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The Council of the Swiss Abroad makes a clear commitment to Swiss neutrality

27.01.2023 – ANNA WEGELIN

The Council of the Swiss Abroad, referred to as the “Parliament of the Fifth Switzerland”, has spoken out clearly in favour of a responsible approach to Swiss neutrality – and endorsed a resolution to this effect.

With the current geopolitical situation giving cause for concern, the highly charged issue of neutrality has also become a topic of discussion within the Council of the Swiss Abroad (CSA). At its autumn meeting on 5 November 2022, the CSA addressed a motion from one of its delegates, John McGough (Hungary). Referring to the war in Ukraine, McGough said the CSA should urge the Federal Council and parliament to “observe the right to neutrality as an absolute imperative”. Even in times of war, Swiss expats have always been “free to travel to and from Switzerland as they please” thanks to their country’s “credible and universally recognised neutrality”, he argued, adding that the Federal Council should, therefore, be “strictly neutral” at all times.

But the CSA ultimately rejected McGough’s motion – and emphatically endorsed an alternative resolution put forward by the Executive Board of the Organisation of the Swiss Abroad (OSA) and its president, Filippo Lombardi. Instead of demanding that the Federal Council observe “strict neutrality”, the approved resolution now calls on the Swiss government to deliver a “coherent foreign policy that, above all, promotes peace and international dialogue, continues to walk the line of neutrality, defends our democratic values, and supports humanitarian efforts to help populations affected by armed conflict”. The CSA believes that such an approach also works in the interests of expats. “It is crucial that Swiss Abroad continue to enjoy freedom of movement and residence in times of conflict,” says the resolution. Free movement needs to be guaranteed at all times.

Picture-perfect neutrality? Cartoon: Max Spring

Not only does the CSA state its position, but it also formulates a clear set of expectations. It wants the Federal Council to pursue a policy of “strict military neutrality” and defend “our democratic values in partnership with countries that share these values”. Humanitarian aid is another important area. Switzerland must support the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the United Nations (UN) in their efforts to help victims of armed conflict. This also entails providing safe haven to war refugees.

The CSA’s 2023 election manifesto

At its November meeting, the CSA also discussed the adoption of a manifesto for the 2023 federal elections. The manifesto is primarily addressed to Switzerland’s politicians and their parties, calling on them to promote and safeguard the exercise of political rights abroad, promote the development of e-government, and ensure continued freedom of movement between Switzerland and EU countries. Furthermore, the manifesto advocates removing barriers for Swiss Abroad in relation to social security and maintaining the good level of coverage provided by Switzerland’s consular network. The CSA will approve the final draft of its election manifesto at its spring meeting on 18 March 2023 in Berne.

Further information including a Zoom recording of the CSA meeting: revue.link/council1122

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