Switzerland has a very clear role to play on the international front. But this means playing intelligently and in a manner that exemplifies what Switzerland does best – mediation. As Pamela Taylor’s story notes, Didier Burkhalter may be on the right track with his dual role as President of the Confederation and Chair of the OSCE. While the Swiss grapple whether to buy 22 Swedish Gripen fighter planes, possibly to avoid further embarrassment due to not being able to scramble before 8am, the real issues at hand are Ukraine, Syria and Afghanistan. And Europe.
With Ukraine, clear-minded mediation through the OSCE or the UN in Geneva is crucial. With the annexation of Crimea a done deal, the question now is how to implement the face-saving needed to avoid the risk of war. This is where Switzerland can play a role. As for Syria, while the Geneva talks failed to bring any relief, they did bring the players together in the same room. This alone is an achievement even with the need for more Geneva meetings.
Afghanistan is another situation where Switzerland could excel, given that the final withdrawal of most NATO forces may lead to further strife. Switzerland is the only country capable of offering real mediation. But this needs to be coupled with support for effective public information outreach capable of convincing all sides that peace and reconciliation are good. And finally, relations with the EU. This is where Swiss economic pragmatism can work best.