Minister cautions against civic duty plans

Elected to the government in 2018, Amherd became the first female Swiss defence minister. © Keystone/Peter Schneider

Defence Minister Viola Amherd has expressed reservations about a proposed mandatory community service for women and men in Switzerland.

This content was published on May 3, 2021 - 11:05

Amherd said she liked the idea, which was relaunched by interest groups.

“I’ve learned that young people are willing to commit themselves to do a community service,” she said in an interview with the Neue Zürcher Zeitung newspaper published on Monday. “Why should we not use the potential?”

But she pointed out practical issues that may stand in the way of a civic duty mandate.

“We have to examine the proposal carefully. What implications would it have for the business community if even more people temporarily are away from the workplace? What kind of work would the service cover? Such a service must not compete with the private industry.”

The aim of the civic duty is to benefit the community and the environment and could include care work.

Currently, military conscription applies only to Swiss men, but women can serve on a voluntary basis under the country’s militia army system.

Asked whether it was realistic for the armed forces to have at least 10% women members, Amherd said: “Let’s see.”

She said a mandatory military service for women was not her “favourite option”.

Fighter jets

Amherd also pledged to make the purchase of fighter jets for the Swiss air force transparent. She said the defence ministry would publish a report about the recommendation of an expert group.

She dismissed proposals to link the fighter jet acquisition to other political issues, notably Switzerland’s relations with the European Union.

“However, the government will also consider political aspects, if the costs and benefits ratio is similar for the different types of aircraft.”

Two offers from United States companies as well as an offer each by neighbouring France and Germany are currently being evaluated. The aircraft are expected to replace Switzerland’s fleet of F-5 Tigers and F/A-18 jets by 2030.

Last September, Swiss voters narrowly approved a CHF6 billion ($6.2 billion) credit package in a nationwide ballot. The purchase is linked to a compensatory system benefitting the Swiss export industry.

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