Switzerland: Federal Council decides to join the European Sky Shield Initiative (ESSI)

Source: Swiss Federal Office for Defence Procurement (armasuisse)

By participating in the European Sky Shield Initiative (ESSI), Switzerland is increasing its international cooperation opportunities. At its meeting on 10 April, the Federal Council approved the declaration of accession to the ESSI Cooperative Procurement Framework Memorandum of Understanding (MoU). The focus of the cooperation is on better coordination of procurement projects, training and logistical aspects in the area of ground-based air defence.

 

The ESSI is a German initiative for ground-based air defence (GBAD) in Europe. The initiative was launched in August 2022 and is based on the need to strengthen air defence in Europe and better pool efforts. Eleven countries have now signed the declaration of accession to the MoU.

 

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The purpose of the ESSI is to better coordinate and, if necessary, bundle air defence procurement projects in Europe in order to capitalise on economies of scale in the procurement of systems and improve interoperability between the partner countries. This will also enable cooperation in training, system maintenance and logistics. Switzerland’s participation in the ESSI primarily focuses on better coordination of GBAD procurement projects, training and logistical aspects.

 

Basis for the conclusion of programme agreements

The MoU sets out the general provisions according to which the participating states can implement the projects and programmes for the cooperative procurement of GBAD systems within the framework of the ESSI. It also regulates how participating states can exchange information on the possibilities in other areas of cooperation, such as logistics or military training and exercises. Within the framework of the ESSI, separate programme agreements can be concluded for individual projects and programmes.

Even after signing the declaration of accession, Switzerland is free to decide where and to what extent it participates in the ESSI and which GBAD systems it procures. Joining the ESSI does not constitute a preliminary decision in favour of a specific system. Signing the declaration of accession to the MoU does not create any obligations.

 

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Implementation of the Memorandum of Understanding signed in summer 2023

On 28 June 2023, the Federal Council decided on Switzerland’s participation in the ESSI. As a result, Federal Councillor Viola Amherd, Head of the Department of Defence, Civil Protection and Sport DDPS, signed the letter of intent as well as the supplementary declaration by Switzerland and Austria, at a meeting with her German and Austrian counterparts on 7 July 2023. The MoU is now the implementation of the letter of intent signed in summer 2023.

In the supplementary declaration, Switzerland and Austria set out their reservations under neutrality law, for example to exclude any participation or involvement in international military conflicts.

 

 

In the next step, the Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Committees of the Federal Assembly will be consulted on accession to the MoU. If the Committees do not express any major reservations, the Federal Council will adopt the declaration of accession to the MoU. If the Committees express any major reservations, the DDPS will submit a proposal to the Federal Council on how to proceed.

 

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