Estonia and Switzerland
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) and Katrin Saarsalu-Layachi (2003-2009). From January 2011 to October 2012 the Estonian ambassador to Switzerland was Katrin Saarsalu-Layachi, who resided in Tallinn. As of 18 October 2012 the Estonian ambassador to the Swiss Confederation is Gert Antsu, who resides in Brussels.
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), and as of 17 September 2012 the ambassador of Switzerland in Estonia is Walter Haffner. The Swiss ambassador resides in Latvia.
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.
|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|
|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)
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.
Economic co-operation between Estonia and Switzerland is lively. The entry into force of the agreement on the Avoidance of Double Taxation in July 2004 was of utmost importance for the development of economic relations between the two countries.
Business ties between the two countries 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.
Estonia's trade with Switzerland has grown 1.5 times during the last ten years, now making up about 0.6% of Estonia’s total trade turnover. In 2011 the total trade turnover between the countries was 140.1 million EUR, of which export made up 39.2 million EUR and import 100.9 million EUR. Among all of Estonia’s trade partners Switzerland ranked in 25th place in 2011. Estonian exports to Switzerland primarily consists of animal products, precious gems and metals, jewellery, machinery and equipment, and wood and wood products. Swiss imports to Estonia are mainly precious gems and metals, jewellery, medical and measurement equipment, clocks, and machinery and equipment.
Estonia-Switzerland trade 2005-2011:
|million EUR||%||million EUR||%|
All economic figures originate from the Statistical Office
Swiss investments in Estonia
According to Bank of Estonia data, as of 31 December 2011 Swiss direct investments into Estonia accounted for 187 million EUR, which accounts for 1.0% of all the foreign direct investments made in Estonia. A majority of these investments went to the manufacturing industry and real estate, and fewer investments were made in financial and insurance activity and professional, research and technical activity.
According to the Estonian Enterprise Register, as of 29 February 2012 there were 167 companies operating in Estonia with Swiss capital, of which 93 are based entirely on Swiss capital. The biggest businesses with Swiss participation in Estonia are AS Repo Vabrikud (chipboard production), Silmet AS (production of precious metals), Ekspress Group AS (media), United Motors AS (wholesale and retail trade of passenger cars and minibuses), and Trüb Baltic AS.
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 390 million kroons). 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.
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.
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.