Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Anyone for a Swiss roll downed with Swiss diplomacy and Nestlé coffee?

The dust seems to have settled over Nestlé Zimbabwe's annual purchase of a million litres of milk from Grace Mugabe's dairy farms. Under threats of a massive boycott of their products internationally, Nestlé says that it will no longer purchase that milk and that the government owned Dairiboard will resume the function of chief customer. I can hear the sceptics already brewing theories of Dairiboard being a front and that the milk will still end up in Nestlé's tanks. That is a debate for another day.

Today let us debate on how realistic and practical the idea of Swiss neutrality is. Since the 16th Century, history tells us that to maintain peace with larger, more powerful neighbours as well as to preserve the delicate unity of its mixed ethnic groups, Switzerland has opted to be a neutral state. This policy entails non-intervention militarily, economically and politically in the affairs of other countries and not joining alliances that seek such intervention. That explains Switzerland's late entry as a UN member (2002) and her not being an EU member. It is the reason why Switzerland today is home to FIFA, the Red Cross, the WHO and other neutral international agencies.

I am of the opinion that as surely as your Swiss Rolex will strike twelve at midnight, our Swiss brothers hide behind non alliance and neutrality to justify going against the diplomatic grain and not get any flack for it.

Although neutrality ensured that Switzerland was not attacked in any of the world wars, she is known to have tried to influence a German-Russian truce during World War I and joining the League of Nations in 1920, compromised her neutrality. In World War II, this "neutral" nation had secret dealings with both the allies and the axis powers under Germany. Assets looted from Holocaust victims by Nazis were stashed away in Switzerland and Hitler was supplied with Swiss made war equipment.

It is a well known fact that Swiss banks are money laundering havens for criminals and politicians out to stash their loot acquired through stealing from public resources and trafficking in illegal goods. The strict Swiss banking code of secrecy makes it extremely difficult to track down these looters.

At the end of the day, the Swiss government has let Nestlé off the hook. They are not EU members and so are not bound to enforce EU sanctions on the Zim first lady. Were it not for the fear of a boycott, the deal would still be legally on. Switzerland's own targeted sanctions are enforcable only by Swiss companies in Switzerland, not externally based subsidiaries like Nestlé Zim. Ironically, Swiss soldiers now take part as fully armed members of international UN peace keeping missions.

So that is Swiss diplomacy for you. Neutrality has been vital in securing peace and stability for this small jewel of Europe, but on the flip side it has been a clever way of enriching the Swiss economy. The neutrality song will always ensure that they are allowed to see no evil where the rest of the globe does. More coffee?

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