Relations between Switzerland and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) were initially mainly economic in nature. Regular high-level visits and the conclusion of bilateral agreements and declarations of intent have in recent years led to the extension of bilateral cooperation to other areas. Switzerland will also be represented at Expo 2020 in Dubai, a major international event that is just around the corner.
Key aspects of diplomatic relations
Switzerland and the UAE have long-standing good relations which have been strengthened in recent years through a series of mutual official visits. This trend was underscored when the UAE opened an embassy in Bern in 2011.
Relations between the two countries are governed by a range of bilateral agreements:
- Investment protection agreement (1998)
- Air transport agreement (1999)
- Visa waiver agreement for holders of diplomatic or service passports (2010)
- Double taxation agreement (2011)
A free trade agreement between EFTA and Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member states entered into force in 2014.
Switzerland enjoys a very good reputation in the UAE and is a popular travel destination for UAE citizens, especially in summer. Numerous UAE nationals own property in Switzerland.
The UAE is Switzerland's most important trading partner in the Middle East. In particular, the Emirate of Dubai – a trading hub between the Asian, African and European continents – has attracted the regional headquarters of many Swiss companies thanks to its advantageous geographical location and business-friendly investment conditions.
Swiss exports to the UAE have grown strongly in parallel with the UAE's economic boom. Switzerland mainly exports precious stones and metals, watches, jewellery and pharmaceutical products to the UAE and mainly imports precious stones, precious metals and jewellery from the country.
Cooperation in education, research and innovation
The opening of an EPFL research centre in Ras Al Khaimah in May 2009 marked the beginning of a promising partnership between Switzerland and the UAE in the field of education. EPFL Middle East offers interdisciplinary Master's and PhD programmes in renewable energy and sustainability.
Researchers and artists from the UAE may apply to the State Secretariat for Education Research and Innovation (SERI) for Swiss Government Excellence Scholarships. Foreign nationals residing in the UAE who wish to apply for a scholarship should contact the Swiss embassy in their home country.
Swiss nationals in the United Arab Emirates
At the end of 2018, around 2,957 Swiss citizens were living in the UAE.
History of bilateral relations
Relations between Switzerland and the UAE developed in the 1960s as the region experienced an economic boom driven by increased oil production.
Switzerland recognised the UAE in 1971. In 1976 Switzerland opened a trade office in Abu Dhabi which was converted into an embassy in 1982.
A consulate was opened in Dubai five years later, which has since then been upgraded to a consulate general responsible for trade relations with the UAE. Consular matters are handled by the Swiss embassy in Abu Dhabi. A Swiss Business Hub was opened in Dubai in 2005. Switzerland also has a defence attaché in the UAE since 2009.