Swisscoy: Federal Council plans to extend deployment and increase contingent numbers

Bern, 27.11.2019 - The Federal Council plans to continue the Swiss Armed Forces deployment as part of the multinational Kosovo Force (KFOR) and increase the maximum numbers of the Swisscoy contingent from 165 to 195 military personnel. This will allow the armed forces to meet KFOR’s additional needs. In recent years the political and security situation in Kosovo and in the Western Balkans has deteriorated, forcing NATO to abandon its aim of reducing the KFOR continent by half. At its meeting on 27 November, the Federal Council approved a related dispatch to Parliament, which must now authorise the armed deployment, as it will last for longer than three weeks and involves more than 100 military personnel.

The deployment of Swisscoy as part of the multinational Kosovo Force (KFOR), currently approved until 31 December 2020, must be extended until 31 December 2023. Under the current mandate and in order to adapt Swisscoy’s capabilities to KFOR’s requirements, the maximum numbers of the contingent were reduced in April 2018 from 235 to 190 and in October 2019 to 165 military personnel. This reduction in numbers was linked to a withdrawal of heavy equipment used for transport and engineering work that KFOR no longer required.

Continuing instability

The after-effects of the conflict are still widely felt in Kosovo, both at a national level and in its relations with Serbia. In recent years, relations between Belgrade and Pristina have deteriorated, which has led to a renewed increase in tensions and to incidents provoked by both sides. Although the risk of a further armed conflict in Kosovo is low, the political and security situation continues to require the presence of KFOR in order to guarantee peace and stability.

Shortfalls in capacity that have recently come to light in KFOR require additional support in the areas of mobility and intelligence gathering and in filling staff officer positions at the KFOR headquarters. These are tasks to which Swisscoy has already made a contribution.

Increase to 195 military personnel from April 2021

In order for the armed forces to meet KFOR’s new needs, the Federal Council plans to increase the maximum number of the contingent from April 2021 from the current 165 to 195 military personnel. In addition and as has been the case so far, in the event of an increased threat the contingent may be strengthened by 20 additional persons for a maximum of four months, and where logistical and maintenance work is required, by up to 50 persons for a maximum of eight months.

The KFOR commitment bears witness to the paramount importance that European states attach to the security challenges that still persist in the region. Because of the close relations between Switzerland and Kosovo, stability in the region is also in Switzerland’s interests. Currently around 500,000 people with south-east European roots live in Switzerland, including more than 200,000 of Kosovar origin. With its participation, Switzerland, which also benefits from the presence of this mission, demonstrates its support for this joint commitment, and proves its solidarity with the people of Kosovo and its KFOR partners. In addition, since their initial deployment in 1999 as part of Swisscoy, the Swiss Armed Forces have learned useful lessons, in particular with regard to the review and improvement of their procedures.

Each year by 31 December, the DDPS submits an interim report to the foreign policy and security policy committees of both chambers of parliament on the Swisscoy deployment.

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Carolina Bohren
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The Federal Council

General Secretariat DDPS