Neutrality is a characteristic feature of the Swiss Confederation

Neutrality is a characteristic feature of the Swiss Confederation

by Wolfgang von Wartburg

“Swiss neutrality is neither imposed from the outside nor a mere means to self-assertion. It is an expression, a characteristic feature of the Confederation itself. The primary task of the state is to handle justice and peace. Anything beyond that is problematic. If this principle is also turned outward, then this must result in renunciation of power politics and thus in renunciation of alliances with a power-political purpose.
The foreign policy of a state that basically wants to be nothing more than a state under the rule of law is that of neutrality. This does not exclude the possibility that for the maintenance or restoration of peace in the world the neutral state is doing what is in its power, as far as it will not be drawn into the vortex of power politics. The most important example for Switzerland is the accommodation of the International Committee of the Red Cross, whose members are exclusively Swiss. UN mandates for difficult negotiations which require impartiality are frequently assigned to the Swiss[…]. Only neutral parties can represent human rights without taking power politics into consideration. Swiss neutrality is ‘eternal’ in the same sense as the ‘Bünde’ (confederates) are. The predictability of its foreign policy is Switzerland’s best contribution to general peace. Neutrality is the alternative to collective security. In a collective organisation (UN, EU, NATO, Partnership for Peace) either nothing happens because no one is responsible, or it becomes the tool of the most powerful partner. Joining a collective security organisation would definitely make Switzerland an accomplice to power politics, Switzerland would be jointly responsible for each step, however, without being able to change anything about the balance of power. The credibility of neutrality, however, would be annulled.
The renunciation of power politics alone suits Switzerland and the voluntary restriction to a purely defensive army that – given the ‘malice of the times’ – is necessary for self-assertion at all times. Additional comment: Today some people consider a project aimed at converting the Swiss army into a professional army.
A people’s army alone suits the Swiss community, belonging to which is general duty. It must and can only be used if Switzerland itself is at risk. A professional army could be a power instrument of the federal government, which might even induce unwanted adventures.”
from: Wolfgang von Wartburg: “Die europäische Dimension der Schweiz. Zur Geschichte der Schweiz und ihrer Stellung in Europa” (The European dimension of Switzerland. On the history of Switzerland and its position in Europe), 1996, pp. 125.
(Translation Current Concerns)

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