The Federal Council of Switzerland has repeatedly granted money that benefits Geneva. The question of alternatives may well be asked.
First it was 4 million Swiss francs. Now it is 130 million Swiss francs. The Federal Council had already decided at its meeting on 16th of November to classify the meeting between U.S. President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Geneva on June 16, 2021, as an “extraordinary event.”
That decision brought money raining down on Lake Geneva. The federal government contributed to the costs of ensuring the safety of the participants, reimbursing the canton of Geneva 4,084,577 Swiss francs.
The reception of Presidents Biden and Putin for their first bilateral exchange in Geneva in June 2021 represented a success for Swiss diplomacy and its good offices, the foreign ministry DFA said, explaining the federal government’s generosity.
Such events strengthened Geneva’s position as a center of global governance and served as a showcase for Switzerland.
Now, about a year and a half after the meeting, the money deal is still happening. It makes ordinary citizens wonder what has been going on behind the doors again with their tax money.
After all, Geneva doesn’t like to give away any of the revenue generated by all the diplomatic hoopla, be it in the luxury hotel industry or in gourmet restaurants.
Millions from heaven
And today, Friday, the Swiss Confederation is once again making its mark on Geneva by showing its generosity.
The Federal Council requested the sum of 130 million Swiss francs for the years 2024 to 2027 for the work of the Geneva Center for Security Policy (GCSP), the Geneva International Center for Humanitarian Demining (GICHD) and the Geneva Center for Security Sector Governance (DCAF).
In the coming years, those three centers would strengthen diplomatic dialogue, promote innovative approaches, for example in explosive ordnance disposal, and focus on activities in Europe, according to a communiqué explaining the reasons.
This should also intensify cooperation with the UN, the EU and the NATO military alliance, the DFA went on to explain in flowery terms today, Friday. The Geneva centers are instruments of Swiss foreign and security policy, especially international cooperation and peace-building, it said.
The costs of these centers, which were established as independent foundations in 1995, 1998 and 2000 respectively, were to be borne by a large number of states from the outset.
At present, dozens of states are represented on the boards of the foundations. But the friendship seems to end when it comes to money.
Switzerland as paymaster
In recent years the institutions have been able to expand their services thanks to third-party funding. And the federal government’s share of funding for the three centers has fallen from 65 to 55 percent since 2016. But more than half is still borne officially by Switzerland.
However, the figures also mean that the three Geneva facilities will gobble up the hefty sum of around 240 million Swiss francs over the coming years.
Furthermore, after so many years of existence in Geneva, the question may be asked as to whether the whole thing could not be provided elsewhere in Switzerland – at an average of 80 million Swiss francs per facility – more cheaply and/or even better. The centers should not be set in ‘Geneva stone’ forever.
The federal government has been contributing to the almost billion-franc renovation of the infrastructure of the international organizations in Geneva for years, anyway. U.S. President Biden could easily have met Putin at another location in Switzerland, such as Basel, Zurich, Bern, Lausanne or Davos.
And competition, as is well known, stimulates business.