Switzerland Defense and Security

The Swiss Confederation, despite adopting a policy of neutrality and non-belligerence, provides for compulsory military service. In 2001, a proposal was made to dismantle the armed forces, composed of 22,650 units, but the voters rejected the motion. However, the great international changes and global terrorist threats have led the confederation to initiate, since 2004, a process of reforms which, in the face of the reduction of soldiers, would make the army better prepared and equipped to face international operations in the most unstable areas of the world. Switzerland has taken part in two important peacekeeping missions in recent years: the KFOR of NATO in Kosovo, with 223 soldiers, and the Eufor of the European Union in Bosnia-Herzegovina, with 20 troops. Some Swiss observers are also involved in Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Korea, Nepal and the Middle East within the United Nations Armistice Supervisory Organization (UNTSO). Finally, it should be remembered that the Vatican guards of the papacy, by virtue of a traditional partnership between Switzerland and the Vatican that has its roots in the sixteenth century, are Swiss citizens who have carried out military service in the Swiss army. Currently the papal halberdiers are 78, the non-commissioned officers are 26 and the officers six.

Swiss neutrality

Neutrality is a fundamental principle of Swiss foreign policy and is aimed at ensuring independence and territorial integrity. In the Swiss Constitution, neutrality is mentioned in the section relating to federal authorities and not in those concerning the purposes of the confederation and the principles of foreign policy, because it is considered as an instrument of foreign policy and not as an end in itself. Swiss neutrality is permanent, freely chosen and armed. It is the result of a long tradition, dating back to 1516. Although there have been numerous adaptations to internal and external constraints, the principle is part of national identity, enjoys broad support from the population, and has helped to strengthen internal cohesion. of a culturally heterogeneous country. During the Cold War, Swiss neutrality was called ‘integral’ as it required not only that the country refrain from participating in military alliances, but that it also remain outside the major international organizations. Conversely, after the Cold War a broader interpretation has emerged, which leaves more room for maneuver, similar to that of the so-called ‘differentiated’ neutrality of the 1920s, when the country joined the League of Nations and declared itself willing to implement economic sanctions. In 1990, following the resolution of the United Nations Security Council which decreed sanctions against Iraq, the federal council declared the autonomous execution of economic sanctions compatible with neutrality. Subsequently, Switzerland also participated in the sanctions against Libya, Haiti and Yugoslavia. Furthermore, in the 1993 report on neutrality, the Federal Council recognizes that, in order to tackle the new challenges – such as terrorism, organized crime and climate change – greater cooperation must also be initiated in the field of security. Since 1996, Switzerland has also been part of NATO’s Partnership for Peace program, compatible with neutrality as there is no obligation to provide military support in the event of an armed conflict. Finally, Switzerland seemed more inclined to participate in international non-military organizations: it has been a member of the United Nations since 2002 and therefore is required to participate in the economic sanctions decreed by the organization and cannot hinder the implementation of military sanctions decreed by the Council of safety. The country participates in the operations of peacekeeping under the mandate of the OSCE and the United Nations. Ultimately, the official trend is therefore that of an ‘active’ neutrality, although there are still profound divergences in the perception and definition of the same, both between parties and between communities.

Swiss institutional architecture

The Swiss Confederation is a parliamentary democracy articulated on the basis of a federal system. It is structured in such a way that citizenship can participate directly in political life through the cantonal bodies, in some cases with a show of hands, more often through the participatory tool of the referendum, which can be called if requested by eight cantons or by 50,000. citizens. Furthermore, the executive power is highly decentralized: the 26 Swiss cantons enjoy a high level of autonomy and have their own parliament, elected by universal suffrage, a government and a constitution. The powers of the cantons are very broad, especially in the fields of health, education and culture, and extend to all areas that are not the responsibility of the federal government. The institutional architecture provides that at the confederal level the executive, legislative and judicial powers are held respectively by the federal assembly, the federal council and the federal courts. The federal assembly – the parliament – is made up of the national council and the council of states, equivalent chambers that deliberate separately. The national council represents the Swiss people and has 200 members, elected with a proportional and majority system, while the council of states represents the cantons and is made up of 46 deputies, two from each canton, with the exception of six who have only one representative. Parliamentary decisions have executive value only if approved by both branches of the federal assembly, which to proceed with the elections, resolving conflicts of jurisdiction between the supreme federal authorities and deciding on requests for pardons meets in plenary. The government, known as the Swiss Federal Council, is made up of seven members, elected by the plenary federal assembly and in office for four years. The seven members are ministers of the federal departments of foreign affairs, interior, justice and police, defense, civil protection and sport, finance, economy, environment, transport, energy and communications. The president of the confederation is elected in rotation for one year from among the seven members of the government and heads the federal council, within which he plays a role of primus inter pares and institutional representation.

The financial sector and international tax pressure

With 11.3 trillion in assets under management, Swiss banks hold around 10% of assets under management globally, third behind US and UK banks. With regard to the cross-border management of private client assets, Switzerland is the world’s leading player, with 2.3 trillion assets under management. However, in recent years the pressure for greater transparency in tax matters and against the maintenance of banking secrecy has become particularly strong, mainly from OECD member countries, which provides for a ban on Swiss banks from disclosing to third parties information about their customers. In 2009 Switzerland, while maintaining that banking secrecy represents a protection of customer privacy, agreed, together with Austria and Luxembourg, the adoption of the international standards on the exchange of information in tax matters established by the OECD, although sharing is not automatic and continues to be assessed on a case-by-case basis. On the other hand, secrecy is abolished and the authorities can access banking information even in case of suspicion of criminal activities such as terrorism, organized crime and money laundering. As a result, and thanks to the conclusion of tax agreements with several European countries, the OECD removed Switzerland from the ‘gray list’ of tax havens.

Switzerland and the dictators’ funds

Long accused of opaque management of the assets of Jews persecuted by the Nazi regime, Switzerland today adopts a very strict policy regarding the funds of heads of state and high-ranking officials who get rich illegally, stealing huge capital from the development of their own. country. The set of laws relating to the fight against money laundering, terrorist financing and corruption are effective in rejecting such funds. Furthermore, if the illegally sourced funds still manage to reach Switzerland, they must be returned to the country of origin. Over the past fifteen years, the country has returned substantial sums to Peru, the Philippines, Nigeria, Angola, Kazakhstan and Mexico, totaling 1.7 billion Swiss francs. In February 2011, the so-called ‘Duvalier law’ (from the name of the former Haitian dictator, who died in October 2014) came into force: a provision that provides for the return to the original state of assets illegally obtained by corrupt dictators or politicians even in the case in which an application for international mutual assistance cannot be successful, due to the failure of the judicial system of the requesting state. This law allowed the confederation to bring a lawsuit for the confiscation of the assets of the former dictator of Haiti (about 6 million francs), so as to return them to the Haitian government in order to improve the living conditions of the population severely hit by the 2010 earthquake.

Switzerland Defense