Since Ukraine's independence in 1991, Switzerland and Ukraine have maintained good diplomatic relations in a variety of areas. President Sommaruga's visit to Ukraine in July 2020 was the first such visit by a President of the Swiss Confederation. Bilateral contacts between the two countries have become even closer with the Ukraine Recovery Conference, which was held in Lugano in 2022 and the subsequent visits by President Cassis and Berset to Ukraine.
Current information and measures taken by the Conferderation in connection with the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine can be found on the following websites:
Key aspects of diplomatic relations
Switzerland's wide-ranging policy on Ukraine is focused on two main priorities in particular: support for the reform process and efforts to find a peaceful resolution to the conflict. Prior to Russia's military aggression against Ukraine, Switzerland had been focusing efforts on promoting stability and prosperity through technical cooperation, peace policy, economic cooperation and humanitarian aid. Since Russia's military aggression, Switzerland has stepped up its commitment to Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity. In addition to bilateral relations, the two countries also place a high priority on multilateral cooperation. For example, they work closely together in the Swiss-led voting group in the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.
Ukraine Recovery Conference (URC2022) in Switzerland
Switzerland and Ukraine decided jointly to change the title and objectives of this year's Ukraine Reform Conference (URC), which has been held every year since 2017. The renamed Ukraine Recovery Conference (URC2022), which took place in Lugano on 4 and 5 July 2022, focused instead on reconstruction in Ukraine against the backdrop of Russia's military aggression, taking place in lieu of the fifth edition of the Reform Conference. The way to rebuild Ukraine is through a broad-based political and diplomatic process, which was launched by Switzerland and Ukraine in Lugano this year. URC2022 participants discussed Ukraine’s Reconstruction Plan, as well as contributions from international partners. The conference concluded with Switzerland, Ukraine and participating partners adopting the Lugano Declaration, which sets out the framework for the political process of recovery. It also lists common benchmarks for the future under the name Lugano Principles.
Up until 24 February 2022, economic ties between Switzerland and Ukraine had been developing very well. The Ukrainian economy was dynamic, attractive and high in potential, attracting large Swiss investments despite the urgent need for reform (in 2020, Switzerland was Ukraine's third most important investor with USD 3.1 billion; in 2021 the trade volume was CHF 831 million).
At the moment, there is a high level of uncertainty regarding the situation in general as well as in terms of economic development. It is therefore very difficult to make any kind of long-term prognosis at this stage. This is also a challenge for Switzerland's private sector, which until now has had a major presence on the Ukrainian market.
Cooperation in education, research and innovation
Young researchers who are citizens of Ukraine can apply to the State Secretariat for Education Research and Innovation (SERI) for Swiss Government Excellence Scholarships.
A credit of CHF 9 million for scientific solidarity in favour of Ukrainian researchers in Switzerland has been set up via the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF).
Peace and human rights
Against the backdrop of Russia's military aggression, Switzerland is committed to dialogue, protecting the civilian population and combating impunity, as well as respect for human rights and international humanitarian law. To this end it works together with government bodies as well as local and international organisations. Since 24 February, the peace policy programme has been adapted to target different challenges such as supporting local partners in complex matters, for example dealing with the issue of missing persons, and promoting a victim-centred approach to justice.
Switzerland has been supporting reform efforts in Ukraine since the early 1990s. Switzerland is particularly committed to improving people's standard of living, make public services more efficient and promote sustainable economic growth.
In view of Russia's military aggression, Switzerland's commitment received a strong humanitarian component after February 24, 2022. However, this is aligned with the thematic priorities of the previous long-term cooperation program, which includes the following focal points:
- Strengthening democratic institutions
- Improving health (improving primary care)
- Sustainable urban development (e.g. energy efficiency, sustainable mobility)
- Strengthening the competitiveness of small and medium-sized enterprises (agricultural companies, access to financial services)
The current commitment is based on the 2020-2023 cooperation program, which has been extended until 2024.
Preservation of cultural property
The Swiss government has been working to protect Ukraine's rich cultural heritage by funding projects run by civil society actors and by providing financial support to international organisations such as UNESCO and the OSCE. In order to prevent the destruction or illegal transfer of Ukrainian cultural property, funds have been allocated to increase border controls and to establish an online platform to facilitate the exchange of information between countries.
Protective and packaging materials that are no longer available in Ukraine have been delivered to over 50 museums in the Odesa and Kharkiv regions. In addition, several unique works from the collection of the National Art Museum in Kyiv have been brought to Switzerland for conservation and public exhibition. A collection of books in Ukrainian has been built up for public libraries in Switzerland with financial support from the Swiss government.
Swiss citizens in Ukraine
Prior to Russia's military aggression beginning on 24 February 2022, 258 Swiss citizens were registered as residents of Ukraine.
History of bilateral relations
Contacts between Switzerland and Ukraine date back to tsarist times. Back then, the area known today as Ukraine was a popular destination for Swiss emigrants, who founded the village of Zurichtal (present-day Solote Pole) on the Crimean Peninsula over 200 years ago. A few years later, winegrowers from the French-speaking part of Switzerland established a Swiss settlement in what is now the town of Shabo in the Odesa region. In the late 19th century, confectioners from Graubünden had some of the best-known patisseries and cafes in Kyiv, Odesa and Kharkiv.
Switzerland recognised Ukraine's independence on 23 December 1991. Almost immediately after, embassies were opened in Bern and Kyiv. In 1993, the Swiss ambassador in Kyiv and the Ukrainian ambassador in Bern were accredited. Switzerland and Ukraine have signed a large number of cooperation agreements in various areas since 1992.