It is since the early 90s of the last century that Switzerland, taking note of the great geopolitical upheavals resulting from the implosion of the Soviet Union, has readjusted the concept and practice of its neutrality. Indeed, as had happened at every significant historical turning point since the seventeenth century, when faced with the chain of conflicts that goes by the name of the Thirty Years’ War, the old Confederation understood that only a neutral conduct of the Federal Diet could have avoided the explosion of lacerating contrasts between the populations that made it up, divided between Catholics and Protestants as well as belonging to different languages and cultures.
After 1991 it was again a question of adapting the concept of neutrality to the evolution of the relationship between sovereign states, regulated by international law.
This means that Switzerland has no longer practiced an archaic integral neutrality for thirty years and condemns gross and blatant violations of international law. For a long time, therefore, the Confederation has not only participated in UN sanctions, but sometimes also adopts EU sanctions.
It is impressive to read fake news worthy of Sputnik or the legendary Tass in Italian newspapers full of history and good journalism, like these: “Mark the date because it never happened (…) Putin succeeded where no one had done before: to convince the Swiss to support a war, something from which they abstained after the battle of Marignano (today Melegnano) fought in September 1515 ”. Or even unquestionable titles of this fact: “Switzerland: sanctions against Russia like the EU. The historical neutrality is broken “; “Switzerland is no longer neutral: ok to sanctions against Moscow”.
Obviously, Switzerland does not “support” any war, it continues to be neutral, just as it has for some time been participating in sanctioning campaigns against “illegal” states that violate human rights, and moreover it does so only with economic measures, never with measures of a military nature (not even helmets …).
It was precisely in 1998 that Switzerland participated for the first time in economic sanctions adopted outside the UN, that is, those decided by the EU against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.
And if there is a date that should really be marked it is 2002, when the Confederation entered the United Nations, obviously maintaining its neutrality and as a rule supporting the (economic) sanctions decided by the UN. On top of that – make a note in order to avoid other abrupt awakenings from hibernating marmots – Bern should, unless postponed, join the UN Security Council for the period 2023-2024. And this is because he believes that the objectives that Switzerland wants to achieve with its neutral policy coincide with the mandate of the Security Council and are in line with neutrality. Moreover, other neutral states – such as Austria, Costa Rica and currently Ireland – regularly offer their services on the Security Council.
Only a couple of more historical-diplomatic remarks. The fact that Switzerland, through the mouth of Ignazio Cassis (the “Italian doctor” – head of state scripsit – became president of the Confederation; his statement “we are neutral, not indifferent”), yesterday adopted the entire package of sanctions decided by the European Union has a very simple explanation: we want to avoid that, as happened for example in 2014 during the first Ukrainian conflict , entities and people affected by the measures try to circumvent them by triangulating with Swiss institutions (read banks).
Finally, one can ask why for two centuries Swiss neutrality has been recognized, and considered of some interest, by the international community. The utility is twofold and concerns on the one hand the well-known humanitarian interventions offered by the Confederation on the scene of conflicts and on the other the so-called “good offices”, or diplomatic mediations in the case of wars but also of permanent tensions: Iran and Saudi Arabia, to give a little-known example, do not have diplomatic relations with each other and in everyday life, apart from sporadic (semi) hidden meetings, they speak regularly only through the Swiss diplomats of the embassies of Tehran and Riyadh.
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