Swiss neutrality in world affairs again attractive: Envoy

It is again becoming a destination for dialogue on difficult issues, he says

Switzerland’s traditional foreign policy of neutrality has become attractive again because of the changing political reality in the world, said its Ambassador Dr. Ralf Heckner at a think tank event on Saturday.

Ambassador Heckner said neutrality has become necessary as a foreign policy tool as the phase of power politics has returned in the world affairs. “Switzerland’s neutrality has to serve a purpose. The purpose of neutrality to the global powers was maintained also after 1945. After 1991, at the end of the Cold War, neutrality was not very much in demand. There was a moment of unipolar world and that can explain it. Now with big power politics, Switzerland’s neutrality and Switzerland as a place to meet is much more attractive again,” said Mr. Heckner at an online discussion organised by Asian Pathfinders, an open knowledge sharing platform for policy planners and academics.

The Ambassador said, “The answer could be yes,” when asked whether Switzerland would redefine its neutrality to adjust with the global order.

The envoy said the foreign policy was born out of a necessity to stay away from the wars being fought in Europe from the 19th century till the middle of the 20th century. The policy, he said, was not just to the advantage of Switzerland as it also served a purpose of the European powers who wanted a neutral venue to meet and do business.

In the 21st century, Switzerland is again becoming a destination for dialogue on difficult issues, he said. “Discussions on Syria, Libya and Yemen were held in Geneva. A lot of the Iran talks were held in Geneva.” Ambassador Heckner said Switzerland is also likely to extend its foreign policy tool to the digital domain.

“You could see Switzerland’s digital foreign policy also as partially a continuation of the use of the instrument of foreign policy, that is neutrality.”

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