Relations between the two countries have grown closer since the revolution in Tunisia in 2011. Tunisia is a partner in Switzerland's North Africa programme. As part of its strategy, Switzerland is supporting Tunisia's democratic transition process.
Bilateral relations Switzerland–Tunisia
Key aspects of diplomatic relations
The two countries are linked via a free-trade agreement with the European Free Trade Association and an agreement on the protection of investments. Additional agreements have been signed in connection with Tunisia's democratic transition.
A large number of cultural projects as well as Swiss Government Excellence Scholarships increase exchanges between Tunisia and Switzerland and promote bilateral relations.
Switzerland is one of the most important foreign investors in Tunisia. Swiss companies are active in the Tunisian textiles, clothing and food sectors. In 2011, a Swiss-Tunisian chamber of commerce was established following the uprising in Tunisia.
Cooperation in the domain of education
Researchers and artists from Tunisia can apply for Swiss Government Excellence Scholarships to the State Secretariat for Education Research and Innovation (SERI).
Peace promotion and human security
Within the framework of its North Africa programme, Switzerland focuses on the following themes in the field of democratic transition and human rights:
Supporting Parliament and the election process
Independent and professional media coverage
Preventing torture and dealing with the past
Reforming the security sector and preventing violent extremism
For the prevention of torture, Switzerland is encouraging the introduction of national prevention mechanisms and the monitoring of prisons and detention centres by civil society. In the field of preventing violent extremism Switzerland is supporting the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the secondment of an international expert to support the responsible Tunisian authorities in developing an action plan to combat terrorism. In addition, Switzerland has launched a project in Tunisia to promote the political participation and inclusion of young people.
Development cooperation and humanitarian aid
Switzerland's interdepartmental North Africa programme covers three areas:
Democratic transition and human rights
Economic development and employment
Migration and protection
Switzerland stepped up its activities in Tunisia following the events in January 2011. A programme to support the transition process was developed with Tunisian partners. The International Cooperation Division within the Swiss embassy in Tunis was created to carry out the programme. Switzerland's activities focus on promoting development and fighting poverty in disadvantaged regions of Tunisia.Young people are a priority for Switzerland’s activities in the country.
Resources devoted to international cooperation with Tunisia amounted to approximately CHF 96 million in 2011–2016.
Swiss nationals in Tunisia
At the end of 2016, there were 1,548 Swiss citizens living in Tunisia.
Cultural exchange between Switzerland and Tunisia is flourishing. The countries' common language, French, is an important aspect in these relations. Switzerland regularly organises exhibitions and events in Tunisia and supports local cultural projects. Switzerland also takes part in the Journées de la Francophonie every year.
History of bilateral relations
Relations with Tunisia developed in the 19th century during the French expansion into North Africa. Switzerland opened a consulate in Tunis in 1939. Tunisia gained independence in 1956, and that year can be considered the start of bilateral relations between Switzerland and Tunisia. Switzerland recognised Tunisia as an independent state immediately and opened a legation, which was transformed into an embassy in 1961.