Bilateral relations

Bilateral collaboration with other countries makes it possible to address public health challenges across national boundaries and to promote knowledge sharing. Depending on the requirements of the case, such collaboration can take various – more or less institutionalised – forms.

Bilateraler Austausch zwischen Bundesrat Alain Berset mit Italiens Gesundheitsminister Roberto Speranza (Juli 2022)
Bilateral discussions between Alain Berset and Italy’s Health Minister Roberto Speranza (July 2022). Federal Councillor Alain Berset meets regularly with health ministers and other officials to discuss bilateral collaboration and efforts to strengthen multilateralism and improve healthcare. Photo: Béatrice Devènes (Federal Chancellery)

Bilateral collaboration is of great importance, enabling Switzerland and its partners to jointly address specific topics in depth and to share good practices at both the policy and technical level. Among the topics which are the subject of bilateral collaboration are health crisis management, reforms of the health system and cross-border cooperation.

Collaboration with neighbouring countries

In matters of public health, Switzerland’s neighbouring countries are important partners, for various reasons:

  • The health systems have a number of features in common. Germany and Austria, for example, also take a federalist approach to the division of powers.
  • Similar public health challenges arise – for example, dealing with an ageing population, development of quality of care, or healthcare costs.
  • In border regions, there is a particular need for collaboration, especially in order to accommodate cross-border lifestyles and ensure continuity of care for cross border commuters and the border population. In 2016, for example, a framework agreement on crossborder cooperation in the health sector was signed with France.

Discussions and collaboration with neighbouring countries provide a valuable stimulus for health system reforms and health security. The cantons for their part often collaborate closely with the authorities in neighbouring cross-border regions.

Bilateral and crossborder collaboration takes place at various levels and through various platforms. An important instrument for collaboration with Switzerland’s German-speaking neighbours (and Luxembourg) is the so-called Health Quintet – an informal annual meeting of health ministers from German-speaking countries. Austria, Germany, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg and Switzerland take turns to host this event. The meeting is not limited to the ministerial level but also provides a forum for exchanges among experts. Not least, this platform allows joint initiatives to be launched at the international level.

Collaboration with countries outside Europe

In an increasingly interconnected world, bilateral contacts with non-European countries are also of great importance for Switzerland. These involve, in particular, the sharing of knowledge and experience at ministerial and expert level. Thematically, they focus on shared interests such as development and access to medicines, control of communicable diseases and protection against global health risks. The aim is both to promote public health and to learn from each other’s experiences and best practices. Examples of the FOPH’s international collaboration efforts in recent years include:

  • A declaration of intent to strengthen collaboration with Iran in the field of public health.

  • An agreement on cooperation with China in the areas of foodstuffs, medicinal products, medical devices and cosmetics.

In addition, Switzerland receives regular visits from foreign delegations seeking information on the Swiss health system and on specific topics (e.g. drug policy).

Last modification 08.02.2024

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