Switzerland and Ukraine established diplomatic relations shortly after Ukraine's independence in December 1991, opening embassies in both countries. The relations are good but also have potential for development in a number of areas.
Key aspects of diplomatic relations
Switzerland's policy on Ukraine is two-fold: support for the country's reforms and engagement in peace policy.
Compared to Western European countries, trade between Switzerland and Ukraine still has potential for growth.
Traditionally, the balance of trade has been positive for Switzerland. Switzerland mainly exports pharmaceuticals, machinery, watchmaking products, precious stones/metals and jewellery, and agricultural products to Ukraine. Imports from Ukraine consist mainly of precious stones/metals, textiles/clothing, machinery, agricultural products and non-precious metals.
Several offices representing Ukrainian companies (head offices, trade agencies) are also based in Switzerland. Switzerland is one of the top 10 foreign investors in Ukraine. Swiss companies are also among the largest taxpayers in Ukraine: traditionally, at least two or three fall under the first ten major contributors.
The EFTA free trade agreement with Ukraine, which has been in force since June 2012, is important for the country's economic ties.
Cooperation in education
The EU Framework Programmes for Research and Technological Development are the main cooperation instrument between Switzerland and Ukraine. The status of the current Horizon 2020 framework programme is as follows:
The SCOPES (Scientific Co-operation between Eastern Europe and Switzerland) programme co-financed by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) fosters scientific collaboration between research groups and institutions in Switzerland and Eastern Europe (incl. Ukraine). To this end, the following partnerships are being sponsored: institutional partnerships, joint research projects, preparatory grants, conference grants and valorisation grants. The current SCOPES phase (2013-16) is guaranteed by contract. A follow-up programme is being prepared but the general conditions are yet to be clarified.
Researchers and artists from Ukraine can apply for Swiss Government Excellence Scholarships from the State Secretariat for Education Research and Innovation (SERI).
Peacebuilding and human security
Switzerland is committed to ensuring that the political situation in Ukraine stabilises and that a peaceful solution to the conflict can be found. It does this by supporting mediation efforts to find a political solution, notably the Minsk Process. Switzerland assists with the implementation of the Minsk agreements which were drawn up during its chairmanship of the OSCE in 2014. It also works closely with the current chair, Germany, and with Austria, which will chair the OSCE in 2017.
Swiss experts specialised in mediation, ceasefires, amnesties and humanitarian aid help to develop and implement political solutions to the Ukraine conflict.
Development cooperation and humanitarian aid
The 2015-18 cooperation strategy steps up Switzerland's engagement in Ukraine. Switzerland is committed to advancing decentralisation and sustainable economic growth in Ukraine. To this end, Switzerland prioritises:
- good governance and peacebuilding
- energy efficiency and sustainable urban development
- sustainable economic development
Switzerland's 2015-18 cooperation strategy for Ukraine includes a budget of around CHF 100 million to be used to implement programmes by the HSD, SDC and SECO together. Since 2015, Swiss Humanitarian Aid has also been implementing its own programmes – known as direct actions – in Ukraine, which aim to meet the immediate needs of people on both sides of the contact line in eastern Ukraine.
Exchanges in the fields of music, film, theatre and literature have increased. The Swiss embassy in Kyiv supports various projects. The "Journée internationale de la Francophonie" and the "Settimana della Lingua Italiana nel Mondo" give Switzerland a distinct image, but its cultural profile is also highlighted at a number of other national festivals.
Swiss nationals in Ukraine
In 2015 there were 215 Swiss nationals registered at the Swiss embassy in Kyiv.
History of bilateral relations
Contacts between Switzerland and Ukraine date back to tsarist times. Back then, the area known as Ukraine today was a popular destination for Swiss travellers. This was how the "Zürichtal" colony in Crimea was created, for example. Later, winegrowers from the French-speaking region of Switzerland founded Novyï Lancy ('New Lancy') in the surroundings of Odessa, which still exists to this day. In the late 19th century, confectioners from Grisons were rated among the best-known patisseries and cafes in Kyiv, Odessa and Kharkhiv.
Switzerland recognised Ukraine's independence on 23 December 1991. Almost immediately after, two embassies were opened in Bern and Kyiv. In 1993, the Swiss embassy in Kyiv and the Ukrainian embassy in Bern were accredited. In 1996, a bilateral agreement on trade and economic cooperation entered into force. Switzerland and Ukraine have signed a large number of cooperation agreements in various areas since 1992.