Security agreement as part of the negotiating mandate: all just a “mistake”?

mw. The fact that the head of the Federal Department of Defence, Civil Protection and Sport (DDPS), Viola Amherd, wants Switzerland to join NATO is nothing new. In the negotiations with the EU, however, Bern and Brussels are keeping as quiet as possible about military cooperation. In fact, this has been established for years.
  This was recently recalled by the “Neue Zürcher Zeitung”: “Amherd and the secret plan. Suddenly a security agreement with the EU – all just a typo?” was the headline of the domestic edition (“Neue Zürcher Zeitung” of 19 March 2024). It discovered a “cooperation agreement in the area of security” in the Federal Council’s press release of 18 March on the Swiss-EU negotiating mandate. The DDPS excused itself by saying that “unfortunately a mistake had been made when drafting the press release”. What was meant was a co-operation agreement in the area of health. A security agreement was really not intended.
  That’s the final straw! Firstly, such an agreement has existed for a long time. And secondly, a few lines further down in the same press release, the “expansion of security policy cooperation” is announced.

“Agreement on armaments
cooperation” with the
European Defence Agency (EDA)

The “Bilateral agreements and cooperation from 2004”, i. e. in addition to Bilaterals I and II, include the “Framework for Cooperation” with the European Defence Agency (EDA), which Switzerland signed on 16 March 2012.1 Every second sentence emphasises that the cooperation is “not legally binding”, “not an obligation” and that Switzerland decides “ad hoc” or “independently” where it wants to participate. In terms of content, however, there is a lot in EDA: The agreement “enables Switzerland to cooperate multilaterally in all of EDA’s fields of activity, including research, development, armaments, education and training.” Example: “Federal Council approves participation in EDA’s Helicopter Exercise Programme” (11 December 2020). The trick: because EDA is “not legally binding”, the Federal Council did not have to ask Parliament!

“Expansion of
Swiss-EU security policy cooperation”

Returning to President Viola Amherd’s visit to Brussels on 18 March 2024, she spoke at length about security, according to a press release: “The situation in Europe, Switzerland’s and the EU’s commitment to peace [!] and the expansion of security policy cooperation, as decided by the Federal Council in September 2022, were also discussed on Monday. The Swiss-EU consultations on security and defence were upgraded to a structured dialogue in November 2023”.
  There is also a press release (dated 21 November 2023) entitled “Foreign and security policy cooperation: State Secretary Alexandre Fasel meets his counterpart at the EU, Stefano Sannino”. At this meeting, “Switzerland and the EU decided to strengthen their dialogue on security and defence policy. Alexandre Fasel and his counterpart confirmed this agreement today in Brussels.” The planned consultations are intended to address “all areas of security cooperation between Switzerland and the EU” and ensure “coherent follow-up of the various dossiers” (which dossiers?). In passing, the reader learns: “Switzerland is heavily involved in these two regions [the Gaza and Ukraine wars] and is working closely with the EU in these areas.” (emphasis mw)
  All just a typo?  •


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