Switzerland to vote on neutrality after accepting Russia sanctions

Switzerland is in the midst of a new debate following the country’s decision to impose sanctions on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine. The public wants a referendum on neutrality, which they see as a break with the country’s long-standing neutrality.

Activists and the right-wing People’s Party, the largest party in parliament, want to enshrine permanent and armed neutrality in the constitution. The proposal is supported by more than 130,000 signatures. The petition has been submitted to the authorities, but the timing of the vote is uncertain.

Switzerland, which refuses to take sides in European conflicts, agreed to EU sanctions against Russia in 2022. This meant that the country moved away from its policy of neutrality. Ultimately, these moves would jeopardize Switzerland’s role as an international mediator.

The principle of neutrality dates back to the Middle Ages

In contrast, business leaders argue that neutrality harms the country’s business prospects.

But the government says the sanctions are compatible with neutrality and is trying to revitalize Switzerland’s importance by hosting a conference on peace in Ukraine in June. Russia, of course, has already announced that it will not attend.

Switzerland’s neutrality, which dates back to the Middle Ages when cantons hired mercenaries for warring European states, was secured by the Treaty of Paris in 1815 after the defeat of Napoleon. Switzerland follows the legal obligations imposed on neutral states by the 1907 Hague Conventions.

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