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History of Interstate Relations
After gaining independence in December 1991, Switzerland recognized Kazakhstan as a full-fledged independent state, and on June 1, 1992 diplomatic relations were officially established.
In 1994, Switzerland opened its Consulate in Almaty, which in 1998 was transformed into the Consulate General.
A historic event in the history of bilateral relations was the decision of Elbasy N. Nazarbayev to open the Embassy of the Republic of Kazakhstan in Bern in 1996.
An indicator of the further expansion of friendly relations between the two states was the opening of the Swiss Embassy in 2008 in Nur-Sultan (former Astana).
Since October 2019, the Ambassador of Kazakhstan to Switzerland is Alibek Bakaev with a permanent residence in Bern. Since August 2016, the Ambassador of Switzerland to Kazakhstan is Urs Schmid.
In Switzerland and Liechtenstein, there are two Honorary Consulates of Kazakhstan in Geneva and Vaduz.
The main priorities of the Kazakh-Swiss relations were identified during negotiations of the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev with the Federal President of the Swiss Confederation Jean-Pascal Delamuraz in 1996 and Flavio Cotti in 1998.
On January 19-21, 2003 the first official visit of the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev to Switzerland took place. In the framework of the visit, negotiations were held with Federal President Pascal Couchepin. There was a signing of intergovernmental agreement on the international transport of passengers and goods.
On January 23, 2014, during the participation in the annual session of the World Economic Forum in Davos, the Head of State met with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Federal President of Switzerland Didier Burkhalter. During the talks, the Swiss President praised the role of Elbasy in the global disarmament and non-proliferation of WMD, as well as his efforts to maintain stability in the Central Asian region.
On November 20, 2014, the Federal President of the Swiss Confederation and the OSCE Chairman-in-Office Didier Burkhalter during the tour in Central Asia paid an official visit to Nur-Sultan and met with the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev, the Chairman of the Senate Kassym-Jomart Tokayev and the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Kazakhstan Erlan Idrissov.
On June 18-19, 2017, the Minister of Foreign Affairs Didier Burkhalter paid a visit to Nur-Sultan. The Head of the Foreign Ministry of the Swiss Confederation held bilateral meetings with the Chairman of the Senate of the Parliament of the Republic of Kazakhstan, Kassym-Jomart Tokaev, and the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Kazakhstan, Kairat Abdrakhmanov and took part in the Third Conference of the Basel Process on the theme “Peaceful waters of Central Asia: Dialogue until 2030 – Water Security and Balanced Growth”.
On August 11, 2017, at the invitation of the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev, the visit of the Federal President of the Swiss Confederation – Minister of the Environment, Transport, Energy and Communications Doris Leuthard to Nur-Sultan took place. During the visit, Doris Leuthard met with the President of Kazakhstan Nazarbayev, made a welcoming speech at the Swiss National Day at EXPO-2017, visited the Kazakhstan and Swiss pavilions, and also took part in a side event on the topic “The Future of Swiss Innovations in Energy.”
A significant impetus to the development of bilateral relations was given by the official visit of Swiss President Ueli Maurer to Nur-Sultan on November 22, 2019, during which meetings with the country’s top leadership were held. Within the framework of the visit there was an Investment Round Table following which important agreements were reached between business representatives of the two countries; and there was a signing of Memorandum on deepening cooperation in the economic sphere between Kazakhstan and Switzerland.
Between the legislative bodies of the two countries in September 2012, the Inter-Parliamentary Group of Cooperation “Kazakhstan – Switzerland” was created. On November 28, 2013, the first meeting of the Inter-Parliamentary Group (IPG) was held in Bern. October 14, 2014, Bern hosted the second meeting of IPG.
On October 23, 2013 in Bern, the Chairman of the Senate of the Parliament of the Republic of Kazakhstan, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, during a meeting with the Chairman of the Council of States (lower house) of the Swiss Parliament, Filippo Lombardi, discussed interaction within the framework of the parliamentary assemblies of the OSCE and the Council of Europe and the exchange of experience in the development of legislation.
