as a partner for strengthening a values and rules-based world order

01 — The key questions for the Partner-Atlas

RELEVANCE: What relevance does Switzerland have for Germany with regards to "strengthening a values and rules-based world order"?

In many respects, Switzerland is a key partner to Germany in terms of both values and interests. Switzerland’s domestic and foreign policy is based on the same spectrum of values of human rights, democracy, freedom and the rule of law.

Without prejudice to Switzerland’s neutrality, this is also evident at a global level: Since 2002 it has been a member of the United Nations, and it is now standing for a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council for the first time, for the years 2023 and 2024. Switzerland generally perceives itself as a supporter of multilateralism with a foundation in rules and values. In the UN committees, it is one of Germany’s closest allies outside the EU. This was also evident during the Covid-19 pandemic, in which Switzerland was one of the countries that, like Germany, advocated a strong role for multilateral organisations (WHO) and tools (the ACT Accelerator and COVAX initiatives) to deal with it. As home to the multilateral city of Geneva, support for the work of the organisations based there is also in Switzerland’s own interests.

Switzerland sees itself as a defender of the UN Charter and international humanitarian law. It is also known for its strong commitment to human rights, not only because of its leading role in the International Red Cross, but also as a political and financial supporter of other important humanitarian organisations such as the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and the UN refugee agency UNHCR.

Switzerland is also a natural partner on account of its very similar position on regulatory policy (market economy, free trade, subsidiarity principle, importance of protecting intellectual property rights) and a compatible conception of the role and reform of the World Trade Organisation (WTO). Within the WTO, Switzerland is one of the countries advocating a powerful WTO, bolstering free trade and eliminating barriers to trade. 

Thanks to reforms to its financial sector and the decision by the Swiss Federal Council to amend the Constitution to put in place the minimum tax rate agreed between the OECD and the G20 countries, the discrepancies compared to Germany in questions of international financial and fiscal policy have been reduced.

Switzerland is known for its “good offices”, offering platforms for dialogue and mediation for conflicting parties. Thanks to its international image as an intermediary, it is an important partner in the areas of conflict prevention and conflict resolution. Switzerland has been recognised internationally as a protecting power since the 19th century. In this role it takes on some of the diplomatic tasks in cases where two countries break off relations, either in whole or in part. Since 1979, for example, Switzerland has represented Iranian interests in Egypt and Canada, and those of the US in Iran. It performs a similar role between Russia and Georgia, and between Iran and Saudi Arabia.

On account of a number of factors (neutrality, as well as questions of economic integration, Switzerland sometimes has quite close political and economic relations with various autocratic countries, and in the past has not participated in sanctions imposed by European countries.

WILLINGNESS: To what extent is Switzerland willing to work with Germany in realising this interest?

Switzerland generally has a clearly defined willingness to cooperate at an international level and within multilateral organisations, and taking its collaborative activities to a deeper level is considered a desirable goal. Swiss representatives are among those expressing a wish for faster, early coordination with Germany and the wider EU; as a non-EU country, Switzerland is not included in internal EU voting processes. Given its specific position in the international system (neutrality, status as a protecting power), Switzerland sometimes differs from Germany in the tools it applies to achieve common goals, including its “good offices”, its role as a mediator and a protecting power, and a much more strongly pronounced reservation with regard to the application of sanctions. On the other hand, its participation in military missions is limited, with the emphasis here being on boosting capacity and humanitarian mine-clearing activities. As a matter of course, however, Switzerland can participate in Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) missions, which it has done as part of civilian missions, such as EUCAP Sahel Mali and EUAM Ukraine.

STATUS QUO: How close is Germany and Switzerland’s current cooperation in this area?

Switzerland and Germany cooperate very closely in international locations such as Geneva and New York. In the Human Rights Council, in the WHO and in humanitarian and digital questions (e.g. forums on standardisation) Switzerland is a reliable partner to Germany and the EU. In the World Trade Organisation, there are major overlaps in the positions of the two countries. Switzerland thus supports key German reform proposals at the WTO, advocates the restoration of dispute resolution, plays an active part in numerous plurilateral initiatives that also involve Germany, and is also among the sceptics regarding a “TRIPS Waiver”. In general, there are also strongly similar positions on questions of global healthcare: on the role, reform and financing of the WHO, and on the reform of pandemic prevention. Switzerland also supports initiatives proposed by Germany such as the Alliance for Multilateralism.

The efforts by Switzerland to maintain close relations with countries characterised by systemic rivalry with Germany and the EU have thus far not caused significant friction that would affect collaboration at a global level. 

In the context of the war in Ukraine, Switzerland is still considered a reliable international partner despite its neutrality and the resulting differences: not only have the EU sanctions been largely adopted (leading to Switzerland being classed by Russia as an ‘enemy nation’), but Switzerland has so far also backed, within multilateral organisations, condemnation of Russian aggression and its consequences. Minor differences are evident regarding the question of isolating Russia in the United Nations. Although the consensus is that there can be no return to “business as usual” with Russia under Vladimir Putin even following a cessation of hostilities, Switzerland has strong concerns about breaking off all channels of communication.

