Federal Councillor Amherd signs memoranda of understanding to increase international cooperation

Bern, 07.07.2023 - Federal Councillor Amherd, head of the DDPS, is hosting this year's D-A-CH meeting, for which Austria and Germany's ministers of defence, Klaudia Tanner and Boris Pistorius, have travelled to Bern. The main topics were the security situation in Europe, the effects of the war in Ukraine, trilateral cooperation and military peacebuilding. The three ministers of defence signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on their participation in the European Sky Shields Initiative (ESSI), which deals with procurement, and an agreement to promote research cooperation in the field of armaments. Ms Amherd and Mr Pistorius also expressed their intention to cooperate bilaterally in the area of strategic air transport.

At the D-A-CH talks, Federal Councillor Viola Amherd and the Austrian and German defence ministers, Klaudia Tanner and Boris Pistorius, exchanged views on the security implications of Russia's attack on Ukraine and ways to support Ukraine. The three countries' military contributions to promote peace and stability in the Western Balkans and Africa were also discussed. In this context, the ministers discussed the impact of the withdrawal of the UN’s MINUSMA mission from Mali on the security situation, and international efforts to promote peace and stability in the region.

The meeting also aimed to strengthen security cooperation between the three countries. To this end, memoranda of understanding on international cooperation were signed. In its September 2022 supplementary report to the Security Policy Report, the Federal Council concluded that it is in Switzerland's interest to gear its security and defence policy more consistently towards international cooperation, and to increase its contributions.

International synergies in ground-based air defence systems

The European Sky Shield Initiative (ESSI) is a German initiative for ground-based air defence (GBAD) in Europe. The initiative was launched in August 2022 and addresses the need to strengthen air defence in Europe and better focus efforts in this area. ESSI aims to better coordinate and, where appropriate, pool air defence procurement projects in Europe. This will make it possible to exploit economies of scale, improve interoperability, and therefore enable cooperation in training, maintenance and logistics. The focus is thus on economic considerations and the benefits of a coordinated approach at European level.

Each participating country controls the extent of its participation. As part of this MoU, Switzerland will now examine in which areas it will strengthen cooperation; e.g. to improve synergies in the Patriot GBAD system through the exchange of information or cooperation in operations and training. This can also lead to cost savings.

It is possible for neutral states to participate in many areas. Switzerland and Austria have set out their terms regarding neutrality in an additional declaration, stating, for example, that they will not participate or be involved in international military conflicts. With the signing of the MoU, Switzerland and Austria are joining the 17 European states already participating in ESSI.

Promoting research cooperation in the defence sector

Switzerland, Germany and Austria have also signed an agreement to work together more closely in military research and development. By ramping up its cooperation with the German and Austrian authorities, Switzerland will be contributing its expertise and exchanging experiences and technological skills that will help in the evaluation of future military systems, for example in the fields of sustainable energy and robotics.

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