Switzerland recognised the Republic of Estonia on 22 April 1922. Diplomatic relations between Estonia and Switzerland were established in 1938, when the Ambassador residing in Finland was accredited to Estonia.
Switzerland never recognised the annexation of Estonia by the Soviet Union and re-recognised the Republic of Estonia on 28 August 1991. Diplomatic relations were restored on 4 September 1991.
After Estonia’s re-independence, the first ambassador named to Switzerland was Toivo Tasa (1995-1999), residing in Vienna. He was followed by Mart Laanemäe (2000-2003), Katrin Saarsalu-Layachi (2003-2009 and 2011-2012) and Gert Antsu (2013-2017). As of 27 November 2018 the Estonian ambassador to the Swiss Confederation is Toomas Kukk, who resides in Vienna.
Estonia has two honorary consuls in Switzerland – in Zurich and Geneva. Honorary Consul Hans Graf, who works in Stäfa near Zurich, is also the executive secretary of the Pro Baltikum association that brings together members of Switzerland’s parliament. Honorary Consul Matteo Inaudi began working in Geneva in the fall of 2009. The formal opening of the Geneva honorary consulate took place in February 2010. The ambassadors of Switzerland in Estonia have been Sven Meili (1995-1999), Hansrudolf Hoffmann (1999-2001), Pierre Chrzanovski (2001-2005), Josef Bucher (2006-2010), Maurice Darier (2010-2012), Walter Haffner (2012-2013), Markus Niklaus Paul Dutly (2013-2017). As of 5 September 2017 the Ambassador of Switzerland to Estonia is Konstantin Obolensky, who resides in Riga.
Andreas Lehmann has been the Swiss Honorary Consul General in Estonia since January 2010. The Swiss-Baltic Chamber of Commerce is located in Tallinn and is run by Jürg Würtenberg.
Estonia and Switzerland’s positive and friendly bilateral relations are defined by regular contact. Many high-level visits have taken place.
|April 2017||President and Minister of Environment, Transport, Energy and Communications Doris Leuthard|
|August 2014||President and Foreign Minister Didier Burkhalter|
|October 2010||Working visit of Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey|
|April 2007||President and Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey|
|February 2005||Minister of Economic Affairs Joseph Deiss|
|July 2001||President Moritz Leuenberger|
|May 2017||President Kersti Kaljulaid on an official working visit|
|September 2013||Foreign Minister Urmas Paet on an official working visit|
|December 2011||President Toomas Hendrik Ilves on a working visit|
|May 2009||President Toomas Hendrik Ilves on a working visit|
|April 2008||Foreign Minister Urmas Paet|
|December 2007||Minister of Finance Ivari Padar|
|December 2006||Minister of Economic Affairs and Communications Edgar Savisaar|
|May 2004||President Arnold Rüütel|
|December 2003||President Arnold Rüütel|
|January 2003||Foreign Minister Kristiina Ojuland|
|May 2001||President Lennart Meri|
|January - February 2001||Foreign Minister Toomas Hendrik Ilves,|
|January 2001||President Lennart Meri|
As of 1 March 1998, visa-free travel between Estonia and Switzerland is in force. As of the same date, the Agreement between Estonia and Switzerland on the Readmission of Illegally Residing Persons is in force.
In addition to the aforementioned, the following agreements between Switzerland and Estonia have been signed and are in force.
- Agreement on the Reciprocal Promotion and Protection of Investments (came into force 18.08.1993);
- Agreement on International Motor Carriage of Passengers and Goods (came into force 27.08.1997);
- Agreement on Regular Air Service (came into force 21.04.1999);
- Convention for the Avoidance of Double Taxation with respect to Taxes on Income and on Capital (came into force 12.07.2004).
- Framework agreement for the implementation of the Estonia-Switzerland co-operation programme for reducing economic and social inequality in the enlarged European Union (came into force 29.04.2008)
- Agreement between the Republic of Estonia and Swiss Confederation on visa representation (came into force 1.01.2011)
- Agreement between the Republic of Estonia and the Swiss Federal Council concerning the exchange of Classified Information (came into force 1.02.2018)
In addition, the relations between Estonia and Switzerland after Estonia's accession to the European Union on 1 May 2004 are regulated by agreements signed by the European Community and the Swiss Confederation.
