Switzerland will continue opposing arms exports to Ukraine, Swiss President Alain Berset said during a UN meeting on Tuesday, March 7th. While parliament is currently exploring options to circumvent neutrality clauses forbidding the re-export of Swiss-made arms by others, lawmakers are reluctant to take further steps.
Last month, The European Conservative wrote about Bern’s re-export conundrum, explaining how Swiss neutrality hinders other European countries’ ability to send weapons to Ukraine from their own stockpiles if they were made in Switzerland. So far Germany, Spain, and Denmark have explicitly asked for permission, which Bern has been refusing to grant for months.
Regarding the export of weapons, Berset said, “it is not possible to do it,” citing constitutional provisions related to the famous Swiss neutrality. “For the government and for the Federal Council, we have to, and we want to maintain this legal framework,” he explained.
During the first months of the war, Swiss lawmakers surprised the world by joining the European Union’s sanctions against Moscow, a move that would have been unimaginable a few decades ago. However, officials say that the constitution allows some degree of flexibility. “These sanctions are absolutely compatible with neutrality,” the president emphasized again on Tuesday.
Weapons shipments, however, are a completely different ball game. At the moment, several alternatives are available to the Swiss government, all aimed at bypassing the legal prohibition of re-exports. Yet, few lawmakers are optimistic that any meaningful change could be adopted in a relatively short time frame.
“It’s not possible to make an exception to the legal framework,” Berset said. “If the parliament would agree to change the legal framework, then we will work in the context of this new legal framework,” he said, quickly adding that it would take a considerable amount of time.
The reluctance is understandable, of course. Military neutrality has been part of Swiss national identity for centuries; therefore, Bern must tread very carefully when it comes to aiding Ukraine.
Or so it seemed until a month ago when a poll that questioned 28 thousand Swiss citizens revealed that half of the population now supports scrapping the re-export regulations. If this number continues to grow, it could prompt Bern to be more amenable to the legislative changes required to introduce the reforms.