60 Years together: Switzerland and Sri Lanka progress and partnership
By Srimal Fernando Global Editor
For sixty years diplomatic relations between Sri Lanka and Switzerland have grown from strength to strength and is expected to further elevate the bilateral ties with frequent exchanges of high level official visits. Today the growing, symbolically meaningful relationship between the people of the two nations goes beyond the bilateral scope. Sri Lankans form one of the largest diaspora communities in Switzerland. The 2014 census estimates that more than 50,000 people of Sri Lankan origin live in Switzerland.
Photo: Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe met Swiss President Madam Doris Leuthard in Switzerland
Top Swiss based companies create pathways and economic opportunity to Sri Lankans. A recent study shows that over 14,000 people are working for Swiss companies in Sri Lanka (Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, 2015).
Switzerland remained among the largest donors to Sri Lanka. Swiss provided an average of about 7 million Swiss francs (CHF) a year in foreign assistance and funding programs to the Indian Ocean island nation.
Sri Lanka’s tourism sector has seen incredible growth over the past few years and is now one of the hottest destinations for Europeans and more Swiss travel to Sri Lanka each year. Annually, Sri Lanka welcomes around 20,000 Swiss visitors to the small island nation. Switzerland and Sri Lanka had enjoyed historic relations dating back well beyond the establishment of diplomatic links in 1956. Switzerland has maintained a consular presence in Sri Lanka for hundred years.
The year 2017 is a significant year for Sri Lanka and Swiss relations. The four day visit to Switzerland by Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe which began on 16th January was an important milestone in fostering diplomatic relations between the two nations. At the talks with Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe , Swiss President Madam Doris Leuthard praised the comprehensive economic and national proposals targeted at creating sustainable development, and acknowledged that Switzerland was willing to provide maximum support in this regard.
The Sri Lankan delegation to the World Economic Forum (WEF) 2017 in Davos was led by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. The delegation included Ministers Ravi Karunanayake, Malik Samarawickrama and Harin Fernando.
In the past several decades, Swiss Aid played an important role in human development in Sri Lanka. As a part of this, Swiss Cooperation Strategy in Sri Lanka implemented from 2013 to 2015 focused around promoting inclusive peace building, rehabilitation and sustainable development (Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, 2015) has thus far provided approximately 7.46 million Swiss francs (CHF) in 2014. In 2015 an additional 6.89 million Swiss francs (CHF) was provided as Swiss development assistance to the island nation in 2015 (Embassy of Switzerland in Sri Lanka). In 2015 Federal Administration of Switzerland came up with a the new Sri Lanka Strategy, 2016-2020
Switzerland and Sri Lanka have shared a long-standing and sound bilateral relationship.
In recent years, Sri Lanka has greatly liberalized its economy. Relaxed rules on trade and investment had made it easier to do business in Sri Lanka. It's pleasing to note that many Swiss businesses are establishing their operations in Sri Lanka. Some of the largest and most reputed Swiss companies operating in Sri Lanka are A. Baur & Co. (Pvt) Ltd established in 1897, The Puttalam cement factory, owned by the Swiss company Holcim and the Five Star Mövenpick Hotel in Colombo owned by Mövenpick Hotels & Resorts of Switzerland. Sri Lanka exported 195165.2 million Swiss francs (CHF) of goods in 2015 (Embassy of Switzerland in Sri Lanka).
For Sri Lankan diplomacy, the last two years can be summed up as important years. As a result, there will be solid grounds for pushing closer partnership between Switzerland and Sri Lanka