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Swiss government told to expel foreign spies

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One in five Russian agents stationed in Europe is based in Switzerland. KEYSTONE

Parliament has instructed the Swiss government to get tough on Russian spies by expelling anyone who endangers Swiss national security with illegal intelligence activities.

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The Senate mirrored an earlier vote by the House of Representatives to expel, rather than prosecute, offenders.

+ Read about Switzerland’s ‘hands-off’ approach to espionage

On Monday, the Senate followed a recommendation from its Foreign Affairs Committee with 32 votes in favour of the motion, nine against, with two abstentions. “Switzerland, as the seat of international organisations and as a state in the heart of Europe, is an attractive location for intelligence services,” said Senate committee spokeswoman Franziska Roth.

According to reports from the Federal Intelligence Service (FIS), for example, one in five Russian intelligence officers stationed in Europe is in Switzerland. The illegal activities therefore endanger, among other things, the protected dialogue spaces provided by International Geneva. These activities could therefore pose a risk to Switzerland’s diplomatic interests and to the people targeted.

Prohibited intelligence services therefore not only endanger potentially sensitive information and secrets of Switzerland, but also the freedom of expression and assembly of certain communities. This could also damage Switzerland’s reputation as a host country.


A minority in the Senate requested that the motion be rejected. They saw no added value compared to the Federal Council’s current practice. There are various measures, such as preventive entry bans and the expulsion of exposed agents, which are already being implemented, said Petra Gössi.

Prohibited intelligence services are punishable in Switzerland. Defence Minister Viola Amherd assured the Senate that even if the motion were accepted, individual case examinations and decisions would continue to be made in order to “take due account of the special circumstances and the interests of Switzerland.”

Adapted from German by DeepL/mga

This news story has been written and carefully fact-checked by an external editorial team. At SWI we select the most relevant news for an international audience and use automatic translation tools such as DeepL to translate it into English. Providing you with automatically translated news gives us the time to write more in-depth articles.

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