Swiss voters could have final say on confiscating Russian money

Zurich's banking quarter: According to the latest information, assets of CHF7.5 billion have been frozen in Switzerland in connection with the war in Ukraine © Keystone / Gaetan Bally

No quick decisions should be made when discussing the confiscation of Russian assets for the reconstruction of Ukraine, insists Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis.

This content was published on January 20, 2023 minutes

“In Switzerland major legal adjustments would be needed, in which the people would probably have the final say,” he said in an interview with the Tamedia newspapers on Friday.

He said the right to property is a great asset and is enshrined in the Charter of Human Rights – it is just as important as freedom of expression. “Theoretically, both can be overturned, but we have to think about how to do that without falling back into the Middle Ages,” he said.

Cassis said Switzerland was under pressure make the frozen money available if Russian funds spread around the world are to be used for the reconstruction of Ukraine. “There is already international pressure for all states to participate, and therefore also for us,” he said.

This idea is controversial. In banking circles, for example, there are fears that a restriction of the guarantee of ownership and legal security could be the beginning of the end for the Swiss financial centre.

At the federal level, an internal administrative working group is currently examining legal questions concerning assets frozen in connection with the Russian attack on Ukraine. The working group intends to present its analysis to the government in the coming weeks, the Federal Office of Justice said on Thursday.

According to the latest information from the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO), assets of CHF7.5 billion have been frozen in Switzerland in connection with the war in Ukraine. The same applies to 15 properties. The sanctions list now includes 1,368 people and 171 companies and organisations.

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