The Federal Council receives a message from the G7 countries

International criticism

Russian money: The Federal Council receives a message from the G7 countries

Senior position of the Federal Council: The G7 countries have written to the state government. Major Western economic powers are not satisfied with the implementation of Russian sanctions.

The G7 countries have written to the Bundesrat. Pictured are US President Joe Biden (right) and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.

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The G7 countries are not satisfied with the way Switzerland applies sanctions against Russia. As announced by this newspaper, the seven most important Western industrialized nations have now sent a letter to the Federal Council. The Federal Office for Economic Affairs, Education and Research (EAER) confirmed a similar report to CH Media on Thursday Handelszeitung.

EAER announced that the Federal Council was aware of a letter on the subject of the task force “Russian elites, agents and oligarchs” (repo). The letter was signed by diplomatic representatives from France, Italy, Germany, the United States, Canada, Japan and the United Kingdom – and, as CH Media also learned, the European Union and its ambassador in Bern. She added that the state government had not yet discussed the letter. However, the thesis has been entrusted for “preliminary analysis” to the EAER and the Lead State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (Seco).

The WBF does not comment on the exact content of the message. However, the Federal Office stresses that “diplomatic customs” were not observed. The Federal Council regrets that “the various media outlets were informed of this message before it could be corrected.”

Criticism of passive and restrictive Switzerland

According to various sources, the G7 countries feel that Switzerland is a passive actor and could do more in implementing sanctions – for example in tracing assets from sanctioned Russians. The fact that the Federal Council announced in mid-February that no frozen assets would be confiscated from Russian oligarchs in Switzerland was also said to have sparked outrage.

The G7-Australia Repo working group is set to boost cooperation on sanctions against Russian elites. The US-led group, like the so-called EU-wide “freeze and seize” task force, is exploring the possibility of harnessing embargoed Russian funds. The assets must be available to Ukraine for reconstruction.

However, Switzerland has not yet shown any interest in participating in the buyback working group – despite urging from the United States. The reason: Seco announced at the end of March that since the launch of the body, which is still under construction, no other country has joined except the G7. On the other hand, in the EU “freeze and grab” working group, he “regularly actively participates in subgroup meetings.”

Clearly, there is no need for action beyond this: according to Seco, the EU Commission has “explicitly stated” that it very much welcomes Switzerland’s contribution to strengthening the effectiveness of the enforcement of sanctions across Europe.

It is not clear how much Russian state money is in Switzerland

A lot is also happening internationally to make the Russian Central Bank’s withheld reserves of more than 300 billion euros usable. In this regard, the EU Commission has prepared variants in an internal concept paper – for example, not to seize central bank billions directly, but to invest in financial markets and cut profits. Seco could not comment on this either.

It is also unclear how much Russian state money is in Switzerland. Only when the Federal Council adopted the tenth package of EU sanctions at the end of March did the Russian Central Bank have a new obligation to report on domestic assets. The people or organizations that own or control these funds must report them to Seco by April 12.

Switzerland was not surprised by the international pressure

Not surprisingly, Switzerland is under international pressure. This is evidenced by a look at the confidential report that Foreign Minister Ignacio Cassis presented to the Federal Council in September – in which he wanted to reorganize the policy of neutrality under the banner of “cooperative neutrality”.

The first section says: “Partner countries express the difficulty in understanding the meaning and purpose of a neutral position (…) when, as in the case of Russia’s military aggression against Ukraine, it is a direct attack on the system of liberal values ​​and the international system at work.” And in the last paragraph: “Neutrality must not be seen as isolated.” (abi / rh. / sbü)

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