Foreign Policy Watch: India – EU

Swiss Neutrality in World Affairs


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Swiss Neutrality

Mains level : Swiss Neutrality as a foreign policy tool

Switzerland’s traditional foreign policy of neutrality has become attractive again because of the changing political reality in the world, said its Ambassador recently.

Q.In context to foreign policy, discuss the relevance, benefits and limitations of Swiss Neutrality.(150 W)

What is Swiss Neutrality?

  • Swiss neutrality is one of the main principles of Switzerland’s foreign policy which dictates that Switzerland is not to be involved in armed or political conflicts between other states.
  • This policy is self-imposed, permanent, and armed, designed to ensure external security and promote peace.
  • Under this, Switzerland pursues an active foreign policy and is frequently involved in peace-building processes around the world.

Historic significance

  • Switzerland has the oldest policy of military neutrality in the world; it has not participated in a foreign war since its neutrality was established by the Treaty of Paris in 1815.
  • The European powers (Austria, France, the UK, Portugal, Prussia, Russia, Spain and Sweden) agreed at the Congress of Vienna in May 1815 that Switzerland should be neutral.
  • But final ratification was delayed until after Napoleon Bonaparte was defeated so that some coalition forces could invade France via Swiss territory.

Swiss moves for the status

  • Since World War II, Switzerland has taken a more active role in international affairs by aiding with humanitarian initiatives, but it remains fiercely neutral with regard to military affairs.
  • It has never joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) or the European Union, and only joined the United Nations in 2002.

Relevance today

  • Neutrality has become necessary as a foreign policy tool as the phase of power politics has returned in world affairs.
  • Now with big power politics, Switzerland’s neutrality and Switzerland as a place to meet is much more attractive again.

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