Switzerland is a small, landlocked country in the heart of Europe, located at the crossroads of central Europe. It has 1858 km’s of border with Germany, France, Italy, Austria, and Liechtenstein. Two-thirds of the country is comprised of forests, lakes and mountains. Geographically the country has the Alpine region of the Swiss Alps to the south and the Swiss Plateau of hills, plains, large lakes and the mountainous Jura in the northwest. It’s famous for ski resorts, hiking trails, watches and chocolate.
Switzerland has a population of 8,555,644 and enjoys among the world’s highest standards of living as a result of a highly-skilled labour force, technological expertise in manufacturing and a strong financial services sector. Switzerland has one of the most competitive economies worldwide. The service sector is the most important and includes banking, assurances and tourism. Farming is also important, but national production does not meet demand, so imports are necessary. More than half the population are employed in the tertiary or services sector which includes banking, assurances and tourism.
The secondary sector which is the industry sector employs about 40% of the population. This sector includes the machine and metal industry, watch industry and the textile industry. The agricultural sector is strongly supported by the government and is regarded as the primary sector of the economy. Less than 10% of the population is employed in this sector. The industrialised countries, largely within the EU, account for 77% of exports and 89% of imported goods.
Public education is free of charge in Switzerland. Swiss healthcare combines public, subsidised private and totally private healthcare systems and is of the best in the world. Healthcare is not free, because the best equipped medical facilities without waiting lists comes at a price. A significant portion of funding is from mandatory Swiss health insurance premiums and out-of-pocket payments.
The Swiss Constitution guarantees a basic living to anyone in need, and everyone has the right to assistance towards economic independence and social integration. Social welfare costs are paid by cantons and communes and benefits include provision for basic living costs, housing costs and health insurance.
Winter sports are expected, but Switzerland in summer offers over 65,000 km’s of marked hiking trails across Swiss Alps, meadows and glacial lakes. Swiss cuisine, cheese, fondues and hot melted chocolate delights are just a few of the dining delights offered in this wonderland. Zürich offers world-class shopping, jewellers and chocolates.
However, this city also has budget-conscious options such as the three different prime viewpoints of the city – that cost nothing to visit, an array of parks and gardens free to the public and more than a few free entry museums.
Switzerland is a Schengen country but not a member of the EU. The European Travel Information Authorisation System (ETIAS) will be rolled out in 2021. It is due to impact those nationals from the 62 non-EU countries who now benefit from the visa liberation policy. Australians will, therefore, be affected by the pre-authorisation system which is very similar to Australia’s own ETA.
The system will be as user-friendly as ETA, and over 18s will pay only a small fee to apply for the electronic authorisation. The application will be done online, with the authorisation granted and attached to the passport within minutes. The authorisation will be valid until the passport expires or three years, whichever happens first.
The European Commission proposed the system to counter risks to the countries’ borders by escalating terrorist activity and uncontrolled immigrants. The safety of the borders and the European citizens is a major factor behind the implementation of ETIAS.
In 1851 two Ticinesi or Italian speaking Swiss, migrants paid their own way to Australia followed by two more in 1852. The successful return of two of them in 1854 probably led to the exodus of 1855 which saw 1,073 Swiss immigrants arrive in Australia. Around 1860 the ease with which farming land could be secured in Australia was very appealing to the Swiss Ticinesi migrants.
Australia and Switzerland’s bilateral investment relationship is a significant source of prosperity for both countries. Australia’s economic relationship with Switzerland is growing in the areas of scientific research and development, education, and two-way investment. Bilateral trade is close to 6 billion dollars. Australia imports predominantly medicaments, watches and clocks, pacemakers and orthopaedic appliances and exports gold, meat other than beef, silver, and platinum to Switzerland. Australia’s services exports are transport and personal travel, while imports include charges for the use of intellectual property and personal travel. Switzerland is Australia’s tenth-largest source of foreign investment.
Bilateral agreements between the two countries include on double taxation, social security, defence and supply, nuclear safeguards, air services, extradition, and mutual assistance on cooperation on law enforcement. Memoranda of understanding have been signed on cooperation in the fields of science, research and innovation, trainee exchanges and regular dialogue on health regulations.
Bilateral cooperation is growing in the science and education sectors, and meetings have allowed both countries to identify opportunities to further strengthen bilateral science and innovation collaboration. The Swiss Australian Academic Network (SAAN) was established to increase scientific exchanges between the two countries and now has more than 650 members.
Australia currently has over 20,000 residents of Swiss ancestry.
Australians can now travel to Switzerland with only a valid passport but will be required to apply for ETIAS authorisation once it is implemented in 2021.