Status: 27/09/2023, 15:57 p.m.
By: Nail Akkoyun
Switzerland sells 25 Leopard tanks back to Germany. It is a decision that calls into question the country's policy of neutrality.
Berne/Berlin – The Swiss parliament has approved the retirement of 25 Leopard 2 tanks for resale to the German manufacturer. After the National Council, the representatives of the cantons in the Council of States also accepted the step. The tanks are intended to replenish stocks in EU or NATO countries that have been thinned out by supplies to Ukraine.
The Swiss government supports the resale. However, it has yet to decide on the actual resale and its timing. Proponents of the buyback in parliament argued that the move was in the interest of Swiss foreign and security policy.
Germany is "happy and grateful for this decision," said the German ambassador to Switzerland, Michael Flügger. "We need these tanks," he told broadcaster SRF.
Reference to Swiss neutrality policy: "Sale would be a kind of ring deal"
However, Flügger criticized the Swiss ban on the transfer of Swiss armaments to Ukraine. In February, the German government asked Switzerland to sell the decommissioned tanks back to the German armaments company Rheinmetall. Federal Economics Minister Robert Habeck (Greens) and Defense Minister Boris Pistorius (SPD) assured that the tanks would not be passed on to Ukraine.
A self-propelled howitzer 2000 and a Leopard 2 tank are in service during a NATO exercise "Griffin Storm" in June 2023. Switzerland is now sending 25 "Leos" back to the manufacturer in Germany. © Kay Nietfeld/dpa
The Council of States, the small chamber of the Swiss parliament, made the decision with 25 votes to 15 and three abstentions. The right-wing SVP rejected the project unanimously. Switzerland has too few tanks and is currently unable to procure new equipment quickly, said SVP MP Werner Salzmann. "Such a sale would be a kind of ring deal in which we prefer a war party," the politician said, adding that it would "violate the principle of neutrality." In addition, Switzerland itself needs powerful tank units to fend off attackers.
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Citing Switzerland's neutrality, the government in Bern had rejected in June 2023 a request from the Swiss arms company Ruag to sell 96 stored Leopard 1 tanks to Germany so that they could be repaired there and delivered to Ukraine. The Swiss Federal Council rejected the application because it was in conflict with the War Material Act and the country's existing policy of neutrality. Switzerland has also already rejected a request to supply the urgently needed ammunition for the Gepard anti-aircraft tank.
Germany regrets this and hopes for an adjustment of the neutrality law, said Ambassador Flügger. Otherwise, it will be "difficult or impossible" to continue to purchase weapons or ammunition in Switzerland.
After the approval in parliament regarding the Leopard buyback, the Swiss Federal Council, the highest government authority, still has to give its approval as the final instance. (nak/dpa)