Switzerland and Ukraine established diplomatic relations shortly after Ukraine's independence in December 1991, opening embassies in both countries. Relations are good and diverse and have become even closer since the outbreak of the armed conflict in eastern Ukraine.
Key aspects of diplomatic relations
Switzerland's wide-ranging policy on Ukraine is focused on two main priorities: support for the reform process and efforts to find a peaceful solution to the conflict. Switzerland and Ukraine hold regular discussions on the promotion of stability and prosperity in Ukraine through technical cooperation, peacebuilding, economic cooperation and humanitarian assistance. In addition to bilateral relations, the two countries also place a high priority on multilateral cooperation. For example, they work closely together in the Swiss-led voting group in the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD).
Ukraine's economic potential offers Swiss companies attractive trade and investment opportunities. Unlike that of other Western European countries, Switzerland's bilateral trade with Ukraine still has potential for development.
The balance of trade has traditionally been positive for Switzerland. Switzerland mainly exports pharmaceutical products, machinery, watches, precious stones and metals, jewellery, and agricultural products to Ukraine. Imports from Ukraine consist mainly of precious stones and 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 among the 10 biggest investors in Ukraine. Two to three Swiss companies are traditionally among the 10 largest taxpayers in Ukraine. The Switzerland–Ukraine joint economic commission held its 12th meeting in Bern in 2019.
The EFTA Free Trade Agreement, which came into force in June 2012, is of central importance for Switzerland's economic relations with Ukraine.
Cooperation in education, research and innovation
Under bilateral cooperation programmes of the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI), since 2017 the University of Geneva (UNIGE) has been a 'leading house' for Swiss–Ukrainian cooperation.
Researchers and artists from Ukraine can apply to the SERI for Swiss Government Excellence Scholarships.
Researchers can apply for funding for their projects through a range of research funding programmes established by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF). One of the SNSF's goals is to promote stronger links between Swiss researchers and the international academic community. The SNSF provides a range of funding mechanisms to this end.
Peacebuilding and human security
Switzerland is working to help stabilise the political situation in Ukraine and to achieve a peaceful solution to the armed conflict in eastern Ukraine. To this end, it is supporting mediation efforts, primarily through the Minsk Process. Switzerland supports the implementation of the Minsk Agreements concluded under its OSCE chairmanship in 2014 and has been working closely with the OSCE chairmanships-in-office since then (Slovakia in 2019; Albania in 2020).
Swiss experts specialised in mediation, negotiating ceasefires and amnesties, and humanitarian aid are helping to work out and implement political solutions to the conflict in eastern Ukraine.
Development cooperation and humanitarian aid
The 2015–2018 cooperation strategy (extended until the end of 2019) further strengthens 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 2015–2018 cooperation strategy for Ukraine contains allocations of about CHF 100 million for programmes carried out jointly by the HSD, the SDC and SECO. Switzerland will continue its development cooperation programmes in Ukraine on the basis of the cooperation strategy for 2020–2023.
Since 2015, Swiss Humanitarian Aid has also been implementing its own programmes – known as direct actions – in Ukraine, in order 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' give Switzerland a distinct image, but its cultural profile is also highlighted at a number of other national festivals.
Swiss nationals in Ukraine
According to statistics of the Swiss abroad, 215 Swiss nationals were living in Ukraine in the summer of 2019.
History of bilateral relations
Contacts between Switzerland and Ukraine date back to tsarist times. Back then, the area known today as Ukraine was a popular destination for Swiss emigrants, who founded the village of Zurichtal (present-day Solote Pole) on the Crimean Peninsula over 200 years ago. A few years later, winegrowers from the French-speaking part of Switzerland established a Swiss settlement in what is now the town of Shabo in the Odesa region. In the late 19th century, confectioners from Graubünden had some of the best-known patisseries and cafes in Kyiv, Odesa and Kharkiv.
Switzerland recognised Ukraine's independence on 23 December 1991. Almost immediately after, embassies were opened in Bern and Kyiv. In 1993, the Swiss ambassador in Kyiv and the Ukrainian ambassador in Bern were accredited. Switzerland and Ukraine have signed a large number of cooperation agreements in various areas since 1992.