Thursday 7th of July 2022

der platz der schweiz in europa…...

Switzerland lies at the heart of Europe. It is closely connected with its neighbouring states, the other European states and the European organisations – since time immemorial and of its own accord, not because an office in Brussels demands it.

 


  This is shown by the programmes of the National Council and the Council of States for the current summer session. In the Council of States on 1 June and in the National Council on 7 June, an impressive series of reports were/are on the agenda. These are the reports of the “Delegations for relations with neighbouring states”; the “EFTA/European Parliament Delegation”; the “Delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the OSCE”; the “Parliamentary Delegation to the Council of Europe”; the “Delegation to the Interparliamentary Union”; the “Delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Francophonie”; and the “Swiss Delegation to the NATO Parliamentary Assembly”. We are present everywhere, whether as a member or as an observer delegation, and that is a good thing.
  It would be advisable for the members of parliament to use the meetings with EU and NATO members of parliament to introduce them to the Swiss model. For it is striking how little some decision-makers in the Western states – even some ambassadors in Bern! – know Switzerland and understand its position. It is up to our parliamentarians and diplomats to lay the necessary groundwork.

 

 

Switzerland’s place in Europe

by Dr iur. Marianne Wüthrich

 

What follows is a brief critical overview of some of the reports and an appreciation of the report on relations with neighbouring countries, the cultivation of which is particularly important for every country.

Swiss Delegation to EFTA and to the European Parliament
(Report 22.010 of 31 December 2021)

With regard to EFTA, the delegates were mainly concerned with new and planned free trade agreements and reviewed the compliance of the contracting states with labour and environmental regulations. Relations with the EU are well known: Brussels insists on “clarification of institutional issues” as a condition for updating existing and concluding new “market access agreements”. (Parenthesis note: Some of these do indeed open up market access to Switzerland for the EU rather than vice versa, for example the overland transport agreement, because north-south truck transit benefits almost exclusively the EU states).
  The Swiss delegation rightly rejects the expulsion from the EU's education and research programmes because of Switzerland’s unwillingness to sign a framework agreement dictated by Brussels: “In the delegation’s view, this political linkage between market access and cooperation agreements remains irrelevant and incomprehensible.” (Conclusions, Report, p. 10) Therefore, it seems that the main activity of the delegates in 2021 was – and will be in 2022 – to lobby from one EU body to the next and from one member state to the other to ask for access to Horizon Europe, Erasmus+ and what they are all called. There are truly more meaningful things to do in the mutual relations of the European peoples! Especially since Switzerland knows how to counter the harassment from Brussels with creative and cost-effective solutions.

Swiss Delegation to the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly
(Report 22.011 of 31 December 2021)

The scope of activities of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and the importance it could also have today for law and peace have already been outlined several times in Current Concerns. Switzerland has always played an active role in the OSCE. The introduction to the detailed report mentions the engagement of Swiss diplomacy since 2014 in the effort to find a solution to the Ukraine crisis, with special mention of Ambassador Heidi Grau’s mandate as OSCE Special Envoy to Ukraine in 2019, 2020 and 2021.
  How much the Swiss diplomats could achieve on the ground of impartiality in this unfortunate country, whose people and their belongings are being sacrificed to the power madness of what was once the only superpower, we do not know. What we do know: Without strict adherence to neutrality towards both warring parties, Switzerland will not be perceived as a trustworthy interlocutor, neither in Ukraine nor elsewhere. But all is not yet over – one should never give up hope that human reason will prevail. By offering Good Offices, Switzerland could contribute far more in today’s as in any war situation than by chasing Russian assets (without any proof of their illicit acquisition!).

