The UN General Assembly negotiated the TPNW in 2017. All states possessing nuclear weapons and the majority of countries allied with nuclear weapon states stayed away from the negotiations. The treaty was adopted by 122 votes, with the Netherlands opposed and Singapore abstaining. Switzerland voted to adopt the treaty at the UN, but supplemented its Yes vote with an explanation of vote noting numerous open questions.
The TPNW creates for the first time a comprehensive and explicit prohibition of nuclear weapons inspired by international humanitarian law. It prohibits the use, threat of use, manufacture, stockpiling, acquisition, possession, deployment, transfer and testing of nuclear weapons. It also prohibits the assistance in prohibited activities. The TPNW will enter into force after it has been ratified by 50 countries.
After the negotiations were concluded, an interdepartmental working group headed by the FDFA examined the TPNW and its possible consequences and presented a joint assessment in a report issued on 30 June 2018. The working group concluded that from today's perspective, the arguments against joining the TPNW outweighed the potential opportunities of joining.
The Federal Council took note of this report at its meeting on 15 August. Based on the working group's conclusion, it decided not to sign the TPNW at this juncture. The Federal Council took into consideration the fact that there are humanitarian, international law and peace policy considerations in favour of an accession by Switzerland to the TPNW. It is the Federal Council's opinion, however, that in the current international context, the TPNW entails risks in terms of both the continued advancement of disarmament diplomacy and Switzerland's security policy interests. Furthermore, the TPNW contains a number of provisions whose interpretation and implications can only be tentatively gauged at the current time.
The Federal Council also decided that Switzerland would participate as an observer in the conferences of states parties (during the first five-year review cycle). The Federal Council has thereby established the conditions to closely monitor further developments and remain committed in this matter. In this regard, the Federal Council instructed the FDFA to report to it, as part of the preparations for the first review conference and no later than 2025, on further developments related to the TPNW. This will make it possible to re-examine Switzerland's position if necessary.
Lastly, the Federal Council instructed the FDFA to consult with the parliamentary foreign affairs committees on the Federal Council's decisions and to inform the Federal Council of the foreign affairs committees' positions. The Federal Council will also set out its position during the further parliamentary discussion of Motion 17.4241 submitted by National Councillor Carlo Sommaruga. This motion calls on the Federal Council to sign the TPNW as soon as possible and to submit it without delay to Parliament for ratification. The motion was adopted by the National Council on 5 June 2018.
Switzerland remains committed to nuclear disarmament and shares the goal of a world without nuclear weapons. It will continue to work towards constructive exchanges and concrete results within the forums that are open to it. In particular, in relevant international bodies Switzerland will reaffirm in an appropriate form its position that it is difficult to imagine how the use of nuclear weapons could be consistent with the requirements of international law, in particular international humanitarian law.
Report of the Working Group to analyse the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (pdf)
Address for enquiries:
Tel. +41 58 462 31 53