«Switzerland’s Security» 2017: the Federal Intelligence Service presents its situation report

Bern, 02.05.2017 - The challenges facing the security authorities are becoming increasingly complex. The number of relevant actors is growing, the security environment is increasingly fragmented and the strategic environment is marked by a European order under extraordinary pressure due to a variety of crisis situations. The annual situation report of the Federal Intelligence Service is intended to support the orientation of security policy.

Europe's crisis situations, which the FIS has been describing in its reports for years, have been intensified by  additional elements since last year's report: the UK's decision to leave the EU, the election of Donald Trump as the President of the USA and the constitutional change in Turkey. This has contributed further to the erosion of old certainties, whose place is being taken by fundamental uncertainty and reduced levels of predictability - the decisions are also shaking the foundations of Europe's security architecture. The European order is under extraordinary pressure, which has consequences for the strategic environment of Switzerland. An armed attack on Switzerland remains unlikely. However, it is undeniable that the European continent is becoming not only more polarised, partly because of the impact of cross-border influence and information operations, but also more heavily militarised.

In many respects, Syria is the epicentre of the crisis situations in the states on the eastern and south-ern Mediterranean coasts. The search for solutions has become even more difficult. The impact of the conflicts, which extend as a complex series of fractures right across the Middle East, reaches deep into the collective psyche of the Arab and Sunni worlds in particular. It also affects Sunnis in Europe. Despite intensified military operations, there is as yet no sign of any resolutions in Syria and in Iraq, still less a political solution. «Islamic State» continues to play a central role in these crises. Jihad-motivated terrorism remains a central element of the worldwide threat situation. In Switzerland, too, the terrorist threat remains heightened. The main threat is from «Islamic State» and individuals and small groups inspired or controlled by it. The threat posed by the al-Qaeda terrorist group remains unchanged.

Turkey is in a state of grave internal and external crisis. The turmoil in Syria and Iraq is perceived as a threat to its key national security interests. The attempted coup in summer 2016 presented a fundamental challenge not only to the stability of Turkish institutions: the President's response and his effective exploitation of broadly based Turkish nationalism injected new tension into relations between Turkey and Europe. The deterioration of Turkey's relationship with the EU in recent years points to the possibility of permanent damage to these relations. Turkey plays a vital role for Europe in containing the refugee flows and the terrorist threat.

Since April 2016, i.e. since the closure of the so-called Balkan route and the conclusion of the agreement between the EU and Turkey, last year's peak in migration movements to Europe has passed, but the pressure remains high. The potential for a crisis to develop remains, and therefore also the possibility that the security aspects of migration will be thrown into sharper relief. This applies firstly to terrorism carried out by perpetrators who reached Europe in this way and secondly to violent extremism. While right-wing extremists in Switzerland have thus far not, as has happened elsewhere in Europe, taken violent action against asylum-seekers or service providers working in the asylum field, left-wing extremists have made migration one of their core issues and have also taken violent action in this regard. This issue is the one most likely to cause an escalation of the generally calm situation as regards violent extremism - the potential for violence remains.

States continue to use espionage to procure information. In Switzerland too, espionage activities will continue - against Switzerland as well as against international organizations and non-governmental organizations based in our country. Sabotage activities in cyberspace are increasingly getting global attention. States which have their own offensive cyber capacities are working hard to develop these. Since the Snowden revelations provided deep insights into the cyber capacities of the USA and its allies in the Five Eyes partnership (USA, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand), the cyberspace activities of Russia-based actors, in particular, have become more aggressive. States without their own offensive tools are increasingly relying on services offered by hacker groups. Inter-state conflicts are also increasingly being waged in cyberspace.

Address for enquiries

Isabelle Graber
Head of Communications FIS
+41 58 462 76 98


Federal Department of Defence, Civil Protection and Sports

Federal intelligence service