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Swiss mission in Kosovo extended for three years

Swiss colonel Patrick Gauchat in Kosovo Keystone

Parliament has approved the extension of the Swisscoy mission in Kosovo to the end of 2017. The number of military personnel in the country’s largest ever peacekeeping operation will be increased from 220 to 235.

The Senate on Wednesday voted unanimously in favour, in line with a decision by the House of Representatives last March.

The annual costs of the mission, the Swiss contingent with the Nato-led peacekeeping force, Kfor, will run to CHF44.2 million ($49.2 million). Meanwhile the reserve for ongoing reinforcements will be reduced from 80 to 60 soldiers.

Swisscoy’s presence in Kosovo goes back to 1999 and enjoys broad political support.

Defence committee speaker Isidor Baumann of the centre-left Christian democrats said Kosovo should be supported with personnel and finance in building up structures for a law-based state.

Swiss Defence Minister Ueli Maurer reminded parliamentarians that crime and violence are still present, particularly in the north of the country.

Stating that Europe and Switzerland still had an interest in stability in the Balkans, Maurer said the extension of the Swisscoy mandate should be seen in the context of the new conflicts in Eastern Europe.

Since the beginning of the Swiss operation in Kosovo, some 5,400 Swiss soldiers have served voluntarily there. The soldiers have been armed since 2002, although they are not authorised to carry out any armed action, in line with Swiss neutrality.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR