The excellent relations between Switzerland and Croatia stem from Switzerland's humanitarian aid and reconstruction activities during and after the conflict in Croatia. Croatia is Switzerland's second biggest trading partner in south-eastern Europe. It is popular among Swiss nationals as a holiday destination. Furthermore, a substantial Croatian diaspora lives in Switzerland.
Bilateral relations Switzerland–Croatia
Key aspects of diplomatic relations
The number of high-level official visits and the agreements that have been signed by the two countries attest to a steady intensification of political relations. Since 2006, there have been regular exchanges between the two parliaments.
When Croatia joined the EU on 1 June 2013, the bilateral agreements between Switzerland and the EU were automatically extended to Croatia, with the exception of the Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons (AFMP).
At its meeting of 1 October 2021, the Federal Council decided to extend unrestricted freedom of movement for Croatia starting 1 January 2022. This means that from this date employees from Croatia will be treated the same as other EU/EFTA citizens.
Although Croatia is Switzerland's second biggest trading partner in south-eastern Europe, the volume of trade remains relatively small. Nevertheless, bilateral trade has increased since 2012, reaching CHF 610 million in 2020. However, the growth of imports from Croatia outweighed that of Swiss exports. Switzerland mainly exports pharmaceutical products and machinery, and mainly imports machinery, metal products, wood and textiles. More than 60 Swiss companies operate in Croatia.
The two countries have had ties for a number of years via a free-trade agreement between the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) and Croatia. After Croatia's accession to the EU, most agreements were superseded by Switzerland's bilateral agreements with the EU.
Cooperation in education, research and innovation
Researchers and artists who are citizens of Croatia can apply to the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI) for Swiss Government Excellence Scholarships.
Switzerland’s enlargement contribution supports various projects, including updating Croatia’s dual vocational education and training system. The vocational training project has a total budget of approximately CHF 2 million. Measures are also in place to promote cooperation in social sciences and humanities research between Swiss and Croatian universities and academic institutions.
Switzerland's contribution to the enlarged EU
As a member of the EU, Croatia is one of the beneficiaries of Switzerland’s contribution to reduce economic and social disparities in the enlarged EU. Switzerland’s first contribution of CHF 42.7 million to Croatia was used to support 12 projects aimed at building and expanding drinking and wastewater systems, promoting bilateral research cooperation and clearing mines from the Yugoslav wars. The projects, which should be completed by 2024, were approved on the basis of the bilateral framework agreement of 30 June 2015.
On 30 September 2021, Parliament released Switzerland’s second contribution, which includes CHF 45.7 million for Croatia.
Both the Swiss Embassy in Zagreb and the Pro Helvetia Arts Council actively promote cultural exchanges between Switzerland and Croatia. Such exchanges are increasingly taking place within a private framework.
Swiss nationals in Croatia
At the end of 2020 there were 1,462 Swiss nationals living in Croatia, which includes 1,169 dual citizens.
History of bilateral relations
Switzerland has had a general consulate in Zagreb since 1920. It first served as the Swiss representation to the Kingdom of Yugoslavia and subsequently to the former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.
On 8 October 1991, the former Yugoslav constituent republic of Croatia declared its independence. Switzerland recognised Croatia as a sovereign state in January 1992. In the same year, Switzerland was one of the first countries to open an embassy in Zagreb. Since 1995, there has been a Croatian embassy in Bern as well as a general consulate in Zurich and a consulate in Lugano.