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Bloomberg: Switzerland to soften arms export rules, but not for Ukraine

The Swiss government wants to bypass neutrality laws for increased arms exports, but will continue prohibiting weapon shipments to Ukraine, Bloomberg says.
Building of Switzerland’s Federal Assembly. Photo: parlament.ch
Bloomberg: Switzerland to soften arms export rules, but not for Ukraine

The Swiss government wants to be able to bypass the country’s strict neutrality laws to permit more arms exports while continuing to enforce the existing ban on weapon shipments to Ukraine, Bloomberg reports.

Switzerland restricts arms sales to countries at war unless under a UN mandate, resulting in a 27% drop in exports to $770 million in 2023 despite a global surge in defense production, as arms makers of many countries accelerate weapon production for Ukraine’s defense against Russian aggression or to replenish their own inventories after supporting Ukraine.

After Swiss MPs demanded increased flexibility to support national arms producers, Switzerland’s government plans to temporarily override export restrictions under “exceptional circumstances” if it aligns with “foreign-policy or national-security interests,” according to a cabinet proposal on 15 May. Meanwhile, last year, the Swiss government has already said it wouldn’t use the exception to allow transfers to Ukraine, denying German, Spanish, and Danish supplies of Swiss-made arms to Ukraine.

About three-quarters of Swiss weapons exports go to Europe, with Germany as the primary market, and Bloomberg notes, “it remains to be seen whether the move will be enough to convince customers in Europe,” as they increase defense spending to aid Ukraine against Russia’s invasion.

It is unclear how the Swiss government proposal may help Swiss arms makers, as the primary factor for the decline in Swiss arms sales may be customers’ inability to manage Swiss-made weapons as they see fit.

Switzerland refuses to supply weapons to Ukraine due to its commitment to military neutrality, a cornerstone of its foreign policy, aimed at avoiding involvement in foreign conflicts. Despite this stance, Switzerland supports EU sanctions against Russia and provides humanitarian aid to Ukraine.

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