State visit by President Béji Caid Essebsi: launch of Tunisian-Swiss friendship group

Bern, 19.02.2016 - The launch of a Tunisian-Swiss friendship group during the state visit of President Béji Caid Essebsi to Switzerland characterises the excellent relations between the two countries. President Béji Caid Essebsi and President Johann N. Schneider-Ammann were present at the event on Friday. The topics of economic cooperation and vocational education and training formed the focus of events on the second day of the visit.

In the morning the two presidents met with Swiss and Tunisian business representatives for talks and a round table discussion. Among those also present at these events was a representative of the Tunisian Confederation of Industry, Trade and Handicrafts (UTICA); in 2015 UTICA was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize along with three other civil society organisations.

The aim of the events with representatives from various branches of industry was to gauge the potential for injecting additional impetus into economic relations between the two countries. Tunisia is Switzerland‘s tenth largest trade partner on the African continent. The total volume of trade in 2014 amounted to around CHF 405 million.

In Ostermundigen President Schneider-Ammann and President Béji Caïd Essebsi visited an Emmi production plant; the dairy processor is active in Tunisia through a subsidiary. A tour of the plant with apprentices provided an opportunity to discuss the importance of vocational education and training as a means of tackling youth unemployment.

Former Federal Councillor Schmid to chair friendship group
The Tunisian-Swiss friendship group launched on Friday will also address the subject of vocational education and training. The first main aim of the group will be to strengthen contacts between actors in this field in the two countries. One of the tasks will be to examine how elements of the Swiss system of vocational education could contribute to Tunisia's economic development, and thus towards strengthening the North African country's economic relations with Switzerland. The chairman of the friendship group will be former Federal Councillor Samuel Schmid, who is held in high regard in Tunisia since criticising the lack of freedom of expression under the then President Ben Ali at a conference in Tunis in 2005. The group, which has been established as an association and will be financed through membership fees, intends to create networks between state and non-state actors and encourage dialogue on political, economic, cultural and scientific issues.

The state visit concluded with lunch at the Lohn country residence, which was also attended by Federal Councillor Simonetta Sommaruga, in whose presidential year the state visit by the Tunisian president was supposed to have taken place.

Address for enquiries

EAER Information Service
+41 (0)58 462 20 07,


The Federal Council

Federal Department of Economic Affairs, Education and Research

Last modification 27.04.2016

Top of page


EAER Information Service

Federal Palace East Wing
3003 Bern



Print contact