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Switzerland’s Arms Exports Drop by 25% as Ukraine Stance Takes Toll

Switzerland, known for its long-standing neutrality, witnessed a significant drop in its arms exports by more than a quarter last year.

The decline is attributed to the country’s neutral stance, which has hindered the re-export of Swiss weapons and ammunition to Ukraine, according to Reuters.

Impact on Arms Exports

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Exports of military equipment from Switzerland saw a notable decrease, amounting to a 27% decline to CHF 697 million ($788 million), as reported by the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO).

Switzerland’s Status as an Arms Supplier

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Despite its neutral position, Switzerland has been a significant player in the global arms market, ranking 14th in the world regarding arms exports in 2022, according to data from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

Major Buyers and Orders

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Switzerland exported military equipment to 58 countries in 2023, with Germany emerging as the largest buyer, followed by Denmark, which secured substantial orders for ammunition and wheeled armored vehicles.

Reasons for the Decline

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While SECO did not specify the reason behind the decline in exports, the Swissmem industry association attributes it to Switzerland’s ban on arms re-exports, particularly to Ukraine, due to its involvement in international armed conflicts.

Impact on Swiss Companies

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Swissmem director Stefan Brupbacher told Reuters that Swiss companies had lost orders due to concerns surrounding Swiss regulations on arms re-exports, leading to potential reductions in investment within the industry.

Neutrality Law and Re-Export Restrictions

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The neutrality law in Switzerland prohibits the transfer of Swiss-made military equipment to countries involved in international armed conflicts, including Ukraine.

Strained Relations

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This restriction has strained relations with nations like Spain, Denmark, and Germany.

Calls for Policy Revision

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Swissmem advocates for a revision of Switzerland’s neutrality policy, arguing that the strict interpretation impedes the re-export of Swiss arms and ammunition purchased by other countries years ago.

Need to Lift Re-Export Requirement

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They emphasize the need to lift re-export permit requirements for countries aligned with similar international conventions on weaponry.

Switzerland’s Neutrality and Support for Ukraine

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While Switzerland has maintained its neutrality policy since 1815, it has expressed support for Ukraine and provided humanitarian assistance.

However, efforts to amend laws for supplying weapons to Ukraine faced obstacles in the lower house of parliament in May 2023.

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