Swiss neutrality is a long-standing policy that Switzerland has maintained for centuries. It means that Switzerland does not participate militarily in armed conflicts between other states. Swiss neutrality is self-chosen, permanent and armed and it has always been understood as an instrument of Swiss foreign and security policy. The content and scope of Swiss neutrality, on the other hand, have changed again and again in the course of history.
Switzerland's policy of neutrality can be traced back to the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, which ended the Thirty Years' War. The treaty recognized Switzerland as an independent nation and established its neutrality, ensuring that it would not take part in future conflicts. Switzerland's location in the heart of Europe, surrounded by powerful neighboring countries, has played a significant role in its decision to maintain neutrality. By remaining neutral, Switzerland aims to avoid becoming entangled in conflicts between other nations.
The principle of neutrality is enshrined in the Swiss Federal Constitution. Article 2 of the Swiss Constitution states that Switzerland "shall pursue a policy of peace and non-intervention." This commitment to neutrality provides a legal framework for the country's foreign policy. Switzerland maintains a strong defense force but does not participate in military alliances. Instead, it relies on a policy of armed neutrality, which means it maintains a capable military to defend its territory and deter potential aggressors, but does not engage in offensive military actions or join international military alliances.
Switzerland has a longstanding tradition of humanitarian efforts and has played a significant role in providing humanitarian aid, mediating conflicts, and hosting international negotiations and organizations, such as the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and various diplomatic initiatives. The country has maintained neutrality during major international conflicts, including both World Wars. It has served as a place of refuge for individuals fleeing from conflict and has acted as a mediator and host for diplomatic negotiations.
Swiss neutrality has helped the country maintain stability and avoid direct involvement in conflicts. However, it's important to note that neutrality does not mean isolationism. Switzerland actively participates in international organizations and plays a significant role in global diplomacy, particularly in mediation and humanitarian efforts.
The principle of neutrality enjoys a high level of approval among the population. As of 2021, 96 per cent of citizens were in favour of maintaining neutrality in principle. At the same time, the proportion of those who would like to see "differential neutrality", i.e. a clearer position in political but non-military conflicts, rose significantly from 49 per cent in 2019 to 57 per cent in 2021.