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Swiss promote democratic control of militaries

The new centre will have a thing or two to say about coups, like the one in Fiji

(Keystone)

The government has approved plans to set up a new international centre in Geneva to help prevent the outbreak of conflicts in emerging democracies.

Swiss officials said the Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces would primarily assist countries in eastern Europe and the Balkans, where armies or militias could pose a security threat to Europe.

In a statement, the foreign and defence ministries said the new centre would develop norms and standards for evaluating the democratisation process in a country's security apparatus.

The centre is intended as part of Switzerland's contributions to Nato's Partnership for Peace programme. It will open in the autumn and should be fully operational by 2003. Theodor Winkler, a senior defence ministry official who has been named director of the new centre, said that Ukraine and Macedonia had already applied for assistance.

Winkler told swissinfo that parliaments in developing countries could call on the centre for advice to improve their ability to control the military command and influence security policy, while the armed forces themselves might want to teach officers how to cope with democratic checks.

"Democracy can only flourish if there is a broad knowledge among the general population about security and other relevant issues. It's not good if the knowledge is the exclusive property of the defence ministry," Winkler added.

The government said the planned project would complement two existing offices in Geneva: the centres for "humanitarian demining" and "security policies".

The new centre will have an annual budget of SFr10 million when it is fully operational in three years time.

swissinfo with agencies

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