Shared values and objectives
Switzerland and the European Union (EU) share history, languages, culture, and political values. On the world stage, the EU and Switzerland are like-minded actors, supporting each other in a number of areas, including:
- Climate change.
- Promoting human rights.
- Combating poverty.
Switzerland also takes part in several of the EU's missions and operations for civilian crisis management.
Through a range of bilateral agreements, the EU has closer ties with Switzerland than with any other country outside the European Economic Area (EEA). Switzerland has been associated with several EU policies relating to:
- The internal market.
- The Schengen agreement for free movement across European borders.
- The Dublin system for dealing with asylum claims.
- The EU's research and mobility programmes.
Between 2014 and 2021, the EU and Switzerland negotiated an institutional framework agreement, which should have secured and further developed Switzerland’s participation in the EU internal market. In May 2021, the Swiss government unilaterally terminated these talks. The EU is currently analysing the impact of this announcement on the bilateral relationship.
Closest economic partners
Switzerland and the EU are key economic partners:
- Mutual exchanges in goods and services amount to about €1 billion every working day.
- In 2020, Switzerland was the EU's 4th largest trading partner after China, the US and the UK.
- The EU is Switzerland’s largest trading partner by far.
- The EU accounts for around 42 % of Switzerland's exports in goods and for 60 % of its imports.
- Switzerland accounts for more than 7 % of the EU's exports and 6 % of its imports.
The EU's economic and trade relations with Switzerland are governed by the free trade agreement of 1972, and by the Bilateral agreements of 1999. These agreements give Switzerland direct access to key sectors of the EU's internal market, including:
- The free movement of people.
- The mutual recognition of product standards.
- The opening of markets for public procurement, air transport, and road and rail transport of passengers and goods.
Economic exchanges without barriers are an important source of prosperity for both sides.
Switzerland’s participation in further areas of the internal market, such as electricity, public health or services, depends on the conclusion of an institutional framework agreement.
Useful links for companies who want to do business in the EU or in Switzerland:
- Enterprise Europe Network (General) - the world’s largest support network for SMEs with international ambitions.
- Enterprise Europe Network (Switzerland).
- Market Access Database - Information for companies exporting from the EU about import conditions in third country markets.
- Trade Helpdesk - Guide to the EU market's import rules and taxes.
- Information portal on the promotion of agricultural products.
List of main barriers for doing business in Switzerland for companies from EU Member States (18 July 2019)
Strong human and social ties
As part of the bilateral agreement, Switzerland and the EU concluded a deal on the free movement of people. This gives citizens on each side the right to live and work in the EU or Switzerland, provided they have a job or other source of income.
Around 1.4 million EU citizens live in Switzerland and constitute around 16% of the population. Conversely, around 400,000 Swiss citizens live in the EU. Another 340.000 EU citizens cross the border daily to work in Switzerland. The free movement of people is a centrepiece of EU-Swiss relations. The deal cannot be separated from other agreements that give Switzerland privileged access to the EU's internal market.
In the past, Switzerland was also associated with the EU's student and youth mobility programmes. Since 2014, it has taken part in the Erasmus+ exchange programme as a third country.
Governance & Justice
Mobility without borders and in safety
Thanks to its association with the Schengen system of the European Union and the agreement on the free movement of persons, Switzerland is part of the European area of freedom, security and justice.
Every day, around two million people cross the borders between Switzerland and the EU in both directions. At the same time, Europe-wide police cooperation helps to ensure our security.
For some years now, the EU and Switzerland have been cooperating in the area of taxation. They are both committed to international standards of tax transparency and fair tax competition.
In May 2015, the EU and Switzerland signed an agreement on the automatic exchange of information, which significantly facilitates the fight against tax evasion. The agreement entered into force in 2017.
Research and Innovation
Researching across Europe
Switzerland and the EU have a long tradition of successful cooperation in the field of R&I. Switzerland was an associate member of Horizon 2020, Euratom and the Fusion Programme. Its participation in the new Horizon Europe programme is under consideration.