Majority of Swiss people would support joining EU defence force, poll finds
A new poll by the Tages-Anzeiger has found that a majority of residents and citizens of Switzerland would support a military pact with the European Union. The recent invasion of Ukraine has brought Switzerland's neutrality into question, and to the majority in the country, neutrality seems negotiable.
Vast majority supports Switzerland's sanctions on Russia
According to the poll, 75 percent of the population are in favour of Switzerland’s policy of sanctions and of the efforts made by the government and Swiss people in trying to help Ukraine. In regard to neutrality, only 25 percent considered the country's position of neutrality “non-negotiable.” The majority of members of all political parties bar one - the Swiss People’s Party - were open to a change in Switzerland's neutral status.
Of the 12.000 people who took part in the survey, almost three quarters said that they were in favour of businesses boycotting Russia for its actions in Ukraine. Despite joining in on sanctions, many, including the President of Ukraine himself, have said Switzerland must do more to freeze Russian assets.
Majority of Swiss people in favour of joining EU military pact
On the military front, 66 percent of people in Switzerland rejected the idea of joining NATO - the multi-national alliance including the UK, US, Canada and 27 other nations. However, 52 percent were in favour of joining the European Defence Agency's Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) programme.
PESCO is a defensive pact within the EU that commits each country to a common security and defence policy. Joining this pact would allow the Swiss military to cooperate more closely with its neighbours and benefit from the joint procurement of weaponry and equipment.
While Switzerland’s membership of PESCO would be unusual, especially as the stated goal of the organisation is to create a centralised European Army to rival the US, the poll indicates that many people in the country are not entirely wedded to the idea of neutrality, reflecting a massive change in attitude in the past few months.
Poll indicates a sea change for Swiss neutrality
To political scientist Fabio Wasserfallen, "Putin's war is shifting the political parameters, internationally, but also in Switzerland." He said that the results show that Switzerland is no longer an isolated nation but an anchor in the heart of Europe: "The vision of Switzerland as Singapore, with the primary goal of doing good business worldwide, is outdated in the eyes of most Swiss people.”
Based on the polling results, Wasserfallen said that there is potential for a political turning point that would see a pragmatic, close relationship with the EU. However, the poll is yet to be tested in an election or referendum, which would see where people’s true feelings lie. The first opportunity to see this is in June when Switzerland will vote on participation in the EU’s new expanded border protection force, Frontex.