Business ties between the Estonia and Switzerland have been enlivened by the Swiss-Baltic Chamber of Commerce (SBCC) located in Tallinn and the Swiss-Baltic Chamber of Commerce (HSB) located in Zürich, as well as the Swiss Export and Foreign Trade Development Centre (OSEC), with the help of whom many events introducing the Baltics have been held and entrepreneurs have been able to make reciprocal visits. Now the secretariat of the Swiss-Baltic Chamber of Commerce has merged with the Swiss-Central Europe Chamber of Commerce (SEC) and their joint branch is the Swiss-Baltic Chamber of Commerce in Tallinn. According to the Estonian Business Register, there are more than 200 companies with Swiss partnership in Estonia, of which 80 are entirely based on Swiss capital.
Bilateral trade between Estonia and Switzerland has grown more than threefold during the last ten years. In recent years, the trade turnover has largely remained the same: from 2013-2018, Switzerland ranked in 21st and 22nd place among Estonia's trade partners. The total turnover of trade in goods in 2018 was 234 million euros (compared to 214 million euros the year before), of which export made up 107 million euros (0,7% of Estonian total export volume in 2018) and import 127 million euros (0,8%). The share of Estonian origin goods in total exports to Switzerland made up around 83%.
Estonia-Switzerland trade 2009-2018:
|million EUR||%||million EUR||%|
All economic figures originate from the Statistical Office
Swiss investments in Estonia
Swiss investments in Estonia have grown significantly in the past ten years - from 200 million to 368 million euros in 2018 according to the Bank of Estonia figures. As of 31.12.2018 Switzerland was Estonia's 14th largest investor and accounted for 1.7% of Estonia's FDI. Investments are mostly allocated into wholesale and retail.
The biggest businesses with Swiss participation in Estonia are AS Repo Vabrikud (chipboard production), AS United Motors (wholesale and retail trade of passenger cars and minibuses), Swiss Property Estonia OÜ (development of building projects). A well-known manufacturing company Max Dätwyler was founded in Estonia in 1995. ID-cards, driving licenses, and bank cards that are used in Estonia are made by a Swiss company called Trüb AG. Its subsidiary is Trüb Baltic, which was founded in 2001.
According to the Bank of Estonia, the number of Swiss tourists visiting Estonia has increased more than by 13 000 during 2014-2018 - from 25 536 in 2014 to 38 500 in 2018. On average, in 2018 a Swiss tourist spent 4,4 days in Estonia and primarily Tallinn and its surrounding areas were visited, although an intrest in Tartu, Pärnu, and Saaremaa has increased as well.
The number of Estonian residents visiting Switzerland has decreased: in 2018, 16 600 Estonian residents paid a visit to Switzerland compared to 22 200 in 2013, and 18 800 in 2016. An Estonian tourist spent on average 3.6 days in the country (Switzerland is probably visited mainly for ski tourism).
Projects realised in Estonia with Swiss support
At the beginning of this decade, Switzerland helped Estonia primarily through bilateral projects. There were 18 different aid projects (with a total cost of 150 million kroons or 15 million Swiss francs) that were primarily geared towards developing infrastructure, and in addition to environmental protection (improving the water filtration systems of Tallinn, Tartu and Otepää, developing waste management in Võru, developing the Estonian Map Centre, restoring the organ in Tallinn’s Kaarli Church, etc.). With the framework of Prison Fellowship International, Switzerland gave extensive material aid to Estonian prisons (medicines, daily living needs, clothes).
In the second half of the decade, Switzerland supported Estonia and other newer EU member states through special programmes with the goal of reducing economic and social inequality among European Union member states. In 2004 Switzerland allocated a total sum of 1 billion Swiss francs to 10 newer EU member states. The amount of aid allocated to Estonia was close to 40 million francs (about 33 milion euros). The grounds for the division of the money and the sectors in which it was to be used were concretely stated in the framework agreement of the co-operation programme, which was signed on behalf of Estonia on 20 December 2007 by Minister of Finance Ivari Padar. From 2007-2012, 16 projects were funded under this bilateral co-operation framework, all of which have been finished by now. Most notable examples include the acquirement of new state-of-the-art equipment for the Estonian Forensic Science Insititut in order to enhance capacity in areas of forensic science and pre-trial procedures and the procurement of the new map application GIS-112 for the Estonian Emergeny Response Centre that enables better and faster processing of emergeny notifications thanks to determining the exact location of the event and better emergency response coordination.
