Switzerland has become a synonym for neutrality. Their positioning in the two World Wars is the most famous occasion in which Switzerland’s neutrality gained global popularity. But these are not even close to being the first historical evidence of Switzerland acting as a neutral place. There are multiple historical events that led to Switzerland adopting the neutrality policy. Let’s get to it step by step.
Now a Bit History…
The Swiss are as eager about not mingling with other nations’ business as they are about other nations not mingling in their own. As a matter of fact, the very foundation of the country that today is known as the Swiss Confederation is rooted in its people’s unity to fight foreign rule.
In 1291, three cantons united to fight the foreign rule of the Habsburg dynasty. This event marked the birth of the Confoederatio Helvetica. This is also the origin of CH as an international acronym for Switzerland, officially adopted by Switzerland in 1848, with the introduction of the country’s new constitution.
The people that inhabited the lands of Switzerland were a warrior Celtic race. This country came to be known for its warrior spirit as the use of Swiss mercenaries became wildly popular across Europe. Today, the country is a symbol of financial stability, high living standards, and an international influence deceptively bigger than what its size and population show.
Switzerland’s neutrality was not born by a single event at a certain point in history. Rather, it is a slowly evolving attitude that the country and its people have taken toward the rest of the world since their inception in the 13th century. Nevertheless, there are certain events in history that serve as highlights of Swiss neutrality.
The first key historical event in this regard is the battle of Marignano in 1515. After a devastating defeat from the French, Switzerland signed a peace treaty in which they swore to never take up arms against the French. The other series of historical events that strengthened Swiss neutrality was the Peace of Westphalia, in which Switzerland declared its formal independence from the Holy Roman Empire.
When Did Switzerland Declare Neutrality?
We mentioned before that around two hundred years ago, Switzerland was acknowledged as a neutral state in the Treaty of Paris. But it wasn’t until this day, Feb. 13, in 1920, that the League of Nations formally recognized its neutrality. Since then, neutrality has been recognized as an international right of a country that ought to be respected by all countries.
Has Switzerland Ever Been Invaded?
Most people think that the main reason countries cannot establish neutrality is the possibility of an invasion. This begs the question, “Has Switzerland ever been invaded?”. The answer to that is a firm ‘yes.’
Despite signing several peace treaties with the French, Switzerland fell at the hands of the French Emperor Napoleon, who did not hesitate to march into Switzerland and invade it in 1798 during his army’s expansionist campaign. The events during the Napoleonic Era led to a period of the Swiss temporarily abandoning their neutral policy, with Switzerland becoming a Satellite state of Napoleon. Nevertheless, the invasion did not make the Swiss people abandon their commitment to neutrality. The Treaties in Paris in 1815 cemented Switzerland’s neutrality and made it recognized by all major European powers.
Was Switzerland Neutral in WW1?
Yes, Switzerland was neutral during WW1. Does this mean the country was completely oblivious to the events surrounding itself during the time? No. Switzerland was inevitably affected by the events of WW1. The country did mobilize its army in case they needed to take retaliatory action as a result of a potential direct attack on Swiss territory. They also engaged in receiving refugees during and after the war. Nevertheless, Switzerland never engaged in any type of military action, nor did they take any sides before, during, or after the war.
Why Was Switzerland Neutral in WW2?
World War 2 is the most devastating event in recent human history and one of the darkest points of human civilization. This horrendous event affected human civilization on a global level, but some parts were affected more than others. Europe was at the heart of WW2, and Switzerland was at the heart of Europe. Despite being surrounded by devastating battles and wars from all sides of its border, Switzerland nevertheless managed to maintain its neutrality during WW2.
But why was Switzerland neutral in WW2? Even though the country was mostly surrounded by the Axis powers for the most part of the war, it did continue to trade with Nazi Germany, a decision that later would spark a lot of controversies. This is one of the main reasons why Switzerland did not take sides and maintained its neutral and retaliatory policies.
Why Is Switzerland a Neutral Country?
Besides all of the historical and military factors that have contributed to Switzerland’s neutrality policy, the main reason as to why Switzerland is a neutral country can be said to be the voluntary and democratically established will of the Swiss people to maintain this policy. They have found this approach to be a key factor to maintain the country’s peace, prosperity, and stability, which is what the country is famous for worldwide.
Thus the policy has become a unifying opinion, with no public dispute ever happening among the Swiss people.
Switzerland as a Mediator
Neutrality is one of the main characteristics of a good mediator. This is one of the key principles of modern diplomacy.
The fact that Switzerland is a neutral country and is not part of any military alliances allows Swiss diplomats and organizations to act as mediators to resolve conflicts between countries, represent interests of a certain country in other countries with which they don’t have diplomatic relations, and aid in resolving humanitarian crises.
There are several examples of how Switzerland and its people act as a mediator between parties that are in some sort of with each other or have no established diplomatic relations. Swiss diplomats represent the interests of countries such as Iran and Cuba in the United States of America and vice versa, and the Swiss Red Cross aids in humanitarian crises around the world.
The historical events that contributed to Switzerland’s neutrality may be able to give us an answer as to how Switzerland was able to establish its neutrality during history, but the results of maintaining this policy can only be truly understood by visiting all the beautiful old towns, castles and cities in Switzerland, which have remained untouched through times, while many other European counterparts have been devastated by different wars.
Neutrality for Switzerland has been the result of the country’s vast experience with war, peace, and neighborly relations. It has been a fruit of the Swiss people’s wisdom, which returned many benefits and ensured the blooming and formation of the great country that it is today.