Diplomatic Representation of Berne (CH)

Bilateral relations Liechtenstein - Switzerland

The close and friendly relations with Switzerland have developed especially intensively since the end of the First World War. This development is reflected in the many bilateral treaties and agreements existing between the two neighboring countries.

The most important treaty is the Customs Treaty which, together with other agreements pertaining to the movement of persons, makes it possible to keep the border between Liechtenstein and Switzerland open. The Currency Treaty, which regulates the use of the Swiss franc as the official currency in Liechtenstein, is also of great importance to the Liechtenstein economy.

Beyond the Customs and Currency Treaties, many additional treaties with Switzerland – including agreements with individual Swiss cantons – exist in the areas of movement of persons and cross-border cooperation, health, social security, education, cross-border police cooperation, private insurance, protection of intellectual property rights, agriculture, road traffic, air traffic, and indirect taxes and duties.

In March 2000, the Swiss Federal Council appointed Ambassador Kurt Höchner as the first Swiss ambassador to Liechtenstein. He held this position until September 2003. His successor as ambassador to Liechtenstein was Ambassador Paul Seger, who had been Director of the Directorate of International Law of the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) since June 2003. Ambassador Seger presented his credentials in Liechtenstein on 3 November 2003. He held this position until May 2010. On 17 June 2010, Ambassador Rita Adam assumed office. The Directorate of International Law is the most important contact point for all DFA affairs pertaining to Liechtenstein.

International contacts through Berne
The embassy of the Principality of Liechtenstein in Berne also acts as a communication hub for contact to further countries with direct diplomatic relations with Liechtenstein, the majority of which have embassies based in Berne. These embassies – over 60 in total – and Liechtenstein’s embassy are responsible for coordinating most official correspondence. Furthermore, by maintaining regular contact, the embassy aims to provide up-to-date information on national developments in the Principality of Liechtenstein and to communicate an accurate image of the country as a whole.

History of the Embassy in Berne
The Liechtenstein legation was opened in 1944. 25 years later, it was converted into an embassy. Liechtenstein had previously maintained a legation in Berne from 1919 to 1933, which however had to be closed for internal (financial) reasons. The heads of the legation/embassy since 1944 have been: H.S.H. Ambassador Prince Heinrich of Liechtenstein (1944-1989); H.S.H. Ambassador Prince Nikolaus of Liechtenstein (1989-1996); H.S.H. Ambassador Prince Wolfgang of Liechtenstein (1996-2001); H.S.H. Ambassador Prince Stefan of Liechtenstein (2001-2007); Hubert Büchel (2007-2013) and Doris Frick (since March 2013).

The first embassy was located on the Gerechtigkeitsgasse. In 1972, the State acquired property on the Willadingweg, where the office and residence now stand. Pursuant to preparatory work and a decision in 2000, the residence was renovated extensively between May 2001 and May 2002 and partially expanded. It is a modern, spacious building, standing out from the other embassies in Berne, which are usually more traditional structures.

Customs Treaty

The Customs Treaty in force between Liechtenstein and the Austro-Hungarian Empire since 1852 became practically meaningless after the collapse of the Danube Monarchy in 1918 and was terminated by Liechtenstein in 1919. Already shortly after the termination of the Customs Treaty with Austria, Switzerland assumed the representation of Liechtenstein interests and the interests of Liechtenstein citizens abroad, pursuant to a request by the Government of Liechtenstein in October 1919.

The Customs Treaty with Switzerland of 29 March 1923 laid the cornerstone for a new era in the economic development of Liechtenstein, which owes a significant share of its success to the ever closer cooperation with Switzerland.

The provisions of the Customs Treaty stipulate that all Swiss laws pertaining to customs are also applicable to Liechtenstein, as well as other Federal legislation necessary for the implementation of the customs union. Provisions of Swiss Federal law which establish Federal contribution requirements are exempt from this rule. In addition, all trade and customs treaties concluded by Switzerland with third States also apply to Liechtenstein on the basis of the Customs Treaty. Switzerland is authorized to simultaneously represent Liechtenstein in such negotiations and to conclude these treaties with effect in Liechtenstein.

In 1991 and 1995, the Customs Treaty, which is limited in principle to the movement of goods, was modified to take into account changing needs. Liechtenstein may accordingly itself become a State Party to an international agreement or a member of an international organization within the scope of the Customs Treaty, whether or not Switzerland also belongs to the agreement or organization. If Switzerland does not join the agreement or organization, Liechtenstein and Switzerland conclude a special agreement, as was necessary in 1994, for example, in preparation for the accession of Liechtenstein to the European Economic Area (EEA).

In addition to the international legal effect of the Customs Treaty, it also has symbolic importance for the particularly close relations between Liechtenstein and Switzerland. The Treaty created the foundation for a harmonization of legal provisions in the areas of social and economic law, far beyond its scope of application. This close linkage is now manifested in a multitude of treaties and other agreements, in particular in the areas of social welfare, vocational and professional training, indirect taxes, and transnational police cooperation.

Currency Treaty

In 1980, Liechtenstein and Switzerland concluded a Currency Treaty, with which Liechtenstein – which had already used the Swiss franc as its official currency since 1921 – is included in the currency area of Switzerland, while retaining its currency sovereignty in principle. The Swiss provisions on monetary, credit, and currency policy within the meaning of the National Bank Act are therefore also applicable to Liechtenstein.

Patent Protection Treaty

By means of the Patent Protection Treaty of 1978, the two States form a common area for purposes of the protection of patents on inventions. Swiss patent law applies to the uniform protection area for patents. The uniformity of patent protection also applies to European patents and international patent applications. Liechtenstein and Switzerland may only be named jointly on European or international applications. Liechtenstein is required to belong to certain international agreements relating to patent protection in the same way as Switzerland. Switzerland concludes treaties with third States also on behalf of Liechtenstein.

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  • Adrian Hasler
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