The bilateral relations between Switzerland and Serbia are vibrant and multifaceted. They are marked by close human and cultural ties, a series of bilateral agreements and fruitful cooperation in multilateral organisations, flanked by an extensive cooperation programme.
Key aspects of diplomatic relations
There are frequent and regular exchanges between the foreign ministries of the two countries, as well as annual political consultations. Many agreements exist, notably in relation to economic questions, migration and social security. The presence in Switzerland of a large Serbian community also influences relations.
Multilateral cooperation is also close: Switzerland and Serbia chaired the OSCE in succession in 2014–15. They work together in the Swiss-led voting constituencies at the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.
Institutionally, economic cooperation is shaped by regular government meetings in the form of a joint commission and economic forums, in which priorities are set and any difficulties discussed, and investment opportunities are pointed out.
Existing trade relations could be intensified through targeted trade promotion, e.g. by Switzerland Global Enterprise. Serbia is an attractive market or production location for the Swiss companies operating there. In 2021, Switzerland was the second-largest foreign direct investor in Serbia.
Cooperation in the areas of education, research and innovation
Researchers and artists who are citizens of Serbia may apply to the State Secretariat for Education Research and Innovation (SERI) for Swiss Government Excellence Scholarships.
Scientific cooperation between the two countries has increased thanks to various university partnerships. Serbia has been a full member of CERN since March 2019.
Switzerland has supported Serbia's transition process since 1991. The current cooperation strategy provides for an annual budget of around CHF 26 million.
The Cooperation Strategy 2022–25 of the SDC, SECO and SEM is intended to support Serbia in its reform plans and on its path towards European integration.
The focus is on four areas of activity:
- Democratic governance
- Economic development and employment
- Sustainable energy management and urban development
Since 2009, Switzerland has also maintained a migration partnership with Serbia involving annual migration dialogues and practical support in migration management.
Cultural relations between Switzerland and Serbia are very diverse, particularly in dance, theatre, music, film and literature. In addition, the SDC is supporting a multi-year 'Culture for Democracy' programme in Serbia aimed at strengthening independence in the cultural landscape. Switzerland supports a number of cultural festivals in Belgrade which give Swiss artists an opportunity to perform there. The same is true in Switzerland, where the Serbian community contributes to the diversity of cultural exchanges between the two countries.
Swiss nationals in Serbia
According to statistics on the Swiss abroad, there were 2,901 Swiss citizens living in Serbia at the end of 2021. Many of them have dual nationality.
History of bilateral relations
In 1919 Switzerland recognised the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, which in 1929 became known as the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. A legation was opened in Belgrade in 1940, which was upgraded to an embassy in 1957. The Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was founded in the aftermath of the Second World War.
Its constituent republics seceded in 1991 and 1992, leaving just the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, which in 2003 was officially renamed the State Union of Serbia and Montenegro.
Montenegro subsequently left the union in 2006. As the only remaining state in the dissolved union, Serbia took over all the treaties signed with Switzerland.