Cooperation between Switzerland and NATO deepened during the crises in Bosnia and Herzegovina and in Kosovo. In late 1995, the Swiss opened their airspace, rail and road networks to the NATO-led Implementation Force (IFOR) that was responsible for implementing military aspects of the Dayton Peace Agreement for Bosnia and Herzegovina.
In line with and within the limits of its neutrality, Switzerland participates in peace-support operations or multilateral cooperation in military training. Swiss law excludes participation in combat operations for peace enforcement and Swiss units will only participate in operations under the mandate of the United Nations (UN) or Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). On this basis, the Swiss government decided to contribute to the Kosovo Force (KFOR) in 1999, which was the first time the Swiss participated in a NATO-led peace-support operation.
Currently, a Swiss contingent (“SWISSCOY”) is serving within KFOR as part of the Multinational Task Force - South (MNTF-S). The contingent counts a maximum of 220 armed forces personnel and consists of a contingent support element, an infantry company, a transportation platoon, two medium-sized transport helicopters, and staff officers on different HQ levels throughout KFOR. A medical team and a catering staff support the Manoeuvre Battalion located in Suva Reka. Medical specialists and military police also provide support to MNTF-S. Joint Regional Detachment (JRD) North in Kosovo is currently being led by a Swiss officer. In June 2011, the Swiss government and parliament extended the SWISSCOY mandate until the end of 2014, which will continue to be adapted to the needs of KFOR. In addition, Switzerland plays an important role in supporting the development of Kosovo through bilateral and multilateral programmes.
From February 2004 to February 2007, a small number of Swiss staff officers joined the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan. They provided expertise and assistance in cultivating contacts with local leaders within the German-led Provincial Reconstruction Team in Kunduz Province.
Switzerland has made available a number of military and civilian capabilities for potential peace-support operations under UN or OSCE mandates. As Switzerland does not have standing military units, no specific units can be identified for such operations. Contingents are tailored to any given mission’s needs and manned solely with volunteers, as required by the Federal Law on the Armed Forces and Military Administration. The 2010 Reports on Security Policy and on the Armed Forces foresee an increase, both in quantitative and qualitative terms, of the Armed Forces’ contributions to peace-support operations over the next years. Specialised military personnel may be engaged for medical evacuation and humanitarian operations on short notice.
One of the most active members of the PfP Consortium of Defense Academies and Security Studies Institutes, Switzerland has also declared a number of training facilities available for PfP training activities. These include the Center for Information and Communication Training in the Swiss Armed Forces in Berne, the mountain training centre of the Swiss Armed Forces in Andermatt, the international training centre of the Swiss Army (SWISSINT)1 in Stans and the Tactical Training Centre at the Swiss Officers’ Training Centre in Lucerne.
A number of civilian training facilities have also been made available for the PfP framework. These include the Geneva Centre for Security Policy (GCSP), which has been certified as a Partnership Training and Education Centre, the Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining (GICHD), the Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces (DCAF) and the International Relations and Security Network (ISN) based in Zurich.
Every two years, Switzerland organises the “International Security Forum”, which addresses current issues concerning international security policy. The 10th edition entitled “Facing a World of Transitions” took place on 22-24 April 2013 in Geneva.
Switzerland also promotes the application of the law on armed conflicts and humanitarian law. Recently, the country has taken on a leading role in promoting international standards for the regulation of private security companies.
Defence and security sector reform
In June 2010, the Swiss government approved the Report on the Security Policy of Switzerland, replacing the previous security policy from June 1999. In line with this policy, the country aims to further improve efficient and effective cooperation between the different layers of national authority and with other states and organisations. It also aims to contribute to stability and peace beyond Swiss borders. It highlights cooperation with other states to reduce the risk posed to Switzerland and its population by instability and war abroad, as well as to show solidarity with the international community.
The security policy reiterates the three principal tasks of the armed forces as laid down in the Constitution: preventing war, and in case this fails, defending the country and population, contributing to international peace and security, and supporting the civilian authorities in case of serious threats or major natural or man-made disasters. Contributions to international peace and security, in particular, require a high degree of interoperability with Allied and partner country forces. For this reason, increased interoperability for peace-support and humanitarian aid operations is a priority for Switzerland. Participation in the PfP Planning and Review Process and the Operational Capabilities Concept is instrumental in this process.
Switzerland also contributes valuable resources to NATO in terms of support of security sector reform activities with other partner countries, with a special emphasis on democratic control of the armed forces, search and rescue training, international humanitarian law courses and other areas. In particular, the country has been a strong supporter of the Partnership Action Plan on Defence Institution Building (PAP-DIB), which aims to build capacity and reduce corruption in the defence sector.
Switzerland is an active donor to Partnership Trust Fund projects in partner countries and has supported 14 projects since 2000, two of which it co-led. Under these projects, Switzerland along with individual Allies and partners has supported the destruction of mines, arms and ammunition in Albania, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Montenegro, Serbia and Ukraine, as well as ammunition stockpile management and destruction in Mauritania. More recently, the country co-led the first-ever Trust Fund project in Jordan. The country is also co-leading a Trust Fund on Building Integrity in Defence Institutions as part of the PAP-DIB. It has also supported a Trust Fund project in Serbia for the reintegration of demobilised military personnel into the civilian workforce.
Civil emergency planning
Civil emergency planning is a major area of cooperation. Switzerland aims to cooperate in providing mutual support in dealing with the consequences of major accidents or disasters in the EAPC area. It has contributed through the Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Coordination Centre to disaster-response operations in NATO member states and partner countries. Switzerland participates in numerous training events and exercises, including several crisis-management exercises.
Science and environment
Switzerland has been actively engaged with the NATO Science for Peace and Security (SPS) Programme since 1990. The SPS Programme enables close collaboration on issues of common interest to enhance the security of NATO and partner nations. By facilitating international efforts, in particular with a regional focus, the Programme seeks to address emerging security challenges, support NATO-led operations and advance early warning and forecast for the prevention of disasters and crises.
Today, scientists and experts from Switzerland are working to address a wide range of security issues, notably in the field of cyber defence. Most recently, two advanced research workshops were held on the development of national cyber security strategies (in collaboration with the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence in Tallinn) and on best practices for computer network defence.
In every partner country, an embassy of one of the NATO member states serves as a contact point and operates as a channel for disseminating information about the role and policies of the Alliance. The current NATO Contact Point Embassy in Switzerland is the embassy of the United Kingdom.