POTENTIAL: What is the potential for strengthening the partnership between Germany and Switzerland in this area?

The frictions resulting from Switzerland breaking off negotiations on the framework agreement with the EU have not yet impacted on the close relationship between Germany and Switzerland at a global level. Nevertheless, an agreement on a new basis for long-term EU-Swiss relations would also be beneficial in global forums.

The election of Switzerland to the UN Security Council for the first time in June 2022 (for 2023/2024) increases the importance to Germany of closer coordination with Switzerland. 

Switzerland can be a key partner in the reform of various international forums such as the WHO and the WTO. Considering its very similar position on regulatory policy, it can contribute alongside Germany and the EU to having questions of sustainability more firmly anchored in healthcare, economic and trade policy organisations, while discussions are conducted in consideration of market economy principles. At the same time, Switzerland is an important ally in the fight against increasing protectionism. In general, Switzerland should be considered a key ally in countering efforts by autocratic nations to redefine principles and paradigms of multilateral cooperation to suit their own positions.

POLICY RECOMMENDATION: What in German foreign policy has to change in order to fully exploit this potential?

The close coordination with Switzerland on multilateral questions that is already in place should be maintained and, where possible, intensified in certain areas. 

In general, Berlin and Brussels should also make efforts to achieve an earlier agreement and closer integration of Switzerland in their global positions; for 2023 and 2024 in particular, consideration should be given to an invitation to the EU Foreign Ministers’ Meeting. 

When reform initiatives are submitted to various international organisations such as the WHO or WTO, joint initiatives should be tabled not only together with France and other EU countries but also with Switzerland.

At the same time, a well coordinated distribution of roles between Germany and Switzerland, with specific consideration of its special position, its acknowledged role as a mediator and its strong reputation at a global level, should contribute to a more successful pursuit of common goals and interests. This applies in particular with reference to current and future “frozen” conflicts.

Dr Olaf Wientzek heads the KAS office “Multilateral Dialogue” in Geneva.


  • Population: 8.654.622
  • Capital: Bern
  • Interest: Strengthening a Values and Rules-based World Order
  • Region: Europe and North America

02 —


Multilateraler Dialog Genf
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03 — The region

Europe and North America



In many respects, Switzerland is a key partner to Germany in terms of both values and interests. Switzerland’s domestic and foreign policy is based on the same spectrum of values of human rights, democracy, freedom and the rule of law.

  • Population: 8.654.622
  • Capital: Bern


In many ways, Switzerland is a key partner for Germany in terms of values and interests, particularly in the area of trade and innovation. The economies of both countries are closely intertwined: Germany has been Switzerland’s most important trading partner with more than 22 percent of foreign trade. Conversely, Switzerland is also a key economic partner for Germany: in 2020, it ranked eighth among Germany’s foreign trade partners (making it the fourth-largest non-EU country in this ranking behind the U.S., China and the United Kingdom).

  • Population: 8,654,622
  • Capital: Bern


Serbia is of central importance for Germany in terms of regulating global migration flows. Since the beginning of the refugee crisis in 2014, a large proportion of refugees from the Middle East, Central, and South Asia have moved along the so-called “Balkan route”. The main route leads from Turkey and Greece via Bulgaria, North Macedonia, and Serbia to Hungary and Croatia, which form the border of the EU. Continuing from there is difficult because especially the Hungarian government has implemented very tough border controls to prevent entry without valid travel documents. In the first two years of the migration movement, Serbia received emphatic international praise for its humanitarian aid to refugees.

  • Population: 8,737,371
  • Capital: Belgrade


Since the beginning of the conflict in Eastern Ukraine and the unlawful annexation of Crimea, parts of the country have not been under the control of Kyiv. It is in Ukraine that it will be decided what significance internationally recognised borders will have in 21st century Europe, whether territories can be unilaterally altered, and whether the right of the (militarily) stronger will again take precedence over the sovereignty, self-determination, territorial integrity and inviolability of borders.


  • Population: 43,733,762
  • Capital: Kyiv


When the Partner Atlas was first developed (2019), Belarus was chosen as the fifth country in the region Europe and North America. Persistent repression following the rigged Presidential elections of 2020, however, make it impossible to think about a deepened security partnership with the regime of Aliaksandr Lukaschenka. The Konrad-Adenauer-Foundation keeps working actively on Belarus. Please go to the website of the KAS country office as well as our social media accounts on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram (@KasBelarus) for the latest information and analyses on the current situation.

  • Population: 9.449.254
  • Capital: Minsk


When the Partner Atlas was first developed (2019), Russia was chosen as one of the partners in the area of Resources and Climate Protection. The war perpetrated by Russia against Ukraine, however, makes it impossible to think about deepening cooperation with the Putin regime.

If you are interested in the work of the Konrad-Adenauer-Foundation in Eastern and Southeastern Europe, please visit the website of the Department Europe and North America as well as our social media accounts on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram to find up-to-date information and analyses.

  • Population: 145,934,462
  • Capital: Moscow