Swisscoy – unlimited Swiss army deployment under NATO command in Kosovo?

Swisscoy – unlimited Swiss army deployment under NATO command in Kosovo?

Debate in the National Council on 8 June 2017

It is time for an orderly retreat

by Dr iur Marianne Wüthrich

Ever since the NATO war against Serbia in the spring of 1999, the Kfor (Kosovo Force) is meant to ensure order and security in Kosovo. Yet logically, their success is small, as the Kfor is not an impartial peace mission but a vessel of NATO. Following the war, the NATO imposed a so-called “Military-Technical Agreement” on the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. On 10 June 1999 – i.e. after the war! – they procured a UN Security Council’s mandate and stationed the Kfor in Kosovo, i.e. a group of about 50,000 men, as a so-called “peace support operation” which, according to NATO’s own statement, is in reality a “peace enforcement operation”.1 In this way, the NATO forces established themselves in Kosovo so to say “forever”, or, at least, as long as they please. This is especially true for the US Army with its imposing military base, Camp Bondsteel, the headquarters of the US Kfor contingent.2
What is the Swiss army’s business in this NATO force? In spite of weighty concerns connected with neutrality law, Switzerland has been sending soldiers to Kosovo since June 1999. On 23 November 2016, the Swiss Federal Council once again requested Parliament to extend Swisscoy for the next three years.3 On 13 March 2017, the Council of States approved the extension until the end of December 2020 (by 33 votes to 4 with 2 abstentions) as the first chamber.

On 8 June 2017, the National Council now has the opportunity to put forward the counteropinion and to say no to the endless continuation of this Swiss military mission, which is questionable in connection with neutrality law. The chances are good: The National Council Security Policy Commission (SiK-N CPS-N) has only just sufficiently approved the extension – with 13 to 11 votes. A strong minority wants to reject the submission and send it back to the Federal Council with the mandate to prepare the termination of Swiss participation in KFOR by 2020 at the latest.4 More than 20 years after the NATO war in Kosovo, the time has come for this step. [Unfortunately, the National Council has not made this step on 8 June. But another occasion will come.
A brief list of the most important facts:

There is a lot of activity instead of the release of the Kosovar population into a genuine independence

On the Confederation homepage, you will learn in a series of pictures that a maximum of 235 women and men are employed in Swisscoy. Among other things, they wait and drive their own vehicle and equipment park with 180 (!) units, operate construction machines, and work as nurses in an international team. Other Swiss belong with the “International Joint Logistics Support Group”.
Particularly noteworthy is the extent of the Liaison Monitoring Teams (LMT), a so-called “early warning system” for the Kosovo Forces. Its members “gather information” with the help of “discussions with the population and the authorities”. This concerns four Swisscoy teams of 7–12 people each with one house in different parts of Kosovo.5 An uninitiated citizen can only hope that the activities of the LMT do not include the forwarding of such information to NATO combat troops …
The reason why the Swiss army is necessary for carrying out transports or building work and for health care activities, while the population of Kosovo suffers from high unemployment, remains untold. Help for self-help looks different! Let me quote an important reflection by an entrepreneur: “Do you really believe companies would like to invest large sums in countries that give the external impression of an unstable security-political situation? The presence of the KFOR communicates the impression of a security-political instability to the outside. If the KFOR and thus the Swisscoy were no longer on site, the country would finally gain its independence. Institutional investors full well focus on such circumstances.” (Non-party member of the Council of States Thomas Minder, Schaffhausen, on 13 March 2017 in the Council of States debate)

