Federal Councillors Didier Burkhalter and Guy Parmelin discussed current issues affecting European security with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. They underlined Switzerland’s contribution to peace and security as part of its foreign and security policy and acknowledged NATO’s importance for stability in Switzerland’s strategic environment. This includes fostering a dialogue on security that includes all states and Switzerland’s engagment in the Ukraine crisis, the South Caucasus and the Western Balkans. In terms of European security, the need for maintaining regular dialogue with Russia was also reiterated at the meeting. In addition Mr Burkhalter and Mr Parmelin called for renewed talks on conventional arms control in Europe as an important confidence-building measure.
Looking back on more than two decades of the Swiss-NATO partnership, both sides reported positive results – for Switzerland, the Partnership for Peace (PfP) is not only an important platform for cooperation in security policy but also for dialogue, such as between the NATO format and the non-NATO Western European states Austria, Sweden, Finland and Ireland. For its part, Switzerland has made a major contributioncontributed to the exchange on security policy through the activities of the Maison de la paix and its three Geneva centres (security policy, humanitarian demining and the democratic control of armed forces) and the Centre for Security Studies of the Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (ETHZ). The three men also discussed cooperation with the partner states among Europe's neighbours to the South with a view to security sector reform – an area where Switzerland has recognised expertise.
A further topic of discussion was the issue of cyber security and the increasing number of threats posed by state actors. Both sides emphasised the importance of international cooperation to tackle transnational threats. Mr Burkhalter and Mr Parmelin demonstrated Switzerland’s engagement for confidence-building measures and international rules in this field at various forums such as the OSCE and the UN and confirmed Switzerland’s continuing commitment to the exchange with NATO on cyber-related issues. They also informed Mr Stoltenberg of Switzerland’s aim to become a partner state of the Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence (CCDCoE) in Tallin. The centre is an international research institute that generates both knowledge and expertise in the field of cyber security and cyber defence, and conducts exercises and research projects (such as on the application of international law in cyber space).
NATO has partnerships with more than 40 different countries and organisations. Switzerland’s participation in the NATO Partnership for Peace since 1996 gives it access on an institutional level to the organisation, NATO members and other partner states. Cooperation within the PfP is a tried-and-tested component of cooperative security and allows Switzerland to bring its own selective security policy concerns to the table – such as the democratic control of armed forces and the dissemination of international humanitarian law. Switzerland organises training courses and Swiss representatives can visit events held in other participating countries. Another example of this type of cooperation is Swisscoy, an association of the Swiss Armed Forces in Kosovo as part of the NATO military mission in the Balkans (KFOR). Stability in the Balkans is of major concern to Switzerland. The Federal Council has submitted a request to Parliament that the KFOR mission be extended to 2020.
After the meeting Mr Stoltenberg continued his journey to Geneva, completing the spectrum of Switzerland’s engagement for peace and security policy from Bern to International Geneva. He spoke at an event at the Geneva Centre for Security Policy (GCSP) at the Maison de la paix and met with representatives from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
Mr Stoltenberg had a meeting with President of the Swiss Confederation Doris Leuthard the evening before his official talks with Mr Burkhalter and Mr Parmelin at Lohn Manor in Bern. One of the topics they discussed was international security.
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