The president of Portugal, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, has begun an official visit to Switzerland aimed at strengthening economic, research and educational ties between the two nations.
On Monday, Rebelo de Sousa met Swiss President Johann Schneider-Ammann in Geneva, where they visited the Campus Biotech centre that houses biotechnology researchers and entrepreneurs as well as the European Union-funded Human Brain Project.
In the afternoon the Portuguese president travelled to Bern where the seven cabinet members met him with military honours. Rebelo de Sousa is travelling with Foreign Minister Augusto Santos Silva and Secretary of State for Portuguese Communities, Jose Luis Carneiro.
On Tuesday they will continue discussions on Europe, vocational education and training, and culture. The programme includes visits to the firm Rondo SA in Burgdorf to learn more about the Swiss apprenticeship system, and a museum in the Emmental region.
Switzerland and Portugal hold close ties. There are currently around 270,000 Portuguese nationals living in Switzerland, forming the third largest foreign community. Around 3,700 Swiss nationals live in Portugal.
During a meeting in Geneva on Sunday evening, Rebelo de Sousa praised Portuguese expats based in Switzerland, adding that in 2015 they were ‘the second largest community in the world to support the Portuguese economy’.
In 2015, Portuguese exports to Switzerland amounted to CHF800 million ($809 million), while Swiss exports to Portugal were also worth CHF800 million. Switzerland ranked second after France in terms of remittances transferred from Switzerland to Portugal, worth €842.3 million.
The last Portuguese state visit to Switzerland was by President Jorge Sampaio in September 2000.
swissinfo.ch with agencies