What Switzerland and Spain Have in Common and How They Can Help Each Other

What Switzerland and Spain Have in Common and How They Can Help Each Other

On the occasion of the Spanish EU presidency, we took a closer look at the two countries together with the Spanish Ambassador in Bern, María Celsa Nuño García, and the Swiss Ambassador for Spain and Andorra, Hanspeter Mock. In this interview, they explain the differences and similarities between Switzerland and Spain and how the two countries can learn from each other.

What do you like best about Switzerland and Spain?

Ambassador María Celsa Nuño García (CN): The cultural diversity of Switzerland. Although there is no common official language for all Swiss, there are no communication problems. Multilingualism is part of the Swiss identity.

Ambassador Hanspeter Mock (HM): I have always loved Spain and admired its diversity and richness in history, culture, and gastronomy. What I also really appreciate is the human warmth that you feel even as a foreigner in Spain − and the spontaneity.

What do the countries have in common and what makes them different?

CN: As democracies, we are united by the will to preserve the security and well-being of our citizens, and by the belief that politics should serve the people. Our economic relations are strong. Over the past decade, bilateral trade flows have nearly tripled. For example, Spain is a major supplier of cars to Switzerland, and 40% of the fruit and vegetables that are imported to Switzerland come from my home country. Swiss companies are increasingly present in Spain, and vice versa. For Spain, tourism flows from Switzerland are of great importance. In 2017, we saw a record-breaking two million tourists from Switzerland!

HM: Our two countries are much more connected than you might think. At the peak of the pandemic, Switzerland was one of the main foreign investors in Spain. This also has to do with the acquisition of BME by SIX. In addition to economic cooperation, the two countries work closely together in the fields of science and culture. Examples of such close collaboration include a recent major exhibition of Spanish painting in Switzerland and the increasing presence of Swiss artists in Spanish cultural institutions. In terms of science, cooperation in the field of astrophysics has been very fruitful. Furthermore, we should not forget the mobility of people from both countries. Today, around 25,000 Swiss nationals live in Spain. However, the number of Spanish residents in Switzerland is higher. This is partly due to the large wave of emigration in the 1950s. Incidentally, Switzerland is now the European country with the most native Spanish speakers per capita, second only to Spain. Obviously, there are also some differences. If you consider our behavior, you can notice how reserved, almost introverted, the Swiss are compared to the Spanish.


The current geopolitical situation reminds us of the importance of building alliances to face the great challenges.

María Celsa Nuño García, Spanish Ambassador to Switzerland

How would you describe relationship between Switzerland and Spain? What is the common history?

HM: Our bilateral relations date back to Roman times. Evidence of this is the import of wine and oil from Hispania into the territory of today’s Confederation. Recently, Switzerland and Spain celebrated the 150th anniversary of their first free trade agreement. It was signed in 1869. The Swiss Consulate General in Barcelona opened over 175 years ago.

CN: Since the 1950s, we have also had strong human ties. Today, approximately  140,000 Spaniards live in Switzerland. They are well integrated and feel very comfortable in Switzerland. As many as 50,000 of them have dual nationality. In my interactions with the cantonal authorities, I have found that the Spanish community, the sixth largest foreign population in Switzerland, is highly valued. That makes me very proud.

A Look at the Country’s Population


Spain: 47.62 million

Switzerland: 8.81 million


25,800 Swiss nationals live in Spain.

138,200 Spanish live in Switzerland.

How important are Spain and Switzerland to each other?

HM: Spain is an important European partner for Switzerland. It is a window to Africa and Latin America, two important regions for our continent. In terms of foreign policy, we share and defend the same values of democracy, the rule of law, peace-building and fundamental rights. For example, we are working closely together to abolish the death penalty worldwide. Promoting these shared values is particularly important now, with Spain taking over the EU presidency in the second half of this geopolitically turbulent year, and Switzerland serving as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council in 2023 and 2024.

CN: Spain and Switzerland are two countries that work together very well in different areas. We have no significant points of contention. We share values, respect and admire each other. We maintain strong economic and human relations. The current geopolitical situation reminds us of the importance of building alliances to meet the great challenges of the day. An important part of our trade relations takes place within the framework of the agreements between Switzerland and the European Union. Spain is a very pro-European country. That is why we are closely following the contacts between Bern and Brussels with the wish that it will lead to a strengthening and widening of our relations.

Spain Takes over the EU Council Presidency

The EU Council presidency refers to the six-month period during which an EU member state assumes responsibility for leading and coordinating the EU Council. In this capacity, the country organizes and conducts meetings, summits, and negotiations among member states. It promotes cooperation and works closely with other member states to prepare policy decisions and develop common positions. In this role, Spain also acts as a mediator and coordinator between the EU institutions. The EU Council should not be confused with the European Council or the Council of Europe, as they are different bodies with different roles and responsibilities.

What can both countries learn from each other?

HM: Switzerland could learn from Spain how to be more spontaneous in the social context. We could also draw inspiration from the great sense of solidarity that was especially evident during the COVID 19 pandemic.

CN: Switzerland is a global leader in innovation. The cooperation between the public and private sectors in applied research, particularly within the framework of the Swiss Federal Institutes of Technology in Lausanne and Zurich, is admirable. In addition, the dual education system in Switzerland is very interesting. Spain, on the other hand, is a prime example of great infrastructure. We have the second largest high-speed rail network in the world after China, eight Spanish companies are among the thirty that have obtained the most concessions in the world (bridges, roads, etc.), and fiber optic processing is the highest in Europe. In addition, Spain is the second largest producer of electricity from renewable sources in Europe. In terms of gender equality, Spain is also one of the most advanced countries.

HM: We are happy to share our experience in areas of interest to Spain. And I am convinced that the combination of Swiss seriousness, reliability and know-how with Spanish dynamism and creativity in the financial sector can only be beneficial for both. The merger of SIX and BME is an example of this. Governments and supervisory authorities in both countries are taking a very positive stock. It enables the Group to be a major player in the industry at both European and global level. At a time when much is happening in the world, this is also important for the European continent and the upcoming Spanish EU presidency.

CN: In this regard, I would like to add that Spain is not only a European nation, but also an Ibero-American and Mediterranean nation. One of the objectives of the Spanish EU presidency is to strengthen the European Union’s relations with Latin America and the Southern Neighbourhood. Spain can bring to Switzerland its special relations with the countries belonging to this geographical area.