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Swiss enforcement of economic sanctions is ‘deficient’

Economic sanctions are the responsibility of the seven-member Federal Council in Bern Keystone

The Swiss federal authorities fail to correctly monitor the application of economic sanctions, an influential Senate committee has warned.

This content was published on October 23, 2018 - 16:42
Keystone SDA/sb

An evaluation published by the Senate Management Committee on Tuesday found that the Federal Council had a clear policy regarding economic sanctions coupled with appropriate legislation, but the implementation of sanctions was “deficient”. 

Economic sanctions are the responsibility of the seven-member executive body and their application is binding when they are issued by the United Nations Security Council. For European Union sanctions – Switzerland is not a member of the 28-state bloc – the Swiss government implements sanctions on a case-by-case basis, while weighing up national interests.

In its latest assessment, the Senate committee calls for better supervision of sanctions by the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO). It claims SECO only monitors their implementation on an ad-hoc basis and does not make full use of the instruments at its disposal.

The report said checks were only carried out if an offence was highlighted and a procedure was only initiated if there was sufficient evidence. The committee added that SECO never carries out unannounced inspection visits to companies.

Customs checks

The committee said that applying sanctions to prohibited goods entering Switzerland should be the responsibility of the Federal Customs Administration (FCA). However, it found that prohibited goods were difficult to check and customs officers do not always prioritise them.

Applying financial sanctions was also problematic owing to their complexity, and controls were almost non-existent in this area, as for luxury products, the parliamentary committee said.

While trade sanctions are widely respected by firms, imports and exports of sanctioned goods continue. It highlighted several examples, such as to the Crimea region (11 cases of exports), to Syria (14 cases of exports of prohibited luxury goods) and to Iran (39 cases of precious metals exported).

The Federal Council has until January 18 to give a formal reply to the report. 

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