Parliament extends and beefs up Swiss peacekeeping mission in Kosovo

Political instability in Kosovo and tensions in Serbia prompted the decision. Keystone / Jean-christophe Bott

Lawmakers in Switzerland have approved an extension to the Swisscoy peacekeeping mission in Kosovo until the end of 2023. The armed peacekeeping force will also be strengthened. 

This content was published on June 16, 2020 - 11:26

A three-year extension requested by the Swiss government was approved by lawmakers on Tuesday, allowing for a contingent of up to 195 Swiss peacekeepers in Kosovo from April 2021. This force can be reinforced with an additional 20 people in the event of an increased threat. These reinforcements can only operate for a period of four months. In addition, fifty military personnel can be engaged for a period of eight months to perform logistical and maintenance tasks. 

This marks a slight departure from the recent strategy to pare down Swisscoy with a view to an eventual exit from Kosovo. The contingent was cut from 235 to 190 soldiers in April 2018 and to 165 since October 2019. Some of the assets have been brought back to Switzerland, including armoured vehicles. 

According to defence minister Viola Amherd, the ultimate aim is for the Swisscoy peacekeepers to leave Kosovo and for residents to live normally. But this is not possible at the moment, she added. 

The close relationship between political and economic circles and organised crime in Kosovo has made the establishment of the rule of law difficult. The formation of a coalition government at the beginning of the year raised hopes, but it was overthrown on March 25 by a no-confidence mandate. The political establishment is opposed to any reform, said Amherd. 

Tensions also persist with Serbia. A resumption of the conflict would have immediate consequences for Switzerland, in particular through increased migration pressure. Switzerland is already home to around 10% of Kosovo's population. 

The Swiss army has been participating in the NATO-led international peacekeeping force in Kosovo (KFOR) since October 1999. Swisscoy was initially an unarmed logistics company. It subsequently adapted its role and composition to the requirements of KFOR. 

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