Relations with Switzerland

  • Last updated: 11 Feb. 2016 17:04

NATO and Switzerland actively cooperate in crisis-management training and operations. Practical cooperation is also being developed in a range of other areas.

Swiss Liaison and Monitoring Team (LMT) officers in contact with Kosovo residents.

Highlights

  • Swiss cooperation with NATO is based on a longstanding policy of military neutrality and areas of practical cooperation that match their joint objectives.
  • Cooperation has been reinforced over the years since Switzerland joined the Partnership for Peace (PfP) in 1996 and became a member of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC) in 1997.
  • Switzerland has provided much valued support for NATO-led operations in the Balkans, where it continues to contribute to the Kosovo Force, and also supported the operation in Afghanistan from 2004 to 2007.
  • An important priority for cooperation is to develop capabilities and maintain the ability of the Swiss armed forces to work with those of NATO and other partner countries in multinational peace-support operations.
  • Switzerland plays a very active role in the partnership, offering expertise and education and training to other partner countries and Allies, with a special focus on humanitarian missions, humanitarian law, human rights and civil-military cooperation as well as on transparency and democratic control of armed forces.
  • Switzerland is also a generous contributor to a number of Trust Fund projects in other partner countries focused on issues related to demilitarization and defence transformation.

More background information


  • Key areas of cooperation

    Security cooperation

    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), which was responsible for implementing military aspects of the Dayton Peace Agreement.

    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 of about 230 personnel is serving within KFOR as part of the Multinational Task Force - South. 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.

    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) in Stans, which has been certified as a Partnership Training and Education Centre; and the Tactical Training Centre at the Swiss Officers’ Training Centre in Lucerne.

    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.

    A number of civilian training facilities have also been made available for the PfP framework. These include the Geneva Centre for Security Policy, which has been certified as a Partnership Training and Education Centre; the Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining; the Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces; and the International Relations and Security Network based in Zurich. Furthermore, every two years, Switzerland organises the “International Security Forum”, which addresses current issues concerning international security policy.

    Switzerland is an active donor to Trust Fund projects in partner countries and has supported 14 projects since 2000, two of which it co-led. Along with individual Allies and other partners, Switzerland 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. The country co-led the first ever Trust Fund project in Jordan, aimed at detecting and destroying explosive remnants of war. It is also co-leading a Trust Fund on Building Integrity in Defence Institutions as part of the PAP-DIB. Moreover, it has 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.

  • Framework for cooperation

    NATO and Switzerland detail areas of cooperation in the country’s Individual Partnership and Cooperation Programme (IPCP), which is jointly agreed every year. Also, Swiss participation in the PfP Planning and Review Process (PARP) sets targets to help develop the interoperability and capabilities which might be made available for NATO training, exercises and multinational crisis-management and peace-support operations.

    Switzerland also hosts more than 30 regular courses within the PfP framework and develops training materials in areas such as democratic control of armed forces, international humanitarian law, humanitarian demining, civil-military cooperation, security policy, arms control and disarmament. Moreover, the country has supported the development, use of and training for a web-based central management platform (ePRIME) for all EAPC/PfP activities.

  • Milestones in relations

    • 1995:  Switzerland opens its land and air transport corridors to NATO-led peacekeeping forces operating in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
    • 1996:  Switzerland joins the Partnership for Peace (PfP).
    • 1997:  Switzerland joins the newly created Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council.
    • 1999:  Switzerland joins the PfP Planning and Review Process (PARP).
    • 1999:  Swiss forces participate in the UN-mandated NATO-led peacekeeping force in Kosovo (KFOR) and Switzerland plays a leading role in assuaging the refugee crisis.
    • 1999:  Supreme Allied Commander Europe General Wesley K. Clark visits Switzerland.
    • 1999:  The Geneva Centre for Security Policy is certified as a PfP Training Centre.
    • 1999:  Switzerland organises the first annual conference for the new PfP Consortium of Defense Academies and Security Studies Institutes.
    • 2000:  Switzerland hosts PfP training exercise “Cooperative Determination”.
    • 2000:  NATO Secretary General Lord Robertson visits Switzerland.
    • 2003:  Switzerland signs the PfP Status of Forces Agreement, which deals with the status of foreign forces while present on the territory of another state.
    • 2004:  Swiss staff officers join the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan to support reconstruction efforts.
    • 2004:  NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer visits Switzerland.
    • 2007:  Switzerland co-leads a Trust Fund project in Jordan and supports other Trust Fund projects in Albania, Serbia and Montenegro.
    • 2008:  Switzerland co-leads a Trust Fund on Building Integrity in Defence Institutions.
    • 2008:  Supreme Allied Commander for Transformation General James N. Mattis visits Switzerland.
    • 2009:  High-level parliamentary delegation led by the President of the Swiss National Council visits NATO HQ.
    • 2010:  Supreme Allied Commander Europe Admiral James G. Stavridis visits Switzerland.
    • 2010:  The SWISSINT training centre in Stans is recognised as a PfP Training and Education Centre.
    • 2012:  Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Europe General Sir Richard Shirreff visits Switzerland.
    • 2012:  Deputy State Secretary for Foreign Affairs George Martin visits NATO Headquarters.
    • November 2012:  During a visit to Switzerland, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen stresses the importance of cooperative security and building stronger security partnerships in talks with Swiss government leaders.