Above-average Swiss participation

Let me present some figures: According to the president of the SiK-N CPS-N, Isidor Baumann (CVP Uri), more than 50,000 soldiers were deployed in 1999. Currently, there are 4,650, and by the year 2020, there will be 2,600 soldiers. Therefore, the Swiss contingent of today’s 235 army members is intended to be reduced to 190 army members in 2018 and 165 army members by 2019. It is supposed that the Federal Council thus wishes to adjust the Swiss quota to the reduced total quota.6 At the same time, however, the Federal Council wishes to attribute to itself the power to temporarily increase the quota, namely by up to 70 persons.7
Here is a small calculation task for the reader: The total number of persons enrolled in KFOR in 2020 will be around the 20th part of their initial number. The Swisscoy contigent, on the other hand, was in 2003 boosted from 160 persons to a maximum of 2208, and now numbers 235; while it is expected to number 165 persons at the end of 2019 – i.e. 5 more than in 1999! Possibly there will even be 70 more persons enrolled, without a parliamentary resolution being necessary.
The Swisscoy contingent has therefore developed inversely to the total stock of KFOR. To what end?

What is this whole exercise about?

The argumentation of the Federal Council says: “The stability of the Western Balkans, especially Kosovo, is essential to the security of Switzerland. In accordance with the Swiss security policy, the continuation of the KFOR presence as part of a continued international engagement in Kosovo is in the interest of Switzerland.” (Federal Council’s press release from 23 November 2016) So does that mean that twenty years after the war the world’s most powerful military alliance is not capable to guarantee stability in the small state of Kosovo? (It’s all over town – NATO is pursuing entirely different objectives with its military bases in Kosovo – and elsewhere.)
But what are the aims of the government of non-NATO member Switzerland?
“The continuation of Switzerland’s military commitment to the promotion of peace in Kosovo also corresponds to the Federal Council’s repeatedly expressed will to increase both the quantity and quality of military peace promotion.” (Federal Council’s press release of 23 November 2016)
So Swisscoy is needed because the majority of the Federal Council and several other politicians absolutely want to call for NATO-membership? Despite all the efforts of the membership-seekers, a total of merely 314 Swiss women and men are currently serving the so-called military peace support.9 If the 235 serving in Kosovo were dropped, the Swiss Army might resign from the PfP (Partnership for Peace) quite honourably. The 44 million francs which would then become available annually, might then possibly serve the DDPS (Federal Department of Defence Civil Protection and Sport) to afford a separate truck for each company in the exercises for the reserves again …

Concerns connected with neutrality law: KFOR is a peace enforcement operation according to Chapter VII of the UN Charter

On the Swisscoy homepage you can read that its deployment is “compatible with neutrality”, that the three prerequisites for this (the UN mandate, consent of the conflicting parties, Swiss military law as the legal basis) are given.
Let me give you some details about this: The fact that the leadership of the defeated Serbia signed the “Military-Technical Agreement” in 1999 cannot be seen as a freely given “consent”. (One might just as well say that Germany had “agreed” with the treaty of Versailles after the First World War, a treaty which imposed payments on the country that were impossible to cope with.)
The Swiss Military Law10 provides for Switzerland to contribute to the promotion of peace on an international scale (Article 1 (4)), that the missions must be based on a UN or OSCE mandate and must comply with the principles of Swiss foreign and security policy (Articles 66, 66a, 66b). Article 66a, para. 2, is to be observed in particular: “Participation in operations aimed at peace enforcement against peace is ruled out.” The Federal Council successfully used this assertion to cope with the referendum against armed foreign operations of the Swiss army abroad (referendum of 6 October 2001). Do you remember? Only “peace support” missions were declaredly foreseen.
For more information, please refer to the NATO information about KFOR:
“KFOR derives its mandate from UNSCR 1244 of 10 June 1999 and the Military-Technical Agreement (MTA) between NATO and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and Serbia. KFOR is operated under Chapter VII of the UN Charter and, as such, is a peace enforcement operation, which is more generally referred to as a peace support operation” (https://jfcnaples.nato.int/kfor/about-us/history/kfor-objectives).
It is clear that the Swiss will not be used as strike forces. But they do transport material and gather information for the “early warning system”. Where is the limit?

Switzerland is bearing its own cross for the Kosovo ...

