Foreign relations of Switzerland

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(Redirected from Political Department)

The international relations of Switzerland are the responsibility of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs and of all other departments for their respective fields of activity.

Contents

History

The FDFA was called the Political Department from 1848 to 1979.

Traditionally, Switzerland has avoided alliances that might entail military, political, or direct economic action. Only in recent years have the Swiss broadened the scope of activities in which they feel able to participate without compromising their neutrality.

Switzerland maintains diplomatic relations with almost all countries and historically has served as a neutral intermediary and host to major international treaty conferences. The country has no major dispute in its bilateral relations.

The recently changed Swiss Constitution declares the preservation of Switzerland's independence and welfare as the supreme objective of Swiss foreign policy. Below this overarching goal, the Constitution sets five specific foreign policy objectives: further the peaceful coexistence of nations; promote respect for human rights, democracy, and the rule of the law; promote Swiss economic interests abroad, alleviate need and poverty in the world; and the preservation of natural resources.

The Swiss feel a moral obligation to undertake social, economic, and humanitarian activities that contribute to world peace and prosperity. This is manifested by Swiss bilateral and multilateral diplomatic activity, assistance to developing countries, and support for the extension of international law, particularly humanitarian law.

Switzerland (mainly Geneva) is home to many international governmental and nongovernmental organizations, including the International Committee of the Red Cross (whose flag is essentially the Swiss flag with colors reversed, the Red Cross historically being a Swiss organization). One of the first international organizations, the Universal Postal Union, is located in Bern.

United Nations

Prior to its formal accession to the United Nations, Switzerland had maintained a permanent observer mission at UN Headquarters since 1948. Switzerland has also furnished military observers and medical teams to several UN operations.

Swiss voters first rejected UN membership by a 3-to-1 margin in 1986 but in March 2002 adopted it, albeit in a very close election, making Switzerland the first country to join the UN based on a popular referendum decision.

In similar fashion, the electorate rejected a government proposition to deploy Swiss troops as UN peacekeepers (the Blue Helmets) in 1994. However, in 1996 Switzerland joined NATO's Partnership for Peace, the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council in 1997, and deployed Yellow Berets to support the OSCE in Bosnia. In June 2001, Swiss voters approved new legislation providing for the deployment of armed Swiss troops for international peacekeeping missions under UN or OSCE auspices as well as closer international cooperation in military training.

On September 10, 2002, Switzerland became a full member of the United Nations. Switzerland had already previously been involved as party to the Statute of the International Court of Justice and member of most UN specialized agencies as well as the International Atomic Energy Agency. Switzerland has long participated in many UN activities, including the Economic Commission for Europe, United Nations Environment Programme, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, UN Conference on Trade and Development, UN Industrial Development Organization, and the Universal Postal Union (UPU).

Sanctions

The Swiss Government on June 25, 2003, eased most of the sanctions against the Republic of Iraq in accord with UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1483. The government lifted the trade embargo, flight restrictions, and financial sanctions in place since August 1990. The weapons embargo and the asset freeze, the scope of which was extended, remain in force, and restrictions on the trade in Iraqi cultural goods were newly imposed. Though not a member at the time, Switzerland had joined UN sanctions against Iraq after the invasion of Kuwait.

Switzerland also has joined UN economic sanctions imposed on Libya, Sierra Leone, UNITA (Angola), Liberia, and Serbia/Montenegro. On October 15, 2003, the Federal Council ended the import restrictions on raw diamonds from Sierra Leone and lifted sanctions against Libya.

Switzerland in October 2000 implemented an ordinance to enforce UN sanctions against the Taliban (UNSCR 1267), which it subsequently amended in April 2001 in accord with tighter UN regulations (UNSCR 1333). On May 2, 2002, the Swiss Government eased the sanctions regime in accord with UNSCR 1388 and 1390, lifting the ban on the sale of acetic acid (used in drug production), Afghani airlines, and Afghani diplomatic representations. The weapons embargo, travel restrictions, and financial sanctions remain in force.

The Swiss Government in November 2001 issued an ordinance declaring illegal the terrorist organization Al-Qaida as well as possible successor or supporting organizations. More than 200 individuals or companies linked to international terrorism have been blacklisted to have their assets frozen. Thus far, Swiss authorities have blocked about 72 accounts totaling U.S.$22.6 million.

International organization membership

Switzerland is a member of the following international organizations: World Trade Organization, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, European Free Trade Association, Bank for International Settlements, Council of Europe, Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and INTELSAT.

Switzerland is an active participant in the OSCE, its foreign minister serving as Chairman-in-Office for 1996. Switzerland also is an active participant in the major nonproliferation and export control regimes.

Although it is surrounded by member nations, Switzerland is not a member nation of the European Union. In 1992 Swiss voters approved membership in the Bretton Woods organizations but later that year rejected the European Economic Area agreement, which the government viewed as a first step toward European Union membership.

Representation of foreign entities and in foreign disputes

Under a series of treaties concluded after World War I, Switzerland assumed responsibility for the diplomatic and consular representation of Liechtenstein, the protection of its borders, and the regulation of its customs.

Since 1980, Switzerland has represented U.S. interests in Iran.

Switzerland played a key role in brokering a truce agreement between the Sudanese Government and Sudan's Peoples Liberation Army (SPLA) for the Nuba Mountain region, signed after a week's negotiations taking place near Lucerne in January 2002.

International organization participation

ACCT, AfDB, AsDB, Australia Group, BIS, CE, CERN, CGPM, EAPC, EBRD, ECE, EFTA, ESA, FAO, G-10, IADB, IAEA, IBRD (World Bank), ICAO, ICC, ICC, ICDO, ICFTU, ICMM, ICRM, IDA, IEA, IFAD, IFC, IFCS, IFRCS, IGC, ILO, IMF, IMO, Inmarsat, Intelsat, Interpol, IOC, IOM, ISO, ITU, IWC, LAIA (observer), NAM (guest), NEA, NSG, OAS (observer), OECD, OIE, OPCW, OSCE, OTIF, PCA, PFP, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNIDO, UNITAR, UNMIBH, UNMIK, UNMOP, UNOMIG, UNTSO, UNU, UPU, WCL, WCO, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WToO, WTrO, ZC

List of ministers

Federal councilor heading the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs is the Swiss foreign minister:

Diplomatic representations

  • Diplomatic representations of Switzerland: Official list (http://www.eda.admin.ch/eda/e/home/emb/addch.html)
  • Diplomatic representations in Switzerland: Official list (http://www.eda.admin.ch/eda/e/home/emb/addfor.html)

Disputes - international

Switzerland has no international disputes. Because of its fiercely neutral status, it has abstained from most international conflicts.

Illicit drugs

Because of more stringent government regulations, used significantly less as a money-laundering center.

Transit country for and consumer of South American cocaine and Southwest Asian heroin.

See also

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