Swiss Delegation to the NATO Parliamentary Assembly1

What are Swiss parliamentarians doing at NATO? Well, they attend the meetings of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly (NATO PA)2 as well as its seminars and working meetings and are “informed” there about NATO’s views and objectives. The president of the NATO PA is – as one would expect – a US-American, Gerald E. Connolly, and he set the tariff at the spring session of 2021 (i.e., one year before the Russian military operation in Ukraine). There was talk, for example, of “revitalising transatlantic relations through a renewed US commitment” or of the upcoming “revision of NATO’s [outdated] strategic concept”, because it “still talks about Russia as a partner, and China is not mentioned and climate change is barely mentioned” (Report, p. 3). On a total of 14 pages, the entire programme of the USA/NATO war power can be read, which was announced to the Swiss delegates on various occasions.
  Conclusions of the Swiss delegation: “Many of the topics dealt with by the NATO-PA are also important for Switzerland's security policy”, for example the new NATO Strategic Concept, the tensions between NATO and Russia, the rise of China or the fight against terrorism and cyber threats (Report, p. 14).
  What is urgently recommended to the National Councillors and Councillors of States of neutral Switzerland is to obtain security and geopolitical information from states and alliances of states outside NATO as well as from independent experts. It would be necessary! (See box “Who is pushing Switzerland into NATO”?)

Delegations for relations with the neighbouring states: a happy thing

Since 2003, Swiss parliamentary delegations have maintained regular relations with the parliaments of the five neighbouring states (Delegation for relations with the German Bundestag (Del-D), the Austrian Parliament (Del-A), the French Parliament (Del-F), the Italian Parliament (Del-I) and the Parliament of the Principality of Liechtenstein (Del-FL).)3 The activities of the individual delegations vary according to the current situation; in the reporting year 2021, they had to be resumed after the break resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.
  As an example, the Del-A is singled out here; it consists of six members of the National Council and four members of the Council of States; its counterpart comprises twelve members of the Austrian National Council and one member of the Federal Council. Their meeting last year took place on 1-2 July in Brunnen on Lake Lucerne. It served to cultivate relations and gave the visitors an insight into the economic and cultural background of the region. The programme included a visit to the production site of the world-famous Swiss pocket knives, the Victorinox company, as well as to the Bundesbrief Museum and the Morgarten memorial. (Del-A report of 19 July 2021).
  A central topic of discussion in 2021 was understandably the conclusion of the negotiations on the institutional framework agreement between Switzerland and the EU. The exchange with the Austrian parliamentarians was enjoyable and forward-looking. The Swiss participants explained the reasons which, from their point of view, had led to the breakdown of negotiations. “They emphasised that Switzerland remains a close and reliable partner of the EU even after this decision and that it is in the interest of all parties to continue the proven cooperation in many areas.” The Austrians and Swiss agreed that Switzerland’s participation in the EU Framework Programmes, in particular the Horizon research programme, should be considered separately from the question of an institutional agreement and [...] is in the interest of the entire European research landscape.” The Austrians showed understanding for Switzerland’s situation and assured that Austria would “work at EU level for the closest possible relationship between Switzerland and the EU” (Annual Report 22.017, p. 6).
  The return visit of the Swiss to Vienna has now taken place on 4/5 April 2022. The focus here was on the implementation of the strategic partnership that the two foreign ministers had decided on in the summer of 2021.4 The two parliaments see themselves as “providing impetus for concrete projects, for example for a cross-border exchange in the area of apprenticeship training”. A happy thing.  •

 

READ MORE:

https://www.zeit-fragen.ch/en/archives/2022/nr-12-31-mai-2022/der-platz-der-schweiz-in-europa

 

 

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gold, gold, gold…..

Switzerland imported gold from Russia in May for the first time since February, Bloomberg reported on Tuesday. According to the article, the move suggests that the industry’s stance toward Russian precious metals may be softening.

Switzerland shipped more than 3 tons of gold from Russia last month, Bloomberg cited data from the Swiss Federal Customs Administration. The purchase represents about 2% of Swiss bullion imports in May. The country is a key refining hub that handles two-thirds of the world’s gold.