More information on the Estonia-Switzerland co-operation programme can be found at the address http://www.fin.ee/index.php?id=81690.
Defence relations between Estonia and Switzerland are confident and tight, encompassing different forms of co-operation from material aid to training and advising. Several high-level visits have taken place. Switzerland has provided training opportunities at the distinguished Geneva Centre of Security Policy (GCSP) to many Estonian officials. Since the foundation of the Baltic Defence College, Switzerland has been one of the six major donors to the College. From 1998 to 2002, a Swiss instructor worked at the College. There have also been several Swiss guest lectors at the College. As of August 2011 Estonia does not have a defence attaché accredited to Switzerland.
Cultural relations between Estonia and Switzerland have become multi-faceted over the years, and recently tighter relations have developed in the areas of music and theatre. In recent years bilateral cultural exchange has primarily taken place through direct contacts.
Lately, the field of visual arts has become a way to foster closer ties between Estonia and Switzerland. In 2014, the Kumu Art Museum ran an exhibition called "Telling Tales. Swiss and Baltic Artists", which brought together ten artists from Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Switzerland. In the field of modern art, there is good wroking relationship between the Centre for Contemporary Arts of Estonia and the Musée de l'Elysée in Lausanne, and the contemporary art exhibition hall Kunsthalle in Bern.
In September of 2011 Neeme Järvi became the ninth artistic and musical director of the Swiss symphony orchestra Orchestre de la Suisse romande (established in 1918). Kristjan Järvi is also connected to various Swiss orchestras, as he has been a guest conductor and musical consultant of the Basel Chamber Orchestra and conducted one of the world’s oldest orchestras, Winterthur Musikkollegium (established in 1629).
Swiss Reading Room
A Swiss Reading Room has been open in the National Library since the autumn of 1997, the goal of which is to pass along Swiss social and cultural life and promote ties between Estonia and Switzerland. In the reading room one will find publications about politics, law, economics, culture, and history, as well as literature. The selection is mostly in German but works can also be found in French, English, and Italian. The re-opening of the reading room took place during President Leuenberger's visit in July 2001.
In September 2007, a Swiss reading room was opened in Tartu's German Cultural Institute, with the support of the Swiss Embassy, Pro Helvetica, and the Gerbert Rüf Fund. The reading room’s collection contains contemporary German-language Swiss literature and gives people a chance to learn about Switzerland as a tourist destination.
Co-operation in education
There is an active and successful exchange of students taking place between Estonia and Switzerland. The Swiss Embassy in Helsinki has been mediating the allocation of Swiss scholarships to Estonian students for years.
The government of Estonia offers the following support for studies:
• Various support and scholarships for Estonian university students and researchers to study or do research in Switzerland. In 2010/2011 three students from the Estonian University of Life Sciences studied veterinary science and agriculture in Switzerland within the framework of state support for doctoral and master’s studies and the Kristjan Jaak Scholarship Programme.
• Two full scholarships to Swiss students each academic year for studies in an Estonian university.
The Swiss government offers the following scholarships to Estonia each academic year:
• Research fellowship for young researchers;
• Arts scholarships for master’s and doctoral students;
• Scholarships for master’s and doctoral students (except those studying education) to the University of Applied Sciences
Successful and active exchange of students and researchers has also taken place through Tallinn University of Technology’s Swiss-Baltic co-operation network (Swiss Baltic Net contact centre).
Estonians in Switzerland
In Switzerland there is a Swiss Estonian Society (www.eestiselts.ch) that brings together Estonian speakers and those interested in Estonian culture. The society has been active for close to 60 years. Currently its headquarters are in Zürich. Its membership consists of Estonian citizens, ethnic Estonians who are Swiss citizens, and Estonian citizens with Swiss spouses and children that are also Swiss citizens. According to the 2004 census there are about 165 Estonians in Switzerland, most of whom live around Geneva and Zürich
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