The government has made clear its opposition to proposals calling for changes to the armed forces. The more radical initiative is demanding that the army be abolished.This content was published on July 5, 2000 - 15:29
The government was responding to two initiatives put forward by the Group for Switzerland without an Army (GSoA). The first calls for the abolition of the armed forces, the other wants civil service - currently an alternative to military conscription - to be made voluntary.
The GSoA put forward the initiatives last September after gathering enough signatures to force a nationwide vote on both the issues. In such cases, the cabinet typically makes clear its position before the public ballot takes place.
The first initiative, calling "for a credible security policy and a Switzerland without an Army", demands that combat units be abolished within 10 years. However, it does allow for the continued existence of peacekeeping units.
The other initiative wants voluntary civil service, both in Switzerland and abroad, to be made available to men and women. Currently, only Swiss men are conscripted for military or civil service.
The cabinet's argument is that, without an army, Switzerland would be defenceless and unable to play a constructive role in international peacekeeping or disaster relief. It says abolishing the army would also have a negative effect on society, leading to higher social costs.
The cabinet stressed, too, that Switzerland's neutrality and stability would be compromised if the army were killed off.
It criticised the GsoA's initiative as "idealistic", saying politics devoted to making the world better had consistently proved "illusory" and had did not guarantee stability. It also said it would be a mistake to assume that the threat of a military attack was a thing of the past.
swissinfo with agencies