Following the start of Moscow’s military operation in Ukraine and the rollout of international sanctions, the London Bullion Market Association suspended all Russian gold and silver refineries from its list of approved suppliers. The move was viewed by the industry as a de facto ban and most refiners refused to accept new gold from Russia.

This comes as the precious metal has been flagged as a possible new target for sanctions against Moscow. According to a Reuters report on Tuesday, EU leaders want to keep up pressure on Russia as they gather for a summit this week.

It is not clear if Switzerland, which is not part of the EU, will comply with the possible ban on Russian gold.

 

READ MORE:

https://www.rt.com/business/557557-switzerland-buys-russian-gold/

 

 

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of chuisse solomonese neutrality…..

Swiss neutrality law and policy must not be allowed to sink into the din of war

 

by Dr iur. Marianne Wüthrich

 

In Current Concerns of 10 and 24 May, it has already been reported that the Swiss Federal Council had jettisoned the neutrality policy it had built up over centuries virtually overnight and decided on the 1:1 adoption of EU sanctions against the Russian state as well as against private assets. In doing so, the Federal Council has “caused a lot of damage”, said Federal Councillor Ueli Maurer in a newspaper interview. 

The “damage” continues to expand. In the meantime, we are already talking about “closer cooperation” with NATO beyond the Partnership for Peace (PfP) (demanded by FDP President Thierry Burkart, in agreement with Viola Amherd, Head of the Federal Department of Defence, Civil Protection and Sport, DDPS, as well as about arms deliveries to the war state Ukraine.

Clear legal situation

Everyone, at least in NATO countries, has understood that Switzerland, as a neutral country, is not allowed to sell weapons directly to a warring party. Currently, however, Germany and Denmark have asked the Federal Council whether they are allowed to deliver war material purchased in Switzerland to Ukraine. The legal situation is clear: they are not. This is because, firstly, the law of neutrality requires that Switzerland would have to treat Russia in the same way as Ukraine in the event of a request, and secondly, Switzerland has a strict War Material Act(WMA). Not only does it prohibit the direct export of military equipment to warring countries, but Switzerland also requires a declaration by the government concerned that war material will not be re-exported (KMG Art. 18 para. 1). Denmark and Germany signed such declarations at the time. On the basis of Swiss law, the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) rejected Germany’s application in April and Denmark’s in May.

Pressure from NATO-foreign countries is one thing … 

As the editors of the “Tages-Anzeiger” found out from a “confidential Federal Council paper” (!), in Davos, in addition to NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg, a number of defence ministers tried to persuade the head of the DDPS, Federal Councillor Viola Amherd, not to be so strict with Swiss legislation. Even US Deputy Secretary of Defence Kathleen H. Hicks paid her respects.1 One sometimes wonders why an increasing number of Western countries are appointing women without any military experience as ministers of defence – perhaps we have the answer here: It is probably relatively easy for officers and chiefs of staff in their own country as well as for NATO generals to “get their ideas across”, to put it diplomatically, to people such as a former advocate and member of the board of Migros Valais with zero days of service in the Swiss army.

