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Swiss parliament endorses national security concept

The House of Representatives on Wednesday overwhelmingly endorsed the government’s “security through cooperation” programme, and Defence Minister Adolf Ogi urged swift implementation of security measures in 2000.

This content was published on December 22, 1999 - 18:04

The House of Representatives on Wednesday overwhelmingly endorsed the government’s “security through cooperation” programme, and Defence Minister Adolf Ogi urged swift implementation of security measures in 2000.

Following a heated four-hour debate, parliamentarians adopted the national security programme with a vote of 114 against 44, despite strong criticism from both the left and the right.

Ogi rejected criticism that the deployment of a partially-armed SWISSCOY unit serving alongside international KFOR troops in Kosovo was putting Swiss neutrality on the line.

The defence minister said it was in Switzerland’s own national security interest to participate in international peace missions, since only such participation could help avoid the kind of massive refugee waves that hit Switzerland at the height of the Kosovo conflict.

There was no question of Switzerland abandoning its militia system or of joining NATO, Ogi emphasised. “But equally so, there should be no peace missions without us,” he told critics.

Social Democrat opponents demanded that Switzerland refocus its security policy by joining the United Nations and by diverting defence ministry funds toward “peace measures and job creation programmes.”

Right-wing critics, including members of the People’s Party -- which became the second biggest party in the House after October’s parliamentary elections -- said the SWISSCOY mission had set a dangerous precedent and that troops should secure Swiss neutrality at home.

Recent polls have shown that a majority of Swiss approve of the SWISSCOY mission, which allows the use of arms only for self-protection. Overall security for SWISSCOY is provided by Austrian KFOR troops.

The issue of “arms” or “no arms” for Swiss military peace missions abroad will be at the top of Ogi’s political agenda next year. He repeated on Wednesday that he would like to see Swiss legislation amended swiftly so that Switzerland is ready for armed peace missions abroad.

The Swiss constitution currently bans such operations, and small arms are only allowed for self-defence. Amended legislation would for instance allow SWISSCOY troops to deploy armed personnel carriers with mounted machine guns.

Switzerland is not a member of NATO but participates in its Partnersip for Peace Programme.

From staff and wire reports.

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