Despite tensions with Serbia, a withdrawal of the Swisscoy soldiers is currently not an issue
Do the Swiss have to defend Kosovo now?
The tense situation on the border with Serbia could become dangerous for the Swiss soldiers in Kosovo. A withdrawal is currently not an issue. What would their task be if the Serbs invaded the country?
Training for emergencies: During an exercise, members of the Swiss army cleared a roadblock in Kosovo.
Guido Fieldsforeign editor
Tensions are high between Serbia and Kosovo. After Serbia put the army on alert, Kosovo closed a third border crossing – the largest – at Podujevo. The 195 Swiss army members of Swisscoy, which supports the NATO-led security force KFOR in Kosovo, are also affected by the conflict.
Daniel Seckler (33), media spokesman at Swissint, the Swiss Army’s center of excellence for military peacebuilding, calms things down for the time being. He told Blick: “The recent events in northern Kosovo show that the situation in this part of the country is fragile and currently tense. Despite this, the situation in Kosovo can generally be regarded as calm and stable in most parts of the country, also thanks to the deployment of KFOR.”
Weapons for self-defense only
The Swiss soldiers are armed with pistols or assault rifles and irritant sprayers for self-defence. If the situation escalated and Serbia invaded Kosovo, it would not be up to the Swiss to defend Kosovo. Seckler: “Armed intervention elements are provided by other troop-contributing nations.”
Swisscoy is only responsible for “ensuring a safe and stable environment and ensuring freedom of movement” in Kosovo. A return of the Swiss is currently not an issue. Seckler: “It would still be possible in principle at any time for Switzerland to withdraw the members of Swisscoy.”
In use for 20 years
Swisscoy has been working in Kosovo for 20 years. The deployment of a soldier – currently 16 percent are women – lasts six months. In 2020, Parliament approved an extension of the mandate until the end of 2023.
The Swisscoy members are trained at the Swissint competence center in Stans-Oberdorf NW. This also includes training on the current situation in the operational area and how to proceed in the event of political or ethnic tensions. Seckler: “The members of Swisscoy therefore have the necessary knowledge to be able to carry out their orders and to assess and reduce risks even if the situation worsens.”
Seckler emphasizes: “The security of the soldiers has the highest priority and takes precedence over operational needs.”