 … the docility of the DDPS is another

In any case, the NATO representatives were successful with Federal Councillor Amherd: on 3 June, the DDPS on its own initiative gave the green light for another request by Germany, namely the export of former Swiss battle tanks which Switzerland “no longer needed” (Did we really no longer need them?) and had therefore sold back to the German manufacturer Rheinmetall 11 years ago. The approval of the “transfer of surplus material from former or current stocks of the Armed Forces” did not fall under the War Material Act and lay within the sole competence of the DDPS, the Department said in its media release of 3 June 2022. Well, from a legal point of view, that does make some sense: Switzerland probably had to be happy that Rheinmetall bought back the “surplus” tanks at a discount (at the expense of Swiss taxpayers and the security of the population), so they couldn’t impose any more conditions.
  At the same time, the DDPS rejected a second request from the Polish government to buy decommissioned tanks from the Swiss army, because such a deal would have to be approved by parliament and the procedure in Switzerland would take some time.
  The real bombshell, however, is the third decision of the head of the DDPS and her entourage to hand over to Great Britain multi-role weapons of the type NLAW ordered from Saab in Sweden, which were to have been delivered to Switzerland in 2022/23. Following the delivery of similar weapons to Ukraine, the UK wants to increase its own stocks. At the request of London, the DDPS is now generously “letting Great Britain go first”, and we will wait until the end of 2024 for the deliveries to which we are legitimately entitled. The DDPS vividly describes what such weapons can be used for by the Ukrainians in the Donbass: they “serve to engage enemy tanks, armoured personnel carriers (APC’s) and other vehicles at medium and long ranges, as well as to breach fortified enemy positions or buildings to enable friendly forces to penetrate”.2
  Such processes in Switzerland – which is neutral by law! – must deeply repulse and alarm every humanly feeling contemporary: The unspeakable profiteering in the Western “world of values”, a shifting around of lethal weapons with the highest prospects of profit – like on a Monopoly board – which literally goes over corpses, over tens of thousands of corpses! And this is where Switzerland is supposed to join in and take part? 

Not all Federal Councillors falter

The State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO), which rejected the German and Danish requests mentioned at the beginning, is part of the Federal Department of Economic Affairs, Education and Research (EAER), headed by Federal Councillor Guy Parmelin. He did not let himself be put off by his Council colleague’s pandering to the opinion-makers at the WEF, nor by the insistence of the German and Danish governments on a licence for the re-export of tank ammunition and wheeled armoured infantry fighting vehicles respectively, but sought the support of his colleagues in the Federal Council. German Vice-Chancellor Robert Habeck told the Bundesrat at the WEF that Germany had also ruled out arms exports to warring countries before the Russian attack on Ukraine. He and his party, the Greens, have now changed their mind: “We have to measure our own stance against reality”, says Habeck.3 In fact, the party cadres of the German Greens measure their stance “against reality” insofar as they adapt it to the mainstream every now and then.
  On 3 June, the Federal Council as a whole confirmed the SECO’s decisions in no uncertain terms, despite all attempts at pressure: “According to the War Material Act, exports of war material are to be rejected if the country of destination is involved in an international armed conflict. Russia and Ukraine are in such a conflict. Since exports from Switzerland to Ukraine cannot be approved on the basis of the neutrality principle and the War Material Act, approval for the transfer of Swiss war material by Germany and Denmark to Ukraine is also not possible.”4 In the same decision, however, the Federal Council approved the applications of two Swiss companies that wanted to supply individual parts and assemblies to defence companies in Germany and Italy. According to Federal Council practice, this is possible up to a certain proportion of the end product. So, a bit of compromise policy after all ...

Own team against Switzerland: attempted dismantling of the state system from within

It doesn’t knock it out of the park: The small state of Switzerland can better cope with the insolence of a Kathleen H. Hicks from the USA or a Robert Habeck from our northern neighbour if our own team remembers that we have a unique counter-model to defend. Unfortunately, the Swiss mainstream media and some top politicians are not fulfilling this task in any way. The good news is that there are also politicians who insist on respecting neutrality and the law.

Some examples of the dismantling clique

  • Councillor of States Thierry Burkart, President of the Free Democratic Party, wants to write into the War Material Act (KMG) that the re-export of Swiss war material should be permitted by “democratic constitutional states”. The same politician also calls for “closer cooperation with NATO”. This fits together well: By “democratic states under the rule of law” Burkart means the EU/NATO states, which could then resupply Swiss weapons to all wars of the USA and its satellites.
  • Tamedia editor-in-chief Arthur Rutishauser: In his opinion, Switzerland’s deal with the UK and the Saab company “can hardly be reconciled with what is commonly understood by neutrality.” He is right about that – but instead of insisting on compliance with the neutrality requirement, he points to the expectation of “friendly nations” that Switzerland “declares solidarity with Europe, at least in part”. This is why Rutishauser sympathises with Burkart’s amendment to the KMG, although he admits: “Of course, such an arrangement would run the risk of circumventing the Swiss Arms Export Law, but at least this would not be actively controlled by Switzerland, as in the case of the [Saab-ordered] anti-tank weapons.”5 Words fail the reader! 
  • Tiana Moser, parliamentary group leader of the Green Liberals, demands a change of course from the Federal Council because, after all, it is not a question of direct arms exports but of weapons that Switzerland has already sold to “friendly democracies”: “These weapons would be passed on to a country that is defending itself against an aggressor”.6

