Bilateral relations between Switzerland and the State of Qatar focus on sustainable development, the economy, peace, security and human rights policy, and new technologies. Qatar makes substantial direct investments in Switzerland. Bilateral relations are governed by a number of agreements.
Bilateral relations Switzerland–Qatar
On 14 October 2020 the Federal Council adopted a specific strategy for the Middle East and North Africa region (MENA Strategy) for the 2021–24 period. It identifies five thematic priorities: peace, security and human rights; migration and protection of people in need; sustainable development; economic affairs, finance, science; and digitalisation and new technologies.
These priorities are weighted differently across the various regions and countries. In the Arabian Peninsula and Iran, priority thematic areas for Switzerland are regional stability and security, economic and financial cooperation, and sustainable natural resource management.
Switzerland also wishes to support the Gulf countries in their efforts to professionalise their international cooperation, especially with regard to South-South cooperation and compliance with international development standards in the areas of climate change, health and water management.
Switzerland's focus in Qatar
The MENA Strategy 2021–24 identifies the following priorities for Switzerland in Qatar: sustainable development; economic affairs, finance and science; peace, security and human rights; digitalisation and new technologies.
1. Sustainable development
Switzerland seeks dialogue with the Qatar Fund for Development in order to bolster trilateral programmes and strengthen the partnership aimed at addressing global water issues.
2. Economy, finance and science
Switzerland is working to secure market access for its private sector and promotes trade and mutual investment.
Qatar makes substantial direct investments in Switzerland. In 1995, Switzerland and Qatar concluded a bilateral agreement on air transport. An investment protection agreement came into force in 2004 and a free trade agreement between the European Free Trade Association and the Gulf Cooperation Council states in 2014.
3. Peace, security and human rights
Switzerland is translating the bilateral dialogue on human rights into concrete action with dialogues on labour migration, and 'Sport and Human Rights' also in view of the 2022 FIFA World Cup. It is launching a bilateral dialogue on mediation and international humanitarian law.
4. Digitalisation and new technologies
The Swiss Business Hub Dubai and the Swiss representation in Doha are launching a dialogue with companies and the authorities on new technologies, for example in the area of cybersecurity.
Other areas of cooperation
Education, research and innovation
Researchers and artists who are citizens of Qatar can apply for a Swiss Government Excellence Scholarship from the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI). Furthermore, SERI has designated the University of Applied Sciences and Arts Western Switzerland (HES-SO) as the Leading House for the Middle East and North Africa and commissioned it to develop scientific collaboration partnerships between Switzerland and the countries of the MENA region.
Switzerland regularly participates in events to promote the French language as part of the International Day of La Francophonie and in Italian culture week (Settimana della Lingua Italiana nel Mondo). It also organises various cultural events.
Swiss nationals in Qatar
In 2020, there were 226 Swiss citizens living in Qatar.
History of bilateral relations
Shortly after Qatar gained independence in 1973, the Federal Council decided to establish diplomatic relations. In 2013, Switzerland opened an embassy in Doha. Qatar reciprocated, opening an embassy in Bern the same year.