Parliament has approved a three-year extension of the mandate of the Swiss peacekeeping force Swisscoy in Kosovo.
The House of Representatives on Monday followed the Senate in agreeing the continuing deployment of Swiss troops in the former Serbian province until the end of 2014 despite opposition from the rightwing Swiss People’s Party and members of the Greens.
Supporters, including Defence Minister Ueli Maurer, said the presence of an international peacekeeping force was key for the political stability in the region and for Switzerland, which hosts the second-biggest community of expatriate Kosovo Albanians since the break-up of the former Yugoslavia.
However, opponents claimed that the mandate was in breach of Swiss neutrality or that civilian measures in Kosovo were more urgent.
The new mandate includes the possibility of stocking up the 220-strong contingent at short notice by 80 additional troops for 12 months.
Swisscoy has been part of the multinational KFOR troops in Kosovo since 1999. About 4,200 Swiss soldiers have participated in missions so far.
The troops are armed for self-defence but do not join peace enforcement operations.
A sizeable ethnic Albanian community from Kosovo has been living in Switzerland since the 1990s. Kosovo gained independence in 2008.