Some politicians of the “Centre Party”, to which Federal Councillor Viola Amherd also belongs, are particularly eager to gnaw away at the neutral and direct-democratic Swiss model – in the hope of gaining a few voter percentages?

  • Centre member of the Council of States Pirmin Bischof, President of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Council of States: “The Federal Council should now take action and correct its practice.” (SRF News of 1 June 2022)

Without a legal basis? No, by means of emergency law!

  • This is what centre party president Gerhard Pfister said: He called the blocking of arms deliveries “indecent” and tweeted already on 24 April: “BR [Federal Council] has in my opinion competence to allow [Germany] to deliver to [Ukraine] if in national interest. (Art. 1 para 2 Embargo Act). The latter seems to me to be given here, if [Switzerland] helps a European democracy to defend itself. BR is responsible for this failure to help [Ukraine].” (https://twitter.com/gerhardpfister/

Counter-attack by neutrality-preserving and pacifist Swiss forces

The “Federal Law on War Material” was revised or rather tightened only a few months ago, on 1 October 2021, as an indirect counter-proposal to the popular initiative “Against arms exports to civil war countries”. The Federal Council had included a clause in the draft with which it wanted to give itself the authority to “deviate from the licensing criteria in exceptional circumstances in order to safeguard the country’s foreign or security policy interests.” The Council of States deleted this clause, not only with the votes of the SP (Social Democratic Party) and the Greens, but also, strangely enough, with the large majority of the Centre party as the tipping point. The National Council, which initially wanted to cling to the exceptional regulation, finally gave in to allow the popular initiative to be withdrawn. Result: The exceptional competence that Gerhard Pfister wants to give the Federal Council today was rejected by both Councils on 1 October 2021, which means that the tightened War Material Act was adopted. In the National Council, by the way, with 27 of 30 centre votes, including the vote of Pfister himself.7
  Even if the memory of some centre politicians is apparently very short, there is still hope. For Pfister’s parliamentary group “does not follow its leader unconditionally”, according to the Neue Zürcher Zeitung of 3 June. The Swiss Greens are obviously made of different stuff than their German colleagues: In addition to the SVP (Swiss Popular Party), which has always stood up for the adherence of neutrality, the president of the Green Party, Balthasar Glättli, also warns against a change of direction with regard to arms exports: “The previous practice is broadly supported. The Federal Council must not simply abandon it behind the scenes without consulting parliament.”8 And the Zurich SP National Councillor Min Li Marti stated on 27 April that the supply of war material to warring countries “violates the War Material Act and the law of neutrality”. If, in view of the war in Ukraine, Swiss neutrality is to be called into question, “then this would have to be discussed in principle, it is not a matter of exceptional provisions, but concerns the core of neutrality”.9
  Here the circle closes, because this corresponds analogously to the statement of SVP National Councillor Franz Grüter in an interview with Current Concerns: “The neutrality question goes so deep into the DNA of our country that we have to have the discussion – we have to have it! So much has happened, with the sanctions that have been taken, with the efforts to join NATO or move closer to it, with membership of the UN Security Council. But I think we need to have this discussion when the dust has settled a little, when we can talk about these issues from a certain distance.”10  •

 

 

READ MORE:
https://www.zeit-fragen.ch/en/archives/2022/nr-13-14-juni-2022/neutralitaet-ist-ein-kostbares-gut-hueten-wir-es

 

 

 

 

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