The Federal Council is setting a snappy pace. The government wants to sign the purchase contract for the procurement of 36 F-35 fighter jets as soon as possible. Although the offer from the US manufacturer Lockheed Martin is still valid until March 2023, the state government made its decision in principle this week.
And the bourgeois parliamentarians are standing by their guns: the Council of States will agree to a speedy conclusion of the deal in June, and the National Council will very likely follow suit in the autumn. Then the deal is fixed. SVP National Councilor Mauro Tuena (50, ZH), President of the Security Policy Commission (SIK) of the National Council, states: “With the final vote in the National Council, Parliament gave Viola Amherd the green light on the morning of September 30th, the purchase contract on the same day to sign.”
A power play in the spirit of the defense minister: Amherd is about to dry up the most important armaments deal of this generation. There is nothing more that can be achieved in this office.
In view of the Russian invasion of Ukraine and accelerated global armament, the center-Federal Councilor does not want to wait for a second referendum on the subject. Yet it seems inevitable. Officially, the group for a Switzerland without an army (GSoA) has 88,000 of the 100,000 signatures required. In fact, the number is likely to be much higher. Collection campaigns are planned in Bern and Zurich next week.
The initiative will be submitted in the summer months, announced GSoA secretary Anja Gada. “During our campaigns, we notice that many people have little to do with the rampant armament hysteria, so our collection is now running correspondingly quickly.”
GSoA secretary Gada sharply criticizes the forced march of the commoners, Amherd accuses her of breach of word: “In February, the Federal Councilor assured that she would wait for the vote on our initiative. Then the war broke out, which was instrumentalized from day one to further rearmament. »
The GSoA can continue to count on the support of the SP, as security politician Franziska Roth (56) makes clear. “The SP is sticking to its support for the initiative, that’s for sure,” said the Solothurn National Councilor.
It won’t be of much use. If parliament supports the Federal Council’s approach – and the majority on this issue is currently so clear that there is no doubt about it – Switzerland is threatened with a bizarre vote: once the planes have been ordered, even a no at the ballot box cannot result in extradition stop more. A democratic zero number.
However, the people basically said yes to the purchase of new jets in autumn 2020 – albeit very narrowly. That’s what the commoners rely on. However, at the time there was no particular type to debate. The selection of the best aircraft should be left to the experts, the proponents said unanimously.
Procurement process is scrutinized
After a lengthy selection process, the choice fell on the F-35. But two control bodies are still examining the procurement process: the National Council’s Business Review Commission (GPK) is in the process of reviewing “selected aspects of the evaluation process for the new combat aircraft”. It is unclear when exactly the responsible sub-commission will present its results. Probably in August, they say in Bern.
The schedule is not communicated, says Central National Councilor Nicolo Paganini (55, SG), President of the sub-commission. “The decision of the Federal Council does not change anything in our investigation. We are taking a closer look at the aircraft evaluation process and are not making any political judgment as to whether the right type has been selected for procurement.”
That is not what is wanted either: As SVP parliamentarian Mauro Tuena emphasizes, the security politicians of the National Council are already discussing the purchase of the F-35 at the beginning of July in order to prepare business for the autumn session. Tuena makes it clear: “It would be nice if the sub-commission of the GPK presented its results by then. But they are not binding for the SiK.”
Report in July or August
The Swiss Federal Audit Office (SFAO) will present its work before the GPK. The independent officials have also been struggling with the procurement process for the fighter jets for months. Now they are about to complete their report. When asked by SonntagsBlick, SFAO Director Michel Huissoud confirmed that the report would be presented to Parliament’s finance delegation at the beginning of July. After translation work, the publication of the text is planned for July or August, but this date has not yet been set.
It is unclear whether the GPK and SFAO actually complain about omissions in the procurement process. In the case of the SFAO, waiting a few weeks would have been enough to give the Federal Council clarity on this issue. Even then, the deadline set by the American manufacturers could have been met. But Federal Councilor Amherd, her colleagues in the state government and a large majority in parliament seem to have run out of patience. The maneuver is politically favorable anyway.
SP National Councilor Roth warns against simply ignoring the control bodies SFAO and GPK. In terms of democratic politics, this is something like “driving through the intersection at red and claiming in the event of an accident that the traffic light was intended as a recommendation”. Her party is resolutely opposed to this.
Decisive – but almost certainly in vain.