace conference was held in 1923 in Lausanne, where the Republic of Turkey relinquished all rights concerning Egypt. In 1924 Switzerland recognised the independence of Egypt and in 1934 signed a treaty of friendship.
In 1935 Switzerland opened a chancellery in Cairo, which in 1945 was replaced by a legation (embassy from 1957). Thanks to its neutrality Switzerland represented the interests of several states in Egypt during the Second World War and the decades thereafter. Today, Switzerland represents the interests of Iran in Egypt (since 1979).