Switzerland has signed a cross-border security agreement with Germany to prevent possible September 11-style attacks by terrorists using civilian aircraft.This content was published on January 10, 2007 - 16:22
But the accord, which comes ahead of the 2008 European football championships, does not authorise military pilots to make use of force in German airspace, limiting their role mainly to monitoring suspect aircraft.
According to the Swiss government, the convention it signed on Wednesday guarantees better flight security cooperation between both countries.
Besides improving the exchange of flight information, under the accord Swiss and German air forces will be able to intervene in each other's airspace if a plane presents a threat.
In accordance with the convention, still to be approved by parliament, each air force will be able to carry out a visual identification, and escort or closely monitor a suspect aircraft. However, they will not be able to fire at hostile aircraft.
Current German legislation does not allow German or foreign air force pilots to use their weapons against civilian aeroplanes that refuse to cooperate in airspace over Germany.
This means that the range of dissuasive measures under the new agreement is less extensive than those contained in similar French and Italian agreements.
The government believes that the organisation of Euro 2008, with matches due to take place in Basel, Bern, Zurich and Geneva, makes this kind of cooperation with neighbouring countries all the more important.
However, as the protection of airspace against terrorist attacks is a permanent activity, flight cooperation with Germany should not be restricted solely to the time of the tournament, it noted.
Switzerland was able to put its air security cooperation with its neighbour France to the test during the G8 summit in Evian in 2003. Although the security collaboration with France was initially limited to the duration of the summit, it was later extended into an open-ended accord.
swissinfo with agencies
SFr182 million ($147 million) of Swiss public funds has been earmarked so far for Euro 2008.
The largest single amount – SFr64.4 million – will be spent on security.
Up to 10,000 soldiers will be on standby during Euro 2008, but they will only intervene to support the cantonal police forces.
SFr18 million is going to upgrade stadium infrastructure in the four host cities: Basel, Zurich, Bern and Geneva.
A further SFr24.7 million will be used for marketing.
The tournament is expected to bring in SFr500 million to Switzerland.
The European football championships take place in Switzerland and Austria between June 7 and June 29, 2008.
Fifteen matches are to take place in Switzerland in the cities of Basel, Bern, Geneva and Zurich.
Switzerland and Austria officially kicked off their joint collaboration with a friendly match between the two national sides in Innsbruck in September 2006.
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