Foreign Policy

Switzerland maintains close ties with the European Union, especially its neighbours.

Didier Burkhalter welcoming Polish Foreign Minister Grzegorz Schetyna with a handshake
Didier Burkhalter welcoming Polish Foreign Minister Grzegorz Schetyna. © FDFA, Presence Switzerland

Foreign policy serves to protect Swiss interests, as well as the independence, prosperity and security of the country.  It also serves to promote Swiss values: human rights, democracy, peace, the alleviation of poverty and hardship, and the protection of the environment. 

Neutrality, which prohibits Switzerland from taking part in armed conflicts and joining military alliances, is a cornerstone of Swiss foreign policy. It is one of the fundaments of international Geneva and underpins Switzerland’s humanitarian tradition and role as a mediator in crisis and conflict zones. 

As a non-member of the European Union, but situated in the heart of Europe, Switzerland takes particular care to foster relations with its neighbours.  Its relationship with the EU is governed by a dense network of bilateral agreements concluded between 1999 and 2004. 

Federal Council report on Switzerland’s foreign policy priorities for 2016–2019 

In 2016, the Federal Council approved Switzerland’s Foreign Policy Strategy 2016–2019:

  1. European Union and EU/EFTA states: Switzerland’s relations with the EU/EFTA states, giving particular consideration to neighbouring states, are to be consolidated.  An expandable relationship with the EU is to be established.  Good relations with the EU are essential for effective cooperation in a wide range of policy areas, helping to foster prosperity and security.

  2. Global partners: Switzerland is neither a member of the EU, NATO nor the G20.  In view of this and owing to shifts in global power, it is vital that Switzerland intensifies its network of relationships with global partners to safeguard its interests and to resolve specific issues.  On account of the political and economic weight of regional organisations, Switzerland also wishes to increase its presence in such institutions.

  3. Peace and security: As a highly globalised country with an export-based economy, Switzerland’s security and prosperity depend upon a stable environment and a just international order.  It is crucial that Switzerland plays a role in shaping its environment through comprehensive and creative forms of engagement.  It is therefore enhancing its mediation capabilities in the field of crisis and conflict resolution.

  4. Sustainable development and prosperity: The global Sustainable Development Goals (2030 Agenda) will become an integral part of Switzerland’s international cooperation efforts.  Switzerland will prioritise areas where it can create added value, such as in vocational education and training or community development.  However, these areas also include humanitarian aid, economic and trade policy measures in development cooperation, transition cooperation and measures to promote peace and human security.  To maintain its prosperity, Switzerland wishes to exert greater influence internationally over the drawing-up of regulations and norms.  It will also seek to further promote Switzerland as a centre of business, science and research.

Additional information