Switzerland is playing host this week to an annual symposium between NATO and its partner states at the Maison de la Paix in Geneva – the first country outside the Western military alliance to do so.
The gathering, from Monday 11 to Wednesday 13 July, comes at a time of extreme geopolitical tensions fuelled by the war in Ukraine, and just weeks after NATO’s Madrid summit when the allies agreed to formally treat Russia as the “most significant and direct threat to the allies’ security”.
NATO is also preparing to bolster its alliance with new members, Finland and Sweden, which are both abandoning a long history of wartime neutrality, in a huge shift in the European security landscape.
But what about neutral Switzerland and its role in the hosting of this major security symposium?
According to a press statement released by the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs on Tuesday, Switzerland is organising the Partnerships 360 Symposium, “owing to its long-standing commitment to peace, security and dialogue, its involvement in Partnership for Peace, and the pivotal role of International Geneva”.
A Bern spokesperson told Le Temps that the decision to host the third edition of the symposium in Switzerland “was made a long time ago”, before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and was originally due to be held during the pandemic.
Around 250 civilian and military representatives from NATO member and partner states are attending, including Swiss secretary of state Livia Leu and Mircea Geoană, NATO deputy secretary general.
The purpose “is to facilitate dialogue on the future evolution of NATO's partnerships policy”, the FDFA said in its statement, which was published a day after the meeting had already kicked off.
Switzerland’s relationship with NATO dates back to 1996 through its Partnerships for Peace (PfP), which gives Switzerland “a framework for dialogue on security policy issues with NATO, the member countries and other partner nations”, the FDFA said.
The event “will also serve to highlight Switzerland’s contribution to the PfP and promote international Geneva,” it added.