According to the president of the Security Commission of the Swiss Council of States, Councillor Isidor Baumann, nearly 10 percent of all Kosovars live in
Switzerland.11
They live and work here, their children attend our schools and undergo vocational training (during my work as a trainee teacher, many youngsters from all areas of the former Yugoslavia were in my classes, most of them from Kosovo). And quite rightly so. It is to a great extent due to the public schools and the dual vocational education system that the vast majority of young people are well integrated here. Some of them were already Swiss citizens when they came to attend my classes at vocational school, while others were naturalised during their apprenticeship.
So it is a fact that Switzerland provides for one-tenth of all Kosovars directly (whether it is through the provision of jobs or our social services), and perhaps for as many again indirectly; because those among them who work often support relatives in Kosovo. It is also possible to live well in Kosovo with your whole family on the relatively generous Swiss retirement and disability pensions.
If you consider all this, Switzerland is probably doing more for the Kosovar population than any other country, do you not agree?

… as a neutral country, Switzerland also has other foreign policy obligations than to affiliate itself with NATO organisations.

The whole complex apparatus of KFOR and Eulex (lawyers and police specialists also from Switzerland) with its billions of costs has in all the years not succeeded to implement the minority rights of the Serbian population in Kosovo or to bring the presumed UÇK war criminals to justice and to meet out their deserved punishment. The partial autonomy of the Serbian municipalities agreed to in Brussels in 2013 is still not established, and the parliamentary elections on 11 June 2017 are unlikely to change this state of affairs. Because the former UÇK leaders Ramush Haradinaj and Hashim Thaçi (the current president) have joined forces with their parties to form an “anti-Dick-Marty coalition” in order to win these elections, so as to be able to continue to rule in the same style as before and to elude international justice. (“Tages-Anzeiger” of 18 May 2017). In his 2010 report, former member of the council of states and Council of Europe rapporteur Dick Marty had documented UÇK leaders’ war crimes against Serbian civilians and Roma as well as the assassination of Kosovo-Albanian critics during the post-war period.
The historical background cannot be detailed here. It is, however, clearly the duty of neutral Switzerland to offer its good services on the basis of democracy and on the path pre-established by Dick Marty. This would be more sensible than Swisscoy’s activities, which are, in the particulars, certainly honorable, during a further 20 years …     •

1    https://jfcnaples.nato.int/kfor/about-us/history/kfor-objectives
2    Today, Kfor continues to contribute towards maintaining a safe and secure environment in Kosovo for the benefit of all citizens.” (http://jfcnaples.nato.int/kfor/about-us/history/kfor-objectives)
3    Federal Council media release of 23 November 2016. Continuation of the deployment of the “Swiss Company” (Swisscoy) in the multinational Kosovo Force (Kfor)
4    Media Press release CPS-N (of the National Council’s Security Policy Committee) of 25 April 2017
5    http://www.vtg.admin.ch/de/aktuell/einsaetze-und-operationen/militaerische-friedensfoerderung/missionen/swisscoy.html
6    Protocol debate in the Council of States of 13 March 2017
7    Federal Council media release of 23 November 2016. Continuation of the deployment of the “Swiss Company” (Swisscoy) in the multinational Kosovo Force (Kfor)
8    Federal Council dispatch on the federal decision on Swiss participation in the multinational Kosovo Force (Kfor) of 14 March 2003
9    http://www.vtg.admin.ch/de/aktuell/einsaetze-und-operationen/militaerische-friedensfoerderung.html
10    Swiss Federal Law on the Army and the Military Administration (Military Law, MG) of 3 February 1995 (as of 1 January 2017)
11    Protocol debate in the Council of States of 13 March 2017

Attention: Powder keg “Great Albania”

rt. In the past few weeks, the political situation in Kosovo, Albania and Macedonia has heated up again. While the Albanian-dominated government in Kosovo has been demanding its own army, the Albanians in Macedonia are demanding a far-reaching independence from the Macedonian state with the long-term goal of Tirana. It seems that the diplomatic coordination in the region has once again been passed back from the German diplomats to the US (see “Neue Zürcher Zeitung” from 27 May 2017). So what is the role earmarked for the Albanians in the South-East European”great game”?

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