“Are the Swiss masochists or simply selfish?” Provocative as it may be, the question did not come from a critic of the Swiss democratic and economic “model” but from the head of the country’s most influential liberal and conservative newspaper, the Zurich-based Neue Zürcher Zeitung.
On Saturday, March 4, Eric Gujer told his readers that, like so many others, he no longer understands the wait-and-see attitude of the Swiss federal government and Parliament. Although theoretically reassuring, their historical slowness and stability are now perceived at best as a cowardly attitude, making for a country paralyzed by its neutrality.
As the saying goes, Switzerland is not built for heavy weather. With incomprehensible communication and decisions constantly postponed on the grounds of “ongoing consultations”, the Federal Council of Switzerland had already demonstrated a muddled posture in the first months of the Covid-19 pandemic that did not exude political courage.
But at least this did not stand out too much from the general improvisation of the big German and French neighbors, with whom Switzerland loves to compare itself.
The new reality imposed by the war in Ukraine and the chain of realignments it is causing in the European security architecture is quite different.
Arguing from its particular status of neutral state – it is not alone in this case, Finland and Sweden were neutral before applying for NATO membership – Switzerland struggles to fully, and unequivocally, align itself with the Western camp in the face of Russian imperialism.
The ban imposed by Bern on buyers (German, Danish, Spanish) of Swiss arms from sending them to the Ukrainian army, which has been repeated several times over the past year, has caused consternation.
In their defense, authorities cite the “specificities” of the Swiss democratic system and the importance of a public opinion, though slightly in favor of sending arms to Ukraine, that can censure the government through the right of referendum. They believe it is not possible to adapt and find a legislative solution in the specific case of military aid to Kyiv. Bern asserts few Swiss weapons will not change the course of the conflict.
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The current president of the Confederation for 2023 – the position rotates among the seven members of the Federal Council – Alain Berset, a Socialist, said he was “very concerned about the climate of war that is currently prevailing throughout the world, including in Switzerland. “
“We are under the impression that some parties, even former pacifists, are carried away by the excitement of war (…) It is not because we have had the illusion of stability, and then the illusion of a brutal change, that our country must radically change its ways. It is not a reason to throw everything overboard,” he said.
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