“A neutral country must not make a warring party better off”

Interview with National Councillor Thomas Aeschi (SVP ZG) on 10 May 2023

Current Concerns: At the request of Ukraine, the parliamentary Offices have decided that President Zelensky will get the opportunity to speak in parliament by video. Are the Offices allowed to invite people who influence the parliament one-sided?
Thomas Aeschi: What Zelensky will say is another issue, we don’t know yet. In the last 50 years it has happened 16 times that foreign state guests or other guest speakers have addressed the United Federal Assembly. There are two categories: one during a parliamentary session, the other outside the formal session. The Office has decided that President Zelensky will speak when the formal session is not being held, for example during a lunch break or in the evening, after the session ends at 7 pm. The participation of the National Councillors and the Councillors of States is therefore voluntary. I opposed this video address by President Zelensky to the Swiss Parliament, but the majority felt that such a request by Zelensky could not be refused.

No doubt he will talk about the arms shipments?
I am sure he will say something about it. In the summer session, the topic “Indirect delivery of weapons and ammunition to Ukraine” is on the agenda. From the point of view of state policy, it is highly problematic that we invite Zelensky at the same time, as he will try to influence our Parliament directly.

You have made a motion for rejection. Additionally, you have written that our neutrality will be violated. How do you justify this?
There is a war going on between Russia and Ukraine, and the law of neutrality stipulates that a neutral country may not privilege a war party. By supplying arms and ammunition, even indirectly [via third countries that bought the armaments in Switzerland], you are giving an advantage to one of the two warring states. The same argument applies when one invites one of the two belligerent states to present its position and its concerns to Switzerland at the Federal Assembly. However, the majority of the representatives in the councils’ Offices are of different opinion, they believe, neutrality would not be violated by such an address. Personally, however, I consider the symbolism of the joint appearance of Foreign Minister Cassis together with Zelensky in March 2022 as well as actually the address in the Swiss parliament as very problematic.

If the text of the neutrality initiative will be once be inserted in the Federal Constitution, do we then have the means against such one-sidedness?
Yes, if the neutrality initiative will be adopted, the Federal Council and Parliament must not again be as negligent in abandoning neutrality in any armed conflict in future as they are today.

What do you tell citizens why they should sign the neutrality initiative?
The perpetual and comprehensive armed neutrality has protected Switzerland from war and great suffering in the past. This must be maintained in any case – to protect the Swiss people and the territorial integrity of the Confederation!

Thank you very much for the interview, National Councillor Aeschi.  •

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