Federal Council decides on next steps for the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons

Bern, 03.04.2019 - The Federal Council supports disarmament and, in particular, nuclear disarmament. It has decided to pursue, by resorting to external expertise, its analysis on whether Switzerland should join the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and will review the situation before the end of 2020. It will use this reflection period to assess recent international and security developments.

Due consideration must be given to key developments such as the recent withdrawal by the United States and the Russian Federation from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF). This approach will allow to update the June 2018 report by the interdepartmental working group (FDFA, DDPS, EAER and DETEC) on the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) which provided the basis for the Federal Council’s decision in August 2018.

The Federal Council reached this decision on 3 April 2019, when it reviewed the TPNW in light of current foreign policy and security developments, as well as the Federal Assembly's adoption of a motion calling for the rapid signature and ratification of the treaty.

Although the Federal Council has determined that Switzerland should not join the treaty at this stage, it however decided, given the parliament’s decision, to speed up the re-evaluation process. The situation will be reviewed by the end of 2020 instead of 2025.
Switzerland remains committed to nuclear disarmament, and that is irrespective of its stance towards the TPNW. It shares the vision of a world free of nuclear weapons and aims to act as a bridge-builder, working with all countries on practical ways to achieve this objective. The Federal Council also reaffirms Switzerland's position that it is difficult to imagine how the use of nuclear weapons could be consistent with the requirements of international law and, in particular, international humanitarian law.

The UN negotiated the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in 2017. Switzerland thinks it regrettable that the nuclear weapon states and the majority of their allies were not involved in the process, while that has weakened the treaty. The TPNW was adopted by 122 votes, with one member state opposed and another abstaining. Switzerland voted in favour of adopting the treaty at the UN, subsequently providing an explanation of vote that referred to a number of unresolved issues. The TPNW creates for the first time a comprehensive and explicit prohibition of nuclear weapons inspired by international humanitarian law. It prohibits the use, threat of use, manufacture, stockpiling, acquisition, possession, deployment, transfer and testing of nuclear weapons. It also precludes assistance in activities prohibited by the treaty.  The TPNW has been ratified by 22 countries to date. European countries are underrepresented and the neutral states have not been able to adopt a common position. The TPNW will enter into force once it has been ratified by 50 countries.

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