Ukraine: Swiss Federal Council takes decision on various war materiel transactions

On June 3, 2022, the Swiss Federal Council took a decision on the matter of allowing Swiss war materiel to be transferred by third countries to Ukraine, and on the export of war materiel supplies in the form of individual parts and assembly packages to European defence companies. Based on the export criteria described in the War Materiel Act and the principle of equal treatment under the law of neutrality, Switzerland cannot approve requests to transfer Swiss-produced war materiel to Ukraine. However, deliveries of war materiel supplies in the form of individual parts or assembly packages can still be made to European defence companies, even if these parts or packages will be used to produce war materiel abroad that could later be transferred to Ukraine.

Switzerland has received requests from Germany and Denmark to transfer war materiel to Ukraine. The request made by Germany concerns approx. 12,400 rounds of 35mm ammunition produced by Switzerland for GEPARD self-propelled anti-aircraft guns and for Piranha III wheeled APCs that were originally procured by Denmark and which have been stored in Germany since they were decommissioned. The request made by Denmark concerns 22 Swiss-made Piranha III wheeled APCs.

Under the War Materiel Act, requests to export war materiel cannot be approved if the recipient country is involved in an international armed conflict. Russia and Ukraine are involved in such a conflict. Given that exports of such goods from Switzerland to Ukraine cannot be approved due to the law of neutrality’s principle of equal treatment and the provisions of the War Materiel Act, it follows that it is not possible to approve the transfer of Swiss war materiel by Germany and Denmark to Ukraine.

Exports of war materiel supplies to European defence companies remain possible

The Federal Council also decided on two requests by Swiss companies to export war materiel supplies in the form of individual parts and assembly packages to defence companies in Germany and Italy. One of the requests concerns components for hand-held anti-tank weapons, the other for anti-aircraft weapons components. With both requests there is a risk that some of the components could be incorporated into war materiel abroad that could then be passed on to Ukraine. The War Materiel Act allows Swiss companies to participate in international value chains of the defence industry. It has generally been the Federal Council’s practice to approve the export of individual parts and assembly packages if their share in the end product’s value remains below a certain threshold (less than 50% in the case of Italy or Germany).

The Federal Council has decided to continue this practice. Exports of this kind are compatible with the law of neutrality.

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