Political relations between Switzerland and Latvia have traditionally been good. Various congresses which led up to Latvia's first declaration of independence were held in Switzerland. In addition, in the first few years following independence, Latvia received Swiss support as part of its programme of cooperation with Eastern Europe. Latvia also became one of the beneficiary countries of the Swiss contribution to the enlarged EU.
Key aspects of diplomatic relations
Switzerland and Latvia maintain good diplomatic relations, and bilateral contact has intensified in recent years. In September 2014 Federal Councillor Didier Burkhalter visited Riga in his capacity as then-President of the Swiss Confederation, meeting with then-President Andris Bērziņš, Prime Minister Laimdota Straujuma and Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs, Prime Minister Laimdota Straujuma. Edgars Rinkēvičs made a return visit to Bern in early 2015. Over the last ten years, one of the priorities has been the close cooperation between the two countries under Switzerland’s enlargement contribution.
Since Latvia joined the EU in 2004, bilateral trade has been based on the free trade agreement between Switzerland and the EU. The volume of trade amounted to around CHF 221 million in 2016.
Cooperation in education, research and innovation
Researchers from Switzerland and Latvia are collaborating on a number of projects under Horizon 2020.
Researchers and artists from Latvia can apply to the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation SERI for Swiss Government Excellence Scholarships.
Switzerland’s contribution to the enlarged EU
Latvia was one of the countries to benefit from the Swiss contribution to reducing economic and social disparities in an enlarged European Union. Twelve projects amounting to CHF 60 million were implemented until 2017. The projects focused on improving school transportation in rural areas, promoting youth initiatives in remote regions, remediation, increasing fire safety and modernising the courts.
Swiss nationals in Latvia
According to the Statistics on the Swiss Abroad, 56 Swiss nationals were living in Latvia at the end of 2016.
History of bilateral relations
Swiss-Latvian relations date back to 1868 when Switzerland opened a consulate in Riga. Latvia established its own consulate in Switzerland in 1919. Various congresses which led up to Latvia's first declaration of independence in 1918 were held in Switzerland. In 1921 the Federal Council recognised the Latvian Republic. Diplomatic relations between the two countries lasted until the annexation of Latvia by the Soviet Union and were re-established after the break-up of the Soviet Union. Switzerland recognised Latvia’s re-proclaimed independence in August 1991 shortly after the country’s declaration of independence.
During the transitional phase in the 1990s, Latvia became a priority country in Switzerland’s programme of cooperation with Eastern Europe, receiving some CHF 26 million in the form of technical support projects and financial aid for health, the environment, and the banking sector.
In 1992 Switzerland opened an embassy in Riga which also handles Swiss interests in Lithuania and (since 2011) Estonia. The Latvian embassy in Vienna is responsible for relations with Switzerland.