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Most Swiss people want a professional army

A majority of Swiss people would like to see the army scaled down to a professional service. According to a "SonntagsBlick" newspaper survey, the Swiss are calling for a leaner and cheaper military than the defence minister, Adolf Ogi, has in mind.

A majority of Swiss people would like to see the army scaled down to a professional service. According to a "SonntagsBlick" newspaper survey, the Swiss are calling for a leaner and cheaper military than the defence minister, Adolf Ogi, has in mind.

Overall, 53 per cent of Swiss people want to see the professionalisation of the defence services: 73 per cent in French-speaking parts of the country and 47 per cent in German-speaking parts.

Half of Swiss people agree with the economics minister, Pascal Couchepin, that a smaller army should translate into a less expensive one.

Couchepin walked into a storm of controversy last weekend when he openly criticised Ogi's plan for the army, arguing that cutting it back should be accompanied by significant cost cutting. The economics minister disagreed with Ogi's figure of 200,000 men at a cost of SFr4.3 billion, suggesting that 120,000 servicemen, rather, would be needed.

Thirty-two per cent of those interviewed agreed with Ogi's argument that a more mobile army would warrant increased funding. The new-style Swiss army would be smaller, he said, but also more modern, and further cuts in the army budget would therefore be unrealistic.

However, an overwhelming majority of people do still want a defence service. Sixty-five per cent of Swiss people have rejected the idea of scrapping the service altogether, while a sizeable majority of 31 per cent are in favour.

The survey of 610 people was carried out by the Isopublic Institute.

swissinfo with agencies

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