Popular initiative to stop Swiss public money funding weapon makers will go to a vote

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Popular initiative to stop Swiss public money funding weapon makers will go to a vote
RUAG, Switzerland's state arms producer, is being investigated by the attorney general's office. File photo: Mehdi Fedouach/AFP.

A campaign to prohibit investment by Swiss public funds in the global weapons industry has collected over 104,000 signatures to force a vote.


The popular initiative, led by the Switzerland Group Without an Army (GSSA), is calling for a ban on "the financing of producers of war material by the Swiss National Bank, by foundations, as well as by public pension and occupational benefits institutions." 

While weapons used for hunting and recreational sports would be excluded, the proposal defines "producers of war material" as any company, in Switzerland or abroad, as one that generates at least 5 per cent of its annual revenue from the production of weapons. 

The popular initiative will now go to a vote. Should it succeed, a moratorium would begin on all new investments in weapons companies worldwide while all existing contracts would have to be terminated within four years. 

The Swiss government has confirmed the legitimacy of the initiative's signatures but has not yet set a date for a vote. 

READ ALSO: How Switzerland's direct democracy system works

The popular initiative gathered momentum after the Swiss Federal Council authorized the export of weapons – under specific conditions – to country's caught in a domestic armed  conflict (reportedly Turkey and Saudi Arabia) on June 15th, 2018.

While the law calls for weapons not to be sold to governments that would explicitly use them to fuel a civil war in a country, it nevertheless states that "it will now be possible to grant an export authorization if there is no reason to believe that the war material to be exported will be used in an internal armed conflict."

The Federal Council argued that it is a necessary motion to defend the Swiss weapons industry in an increasingly globalized and competitive sector. 

READ ALSO: The female politicians taking on the Swiss arms industry

"The transfer of war material...plays a key role in the preservation of the industrial base adapted to the country's security," reads a June 2018 statement by the Federal Council.

The Swiss armaments industry has been lobbying for the government to relax export conditions because the "economic situation of the branch was so tense as to endanger the technological and industrial base" of "the country's security."

The office of Switzerland's attorney general (OAG) filed criminal proceedings in March this year against Switzerland's state arms producer RUAG for allegedly making covert arms deals with branches of the Russian state. 

READ MORE: Swiss open criminal probe into state arms maker over Russia deals






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