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preserving industry Swiss government to relax rules on arms exports

An armed Yemeni

The planned relaxation of the arms rules will not apply to countries ravaged by civil war, such as Yemen

(Keystone)

The Swiss government has decided to relax the rules on arms exports, making exports to countries with an internal armed conflict possible under certain conditions. 

The law currently bans arms exports to a country if it is involved in an internal or international armed conflict. But the authorities will now be able to grant an export licence provided there are no grounds to believe that the arms will be used in the conflict, according to a government decision on Friday. 

This planned relaxation of the rules will not apply to countries ravaged by civil war like Yemen or Syria today. Export licences are also to last two years instead of one.

This follows calls from the arms industry for a relaxation of the rules. It complains that tough licensing rules put it at a disadvantage compared with European competitors, that arms exports have fallen, and that jobs are at risk. 

+Read more about calls for softer rulesexternal link

The government said that preserving the industrial base should be one of the criteria in deciding whether or not to grant an export licence. 

It has asked the Federal Department of Economic Affairs to draft changes to the current ordinance governing arms exports.

The conservative right Swiss People's Party, centre-right Radical-Liberals and the arms industry all expressed satisfaction at the move. However, it sparked outrage on the left, with Social Democrats and Greens saying it undermines human rights and Switzerland's neutrality.  

Transparency tussle Arms exports to 21 countries rejected by Swiss officials

In 2017, the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) rejected 48 export applications for war materiel. The exports were destined for 21 ...

SDA-ATS/jc

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