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Bilateral relations Switzerland–Eritrea

Diplomatic relations between Switzerland and Eritrea are limited in scope. In recent years, however, Switzerland has gradually intensified its relations with Eritrea and sought dialogue with the country. Switzerland is home to a large Eritrean community. Eritrea is part of the Greater Horn of Africa, which is a geographical priority of the Sub-Saharan Africa Strategy 2021–24.

Key aspects of diplomatic relations

Eritrea was part of Ethiopia until 1993, the year of the referendum on Eritrean independence. Switzerland welcomed the referendum, and six Swiss observers joined the UN mission to monitor the vote. Switzerland established diplomatic relations with the newly independent state in June 1993.

Two bilateral agreements came into force in 1999 (on air services) and 2002 (on balance of payments assistance), respectively. Switzerland has been involved in humanitarian aid and development cooperation since the 1980s.

Sub-Saharan Africa Strategy 2021–24 (PDF, 48 Pages, 3.1 MB, English)

Treaty database

Economic cooperation

There is little to no trade between Switzerland and Eritrea, with significant fluctuations occurring from year to year. Switzerland's primary exports are machines, pharmaceutical products, optical instruments and medical devices. Swiss exports to Eritrea are worth between CHF 0.3 and 1.9 million per year, while Swiss imports from Eritrea range from zero to a few hundred thousand Swiss francs.

Measures with regard to Eritrea (de, fr, it)

Cooperation in education, research and innovation

Researchers who are citizens of Eritrea can apply to the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI) for Swiss Government Excellence Scholarships.

Swiss Government Excellence Scholarships for Foreign Scholars and Artists (SERI)

Development cooperation humanitarian aid

Between 1980 and 2006, Swiss humanitarian aid helped to alleviate the suffering of population groups affected by war, drought and poverty. At the end of 2006, Switzerland greatly reduced its humanitarian aid operations on the ground, given the impossibility of guaranteeing their neutrality, independence and impartiality. Since 2016, Switzerland has once again been present in Eritrea with projects relating to migration and vocational education and training.

Swiss citizens in Eritrea

According to statistics on the Swiss abroad, there were 3 Swiss citizens living in Eritrea and 31,722 Eritrean citizens living in Switzerland at the end of 2020.

The history of bilateral relations

Bilateral relations between Switzerland and Eritrea are limited, and were only established recently. Nevertheless, the two countries have forged ties due to a number of historic events. In the mid-19th century the Swiss administrator and explorer Werner Munzinger lived for more than 20 years in different regions of Eritrea. He worked in the service of France and the United Kingdom, and fought the Ethiopian empire in the service of Egypt. During the war of independence, Switzerland welcomed many Eritreans who had fled the fighting.

Eritrea, Historical Dictionary of Switzerland (de, fr, it)

Diplomatic documents of Switzerland, Dodis

Last update 26.01.2022

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