The EU has already evacuated hundreds of wounded civilians and military personnel from Ukraine with the help of third countries. Switzerland is on the sidelines – the reactions are palpable.
Reactions to the federal government’s veto to take no wounded from Ukraine are clear: Central National Councilor Ida Klanzmann of Lucerne, a member of the Security Policy Commission, described Switzerland’s behavior as “truly incomprehensible” on Twitter. After all, the ICRC is based in Switzerland, “and we have always been considered an open country when it comes to humanitarian aid.” The center’s deputy secretary, Luca Strebel, writes: “It’s a shame.”
This journal is available from Monday Statement on the Federal Veto, To participate in the evacuation of wounded from Ukraine at the request of the NATO subsidiary. Switzerland is now retaliating for its failure to join the EU’s civil protection mechanism. The EU and five third countries have used the mechanism to evacuate 845 wounded civilians and soldiers since the start of the war, according to diplomats in Brussels.
Against this backdrop, the central government’s veto takes on another dimension. An agreement between the EU and Norway came just in time. Brussels sponsors an aircraft specializing in medical evacuation. However, the bright yellow machine is parked in Oslo.
“I thank Norway for the swift implementation of the agreement,” EU civil protection commissioner Jannes Lenarczyk said recently. The brutal war in Ukraine has forced millions to flee their homes, with the most vulnerable patients in need of urgent medical care. A new aircraft can be launched especially at the time of need.
Norway is one of five third countries participating in the EU Civil Protection and Crisis Mechanism. Turkey, Serbia, North Macedonia and Montenegro have also signed similar agreements. Most of the injured have been transferred to hospitals in Germany and France. But Norway has not ruled out taking players either.
According to Brussels, Switzerland has not yet shown any interest in participating in the mechanism. Interestingly, Switzerland can count on assistance from the EU’s disaster mechanism even without an agreement. In addition to partner countries, neighboring countries can also invoke the mechanism. However, according to the EU Commission, a legal basis is required to participate in relief efforts. The European Union currently uses this mechanism to send firefighting aircraft to fight forest fires in southern Europe.
The central government argues that
As an initial reaction to the request, the Conference of Cantonal Health Directors was open to accepting wounded Ukrainians. However, after lengthy explanations, the Federal Department of External Affairs (FDFA) vetoed it. The main argument is neutral. Neutral states are allowed to take care of soldiers from war-torn countries. Under a strict interpretation of neutrality, according to the FDFA, Switzerland must ensure that soldiers can no longer participate in military operations after recovery. For this, Swiss soldiers should be jailed better.
Green Party leader Balthazar Gladley wrote on Twitter: “For reasons of neutrality, it is clear that no soldiers can be allowed to recuperate and then go back to war.” But briefly explained, if Switzerland does not allow injured soldiers to travel back, they can still be cared for in Switzerland.
Correction: On July 18, 2022 at 9.45pm we correctly identified Ida Klanzmann as the Lucerne National Councillor. An earlier version of the article incorrectly assigned the province of Aargau.
Stephen Israel Raised in Zurich, studied political science in Geneva and enrolled in journalism in Bern. He was a correspondent in Southeast Europe during the Yugoslav wars. Since 2002 he has been writing from Brussels on difficult bilateral relations and EU crises. More info@Stephen Israel