21st Mar 2018

Swiss army prepares for euro unrest

  • Protester in Spain: Swiss officials are wary of spreading violence due to the euro-crisis (Photo: Fotomovimiento)

The Swiss army is preparing for possible internal civil unrest as well as waves of refugees from euro-countries as the economic crisis drags on.

Switzerland, a non-EU, non-euro country landlocked between eurozone states, last month launched a military exercise to test its preparedness to deal with refugees and civil unrest.

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“It's not excluded that the consequences of the financial crisis in Switzerland can lead to protests and violence,” a spokesperson of the Swiss defence ministry told CNBC on Monday. “The army must be ready when the police in such cases requests for subsidiary help.”

Some 2,000 officers took part in the "Stabilo Due" military exercise in eight towns around the country, based on a risk map detailing the threat of internal unrest between warring factions and the possibility of refugees from Greece, Spain, France, Italy and Portugal, according to Swiss media reports.

Swiss defence minister Uli Maurer recently told Schweizer Soldat magazine that there may be an escalation of violence in Europe. "I can’t exclude that in the coming years we may need the army," he said.

Der Sonntag newspaper reported that army chief Andre Blattmann intends to table a proposal for the potential deployment of 1,600 troops to guard airports, industrial plants and international headquarters in Geneva.

An online campaign against Switzerland's mandatory military service (GSoA) meanwhile is arguing that the army is in an "existential crisis" and is looking for a new reason to exist. "It is time to show a red card to the military heads and to lift mandatory service," the campaign group writes.

A referendum could be called next year to decide whether to keep or scrap conscription to the 200,000-strong army, the highest concentration of military men in a European country in relation to the overall population.

The Swiss military plans come as protests against austerity measure in Greece, Spain and Portugal have turned violent in recent weeks.

The Portuguese government on Monday unveiled the harshest budget in decades, with an income tax hike by almost four percent and massive lay-offs in the public sector in order to meet EU targets for deficit and debt.

"Asking for more time would lead us to a dictatorship of debt and to failure," Portuguese finance minister Vitor Gaspar said as about 2,000 protesters gathered in front of the parliament and a general strike was called for 14 November.

In Greece, an unprecedented 7,000 policemen were deployed last week to keep German Chancellor Angela Merkel safe from stone-hurling Greeks. Meanwhile a few days after, Coca-Cola, the main foreign investor in Greece, announced it would leave the country and move to Switzerland.

Merkel in Paris for eurozone reform talks

Angela Merkel - who started her fourth term as Germany's chancellor earlier this week - is wasting no time on big issues like eurozone reforms. On Friday she is meeting Emmanuel Macron where the two will seek common ground.

EU insists on US tariffs exemption

Europe is "an ally, not a threat", the EU Commission says - as the US is poised to impose duties in steel and aluminium. Common action on Chinese steel overcapacity could help diffuse the crisis.

VW dismisses complaints on Dieselgate fix

'I think customers who want to get information (...) are able to receive information if they want," VW management board member Hiltrud Werner told EUobserver. Consumer groups disagree.

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