20 minutes – Swiss weapons for conflict countries

Swiss arms companies must have the possibility to export arms to countries where civil war prevails. The Security Council (SiK) of the National Council decided with 13 to 8 votes, as the parliamentary services announced on Monday. According to the majority, Switzerland must retain an industrial capacity that is adapted to the needs of its national defense. The economic situation in the industry is tense and exports to other countries are decreasing. This would jeopardize knowledge and jobs.

The federal council intends, among other things, to take into account the maintenance of the industrial base as an independent criterion in the licensing procedure for arms exports. Furthermore, weapons could be exported in the future to countries involved in an internal armed conflict. But there must be no reason to assume that the war material will be used in the civil war.

No conflict with the humanitarian tradition

According to the SiK, this is only a "certain adaptation of the conditions to the practice of other comparable European countries", as stated in the communication. This was compatible with Switzerland's obligations under international law, in particular with its neutrality legislation, the foreign policy principles of Switzerland and its humanitarian tradition.

For the minority of the Commission, guaranteeing the local technology and industrial base is a pseudo-argument. A large part of the Swiss armament projects is already being purchased abroad. Moreover, it can not be verified whether weapons are being used in civil war or not. The minority also feared that the reputation of Switzerland might be detrimental.

The Commission summarized these considerations in a letter to the Federal Council. It is a consultation, the decision is only for the Federal Council. But the parliament could certainly influence, for example with a motion. With 13 to 12 votes, however, the Commission rejected the request to bind the Federal Council to abandon the amendment. With the same number of votes, the request failed for a formal consultation procedure.

Pressure of the arms industry

The Federal Council comes together with the planned change requirements of the defense industry. Last fall, defense companies demanded a relaxation of the rules in a letter to the Security Council of the Council of States. They justified this with the looming loss of jobs. Arms exports collapsed after a peak in 2011.

In 2008, the Federal Council had tightened up the rules – with a view to a citizens' initiative of the GSoA for a prohibition on arms exports. In the vote fight, he assured himself that he wanted to comply with the restrictive practice. But already in 2014 the Federal Council eased the rules on behalf of Parliament.

Previously, weapons and ammunition should not be delivered to countries where human rights are systematically and seriously violated. Since then, export is only prohibited if there is a high risk that the material will be used for serious human rights violations.


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