Neutral Switzerland and Austria Joining ESSI - European Sky Shield
The defense ministers of Switzerland, Germany, and Austria signed a memorandum of understanding on Friday morning in Bern regarding their participation in the European initiative known as Sky Shield, as announced by the Swiss government.
Austrian Defense Minister Klaudia Tanner and her Swiss counterpart Viola Amherd have joined the "European Sky Shield," making Austria and Switzerland part of the Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) system initiated by Germany. Neither country sees this move as a violation of their neutrality. According to polls, the majority of Austrians and Swiss support this step.
The European missile defense shield aims to combat drones, ballistic missiles, and manned aircraft, according to Kronen Zeitung.
Over the next few months, the signatories of the memorandum will work together on the procurement of modern weapon systems, exchange confidential data on the air situation, and conduct training for personnel.
"This document is not legally binding," stated Austrian Defense Minister Klaudia Tanner (ÖVP) during the summit, according to Kronen Zeitung. "But politically, it is," emphasizing the summit's motto.
Austria and Switzerland, both of which hold neutral status, "have laid out their neutrality conditions in an additional declaration." The signing of the memorandum means that Austria and Switzerland are joining the 17 European states already participating in ESSI.
In contrast to Austria, Switzerland has sent a demining device to Ukraine. Austria declined Ukraine's request for the same, citing its neutrality and only participating financially in demining efforts.
In 2022, Germany launched the ESSI initiative, aimed at creating a unified European missile defense and air defense system, as well as facilitating joint procurement of BMD and BPD systems. This initiative gained more significance after Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
It is believed that this initiative will stimulate investments in local defense system manufacturers. However, despite expectations from French industry players, Germany stated its preference for its domestically produced medium-range Iris-T missiles, American long-range Patriot missiles, and long-range Israeli Arrow 3 missiles.
The European Sky Shield initiative, led by Germany, has been supported by 17 European countries, but Italy, Poland, and France have declined participation.