During an official visit to Astana on November 12, 2013, Lombardi addressed a speech to the members of the Senate of the Parliament of the Republic of Kazakhstan, held a meeting with Tokaev and was received by the President Nazarbayev.
On March 18, 2014 in Bern, bilateral meetings of the delegation of the Mazhilis of the Parliament of Kazakhstan headed by its Chairman Nurlan Nigmatulin took place. The delegation held talks with the Chairman of the Council of States, Hannes Germann, and the Chairman of the National Council, Ruedi Lustenberger.
On August 10, 2017, the Chairman of the Senate of the Parliament of Kazakhstan, Tokayev, received the co-Сhair of the Kazakhstan-Switzerland Inter-Parliamentary Group, the head of the Committee on Foreign Policy of the Council of States of the Federal Assembly of Switzerland Filippo Lombardi and discussed issues of bilateral cooperation.
On October 2, 2018, in Almaty, the Chairman of the Senate Parliament Kassym-Jomart Tokayev met with the Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Relations of the Council of States of the Federal Assembly of the Swiss Confederation, the Chairperson of the Switzerland-Kazakhstan Inter-Parliamentary Group Filippo Lombardi. Within the framework of the visit, a meeting was also held with the Akim of Almaty, Baurzhan Baybek.
On October 25-26, 2018, a visit of the parliamentary delegation of Switzerland took place in Almaty, during which parties held a panel discussion on the “Belt and Road” initiative.
Multilateral Political Cooperation
The cooperation between Kazakhstan and Switzerland within the framework of the Bretton Woods institutions was actively developed. Since 2003, Kazakhstan has been a member of the World Bank's Global Environment Facility Swiss County Group. In 2010, Kazakhstan became a full member of the Swiss County Group at the IMF and the WB.
On July 12, 2016, in Almaty, a meeting of the Swiss subgroup of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank was held with the participation of the Minister of Finance of Switzerland, Ueli Maurer. Switzerland supported the chairmanship of Kazakhstan in the OSCE in 2010 and provided all possible assistance and support when Kazakhstan joined the WTO. In 2013, an agreement was reached on mutual support of candidates for non-permanent members of the UN Security Council (Kazakhstan for 2017-18, Switzerland for 2023-2024). In 2014, the Swiss side supported Kazakhstan joining the Europe-Asia Forum (ASEM). In April 2015, the Swiss government confirmed its intention to participate in the International specialised exhibition EXPO-2017 in Astana. The signing of the Agreement on the participation of Switzerland in EXPO-2017 took place as part of the WEF-2016 in Davos.
Trade and Economic Cooperation
The Kazakh-Swiss Intergovernmental Commission on Trade and Economic Cooperation (IGC) is called upon to further expand bilateral relations. The co-Chair from the Kazakh side is the Minister of Trade and Integration Bakhyt Sultanov, the co-Chair from the Swiss side is Head of Bilateral Economic Relations Division and Federal Council Delegate for Trade Agreements Ambassador Erwin Bollinger.
The 8th meeting of the IGC was held in November 2013 in Switzerland, the 9th meeting – on June 7, 2016 in Astana, the 10th meeting – on October 28, 2019 in Bern.
In order to increase the effectiveness of relations between the business circles of the two countries, the Kazakhstan-Swiss Business Council was established in October 2012 (it is the coordinating and consulting body). Co-Chair from the Swiss side is Head of the Group of companies "Stadler Rail Group" Peter Spuhler.
The first meeting of the Business Council was held in April 2013 in Astana, the second meeting was on November 25, 2013 in Switzerland, the third meeting was on November 5-6, 2014 in Almaty, and the fourth meeting was held on July 10, 2018 in Astana during the visit of Schneider-Ammann, Head of Federal Department to Kazakhstan.
