Swiss official criticises sanctions against Serbia

Walter Fust says sanctions are not having the desired effect. Keystone / Edi Engeler

The head of the Swiss Development Agency, Walter Fust, has criticised international sanctions against Serbia, saying they are doing nothing to encourage democracy.

This content was published on August 10, 2000 minutes

Writing in the agency's newsletter, Fust said the punitive measures were badly hurting the general population - particularly the very young and the elderly - but had had little effect on the regime. He said democracy could not be forced upon a people that are being made to suffer.

Switzerland has implemented the majority of sanctions imposed by the European Union. It has banned investments and financial transactions with Yugoslavia, there are strict visa requirements, an entry ban is in place regarding some 600 people in or close to the Serbian leadership, and fuel and oil exports are under embargo.

In October, the Swiss cabinet is to decide on whether to back a number of additions made at the end of June to the EU's sanctions list. The alterations involve tightening financial sanctions and extending the list of Yugoslav nationals whose foreign bank accounts are blocked.

A spokeswoman for the foreign ministry, Daniela Stoffel, said, "we are aware that there can be a conflict of interests between political and humanitarian concerns," but said that Switzerland would continue to support the EU sanctions.

The Swiss Development Agency is not alone in its hostility to sanctions against the regime of Slobodan Milosevic. Within the EU itself there has been a lack of consensus, with the French foreign minister, Hubert Védrine, saying in July that the sanctions had failed to yield the expected results.

Switzerland has been active in providing humanitarian aid to Yugoslavia for more than a year.

Together with Russia and Greece, it set up the Focus programme during Nato's bombardment of Kosovo last year to provide urgently needed food and medicine to all parts of Yugoslavia affected. The programme was later joined by Austria.

While many countries have been reluctant to provide humanitarian aid to Yugoslavia as long as it remains in the grip of the Yugoslav president, Slobodan Milosevic, Switzerland has continued to do so.

swissinfo with agencies

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