Swiss Citizens to Vote on Restoring Neutrality

The Swiss Popular Party (SVP) is organizing a popular referendum to reverse the violation of their country’s traditional neutrality in foreign policy, which was enacted by the Swiss Federal Council (the executive) by endorsing sanctions against Moscow (cf. SAS10, 17/22). A referendum is very common and frequent in Switzerland, as a form of direct democracy.

The initiative was launched by SVP founder and still grey eminence of the party Christoph Blocher, whose career started with a 1992 victory in a referendum to prevent Switzerland from joining the European Economic Area. And a victory could very well be the outcome of the explosive popular initiative that Blocher is now preparing, and that is expected to be introduced soon. It is intended to anchor Switzerland’s comprehensive, unconditional neutrality in the Constitution.

In addition to a ban on alliances, the popular initiative would prohibit any participation in sanctions, except for those decided by the United Nations (which are usually blocked under the veto powers of Security Council members). Currently, the vast majority of the Swiss are in favor of neutrality in principle.

The Swiss Federal Council, a sort of seven-person directory in which all parties are represented, had originally decided not to endorse sanctions, but eventually gave in to media and outside pressure. The SVP, however, has distanced itself from the Council decisions. On Aug. 12, for instance, Finance Minister Ueli Maurer of the SVP gave a speech at a party meeting in which he described the Ukraine war as a proxy war between the West and the East, or the NATO states against Russia: it is a struggle for power, he said, that was being “fought on Ukraine’s back”. The world is threatened with a division such as last existed before the fall of the Berlin Wall, Maurer suggested, thus contradicting his government’s characterization of the Ukrainian war as a war of aggression.

While stressing that really hopes that the situation in Ukraine will not escalate further, Maurer added that “it cannot be ruled out that in a few weeks there will be a nuclear war in Europe.”

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