According to the statistics of the Ministry of National Economy of the Republic of Kazakhstan, between January and November 2019, bilateral trade between Kazakhstan and Switzerland amounted to $2.473 billion, which is 41 million less compared to the same period in 2018 ($2.897 billion), incl. Kazakhstan's exports - $2.354 billion, and imports from Switzerland - $119.37 million.
The main articles of Kazakhstan's exports: energy, precious stones and metals, jewelry. The main import items from Switzerland: pharmaceutical, watch, machine-building, agricultural and chemical products, precious stones and metals, jewelry.
According to statistics of the National Bank of the Republic of Kazakhstan, from 2005 to the third quarter of 2019, the gross inflow of direct investments from Switzerland to Kazakhstan reached $24.836 billion, for the 9 months of 2019 - $1.624 billion.
From 2005 to the third quarter of 2019 the gross outflow of direct investment from Kazakhstan to Switzerland amounted to $822.6 million dollars, for 9 months of 2019 - $5.1 million. According to Swiss statistics, 90 percent of investments in Kazakhstan are in industry and the agro-food sector, 8 percent in the wholesale and retail and 1.7 percet for financial services.
According to SECO (State Secretariat for Economic Relations), about 90 percent of Swiss investments are directed to the industrial and agricultural sectors, 8 percent to wholesale and retail trade and 1.7 percent to financial services. Representative offices of about 40 Swiss companies operate in Kazakhstan, including ABB, Ammann Asphalt GmbH, Georg Fischer, Algroup, Rieter, Schindler, Mettler Toledo, Bühler, Clariant, Hilti, Leica, Nestlé, Panalpina, Roche, Novartis, Sica, Sandos, Sicpa, SGS, Syngenta. Major manufacturers include Glencore (in partnership with KazZinc) and PhilipMorris.
Mabco Constructions S.A., a company based in Switzerland, is actively involved in the construction of Astana.
On January 22-25, 2018 the delegation led by Deputy Prime Minister Yerbolat Dosayev took part in the 48th World Economic Forum in Davos (hereinafter - the Forum). The Deputy Prime Minister of the Republic of Kazakhstan attended the opening of the Forum, made a presentation in an interactive panel session on the topic “Strategic Briefing: Eurasia”, held bilateral meetings with the Head of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank Jin Liqun, OECD Secretary General Angel Gurria, Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Federation Arkady Dvorkovich, President of the Republic of Tatarstan Rustam Minnikhanov, President of the Republic of Guinea Alfa Conde, Head (Minister) of the Federal Department of Economics, Education and Research Schneider-Amman, Minister of Economic Development and Trade of the Russian Federation Maxim Oreshkin, Head of the Japan Foreign Trade Organization Mr. Ishige, management of Solvay SA, Marubeni Corporation, Mastercard corporation, McKinsey, Hanwha Q Cells, Citigroup, Kibar Holding AS, Pfizer Vaccines, Koc Holding, Chevron Corporation, Attali & Associes and professors of Harvard University, London School of Economics, University of Chicago and Beijing.
On February 1-2, 2018, a delegation of the Ministry of Finance of the Republic of Kazakhstan, headed by Minister Bakhyt Sultanov paid a working visit to Switzerland and held a number of bilateral meetings and expert consultations in Bern. Sultanov met with the Minister of Finance Ueli Maurer, held extensive negotiations with the heads of the Department of Finance, the FINMA Financial Market Regulation Agency of Switzerland, tax and customs departments. Within the framework of the visit, the first meeting of the working group on the exchange of experience in the financial sector was also took place.
On February 12, 2018, there was a meeting between the Minister of Health of the Republic of Kazakhstan, Elzhan Birtanov and the Chairman of the Board of Directors of Swiss Medical Network, Raymond Loretan, as well as a visit to the Genole Clinic, which is the largest medical institution in the company.
