Despite tensions with Serbia, the return of Swiss soldiers is currently not an issue
Should the Swiss defend Kosovo now?
A tense situation on the border with Serbia could turn dangerous for Swiss soldiers in Kosovo. Withdrawal is currently not an issue. What would be their mission if the Serbs invaded the country?
Training for emergencies: During an exercise, members of the Swiss Army dismantle a roadblock in Kosovo.
Guido FelderForeign teacher
Tensions are high between Serbia and Kosovo. After Serbia put the army on alert, Kosovo closed a third border crossing – the largest – at Podujevo. Swissco’s 195 members of the Swiss Army, who support KFOR, the NATO-led security force in Kosovo, have also been affected by the conflict.
Daniel Sechler, 33, a media spokesperson for Swissint, the Swiss military’s center of excellence for military peacebuilding, is keeping things quiet for now. He told Blick: “Recent events in northern Kosovo show that the situation in this part of the country is fragile and currently tense. Nevertheless, the situation in Kosovo can generally be considered peaceful and stable in most parts of the country, thanks to the deployment of KFOR.
Weapons for self-defense only
Swiss soldiers are armed with handguns or assault rifles for self-defense and with stun guns. If the situation worsens and Serbia invades Kosovo, Switzerland will not be able to defend Kosovo. Sechler: “Armed intervention components are provided by other troop-contributing nations.”
Suviskai is solely responsible for “ensuring a safe and stable environment and ensuring freedom of movement” in Kosovo. Returning to the Swiss is currently not an issue. Sechler: “It is always possible in principle for Switzerland to withdraw Swisscoy membership.”
In use for 20 years
Suviskai has been working in Kosovo for 20 years. A soldier’s enlistment — currently 16 percent female — lasts six months. In 2020, Parliament approved an extension of the mandate until the end of 2023.
Swisscoy members trained at the Swissint competence center in Stans-Oberdorf NW. This includes training on the current situation in the operational area and how to proceed in the event of political or ethnic tensions. Sechler: “Therefore, SwissCoin’s members have the necessary knowledge to execute their orders and assess and mitigate risks even if the situation worsens.”
Sechler emphasizes: “Soldier safety is the highest priority and takes precedence over operational needs.”
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