Reflections on the Swiss Army from a constitutional perspective

Reflections on the Swiss Army from a constitutional perspective

mw. According to the Swiss Constitution (BV Art. 58) and also due to the legal duties of neutrality, Switzerland has to have an army which is capable of defending the country and the people against any kind of threat. Experts say that this is not the case at the moment.
Let me quote the Group Giardino on this: “Today, 70 years after the dramatic summer of 1940, the army finds itself in a precarious situation again. The analogies to the time of the outbreak of the Second World War are alarming. In fact, the Swiss army is in even worse condition today than before the Second World War. Back then, each formation at least had the necessary basic equipment (with the exception of the Air Force) and the army was at least able to mobilize.” (gruppe.giardino.ch, Initial situation) Can you remember the scrapping of 365 infantry fighting vehicles, which according to experts might just as well have been no more than overhauled?¹
It is clear to every thinking citizen: Switzerland needs an army ready for operation. Why are 5 billion Swiss francs insufficient to arm 200,000 or 400,000 soldiers? Well, of course the extensive program of Partnership for Peace PfP, i.e. war exercises in foreign countries, as well as the long-service cadres in Kosovo and elsewhere are much more expensive than the two or three weeks of refresher courses back home. And while the army has to cut back at home, there are plans for more funds being made available for troops abroad. “According to the army report, the resources for encouraging peace in foreign countries are to be increased. Aditionally, the National Council wants to increase the number of soldiers in these troops. Checks shall also verify whether air transport will improve the mobility of these troops. Alongside peace promotion an intensified international cooperation concerning training and armament is to be considered.”²
The government in Berne says that the population wanted deployment abroad. But not at the cost of our national defense! Indeed the Swiss people said yes to the following supplement to the mission of the Swiss Armed Forces on 18 May 2003: “It [the army] contributes to peace promotion in the international context.” (military law Art. 1 Par. 4). Many people voted yes to strengthen the self-chosen duty of neutral Switzerland to work for peace. But that has nothing to do with either war exercises under NATO command aimed at the East or a massive decrease of our national defense. As has already been said, the Swiss people were never asked about any PfP activities. And it is known in the Federal Department of Defence Civil Protection and Sport that more than 90% of the Swiss people cherish neutrality, notwithstanding all re-educational attempts. But voters were given the opportunity to vote on conscription (thanks to an initiative submitted by the Group for a Switzerland without an army, GSoA³), when a large majority of 73,2% of all voters and of all cantons voted against the initiative to abolish conscription on 22 September 2013.
Conclusion: Increase of the army at home and decrease of foreign activities of any kind; foreign exercises only if it is necessary for the troops’ education (compare interview with member of National Council Adrian Amstutz); utilisation of the money saved for the equipment of the army at home so that this can fulfil its constitutional mission concerning the defense and protection of the country and its people.
The best contribution to a national defense that would really earn this name would surely be the resignation from Partnership for Peace – why not focus on a people’s initiative aiming at this goal?    •

1    Gruppe Giardino, “Mut zur Kursänderung”, p. 105–108
2    14.069 media announcement of the National Council, 3 September 2014
3    “Gruppe Schweiz ohne Armee”

“Neutrality enjoys great support among the population. Over the centuries it has made a significant contribution to keeping the country together. Neutrality is part of the tradition, history and self-perception of our country and its citizens.” (“Swiss Neutrality” A brochure published by the Federal Department of Defence, Civil Protection and Sports (DDPS) in conjunction with the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), 4th revised edition.)”

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