On March 9, 2018, the participation of the delegation of the Astana International Financial Center, headed by the Manager Kairat Kelimbetov, was ensured in “Blockchain Leadership Summit” in Zurich
On June 18-20, 2018, the presentation of the Astana International Financial Center (AIFC) was held in Zurich and Geneva.
On July 9-12, 2018, representatives of the Federal Government of Switzerland, as well as large delegation of Swiss business representatives visited Kazakhstan. The delegation of the Swiss Confederation was headed by the Federal Advisor, the Head of the Federal Department (Ministry) of Economics, Education and Research, Johann Schneider Ammann. The purpose of the visit of Swiss investors was to familiarize themselves with the implementation of the initiatives “Belt and Road” and “Nurly Zhol”, as well as with the investment opportunities in Kazakhstan.
On December 4, 2019, during a working visit to Switzerland, Minister of Trade and Integration of Kazakhstan, Bakhyt Sultanov met top-management of Stadler CIS, ConstelliumSingen and ABB Switzerland and discussed development prospects of the engineering cluster in Kazakhstan.
On January 21, 2020, on the eve of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Minister of Trade and Integration of Kazakhstan, Bakhyt Sultanov held talks with top-management of Swiss pig breeding center SUISAG. The parties agreed to work out the possibilities of establishing a similar center in Kazakhstan with the aim of developing pig production and export of pork.
Cooperation in Tourism
In the period from October 29 to November 2, 2018, the Embassy organised a visit of a delegation of Kazakh Tourism to Switzerland, headed by Chairman of the Board Rashid Kuzembayev. Within the framework of the visit, a road show on the tourism potential of Kazakhstan in the cities of Geneva and Zurich was held with the participation of more than 50 representatives of tourism companies and potential investors from Switzerland.
In addition, during the visit, official meetings were held with management of Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO), Swiss Tourism, Swiss Health, Swiss Education Group, as well as with representatives of the World Economic Forum on the formation of the Tourism and Travel Competitiveness Index.
As part of the implementation of the tasks set in the Address of Elbasy Nazarbayev to open a Tourism University in Kazakhstan, the delegation visited the Ecole Hôtelière de Genève, which trains specialists in the field of tourism.
Following the negotiations, a Memorandum of Cooperation was signed between Kazakh Tourism and Swiss Tourism, according to which the Swiss side will assist in the development of year-round tourism in national parks and mountainous areas of Kazakhstan, adaptation and implementation of standards for the training of mountain guides and ski instructors.
Cooperation between universities and cultural centers of Kazakhstan and Switzerland develops actively.
There is functioning of Kazakh-Swiss Association “Keruen” (established in Bern, on June 1, 2012) and the Kazakh Cultural Center (established in Zurich, on May 30, 2015), which gathering compatriots and friends of Kazakhstan in Switzerland.
Kazakh-Swiss Institute of Tourism and Hospitality operates in Kazakhstan. In Nur-Sultan and Almaty branches of the Geneva Business School offer undergraduate, graduate and doctoral programs (business, finance, marketing, management in the field of petroleum industry).
As of 2019, there are 7 Kazakh students studying management in the field of tourism within the framework of the Bolashak program in Switzerland. In total more than 260 students of Bolashak program graduated from the Swiss universities.
On May 8, 2019 the Embassy organized demonstration of the documentary film “Ekus: History of Horse” for officials, business, cultural circles of Switzerland, the diplomatic corps, accredited in Berne, and the Kazakh Diaspora.
To introduce the compatriots and friends of the Embassy with the most important events in Kazakhstan, the Embassy organizes round tables and meetings. On March 19-20, 2019, a round table on reforms in Kazakhstan was held in Bern with the participation of Swiss experts and politicians.
On October 25, 2019, in Zurich and on December 8, in Bern the Embassy organized round tables to discuss the Address of the President Tokayev to the Nation and the role of the First President of Kazakhstan Nazarbayev in developing sovereign Kazakhstan.