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4. Permanent neutrality

The permanent neutrality emerged in the 19th century, beside the classic neutrality directly related to an armed conflict, characterized by the fact that it is established in peacetime through an international treaty or through a unilateral act (an internal law or a state declaration) which sometimes is recognized or even guaranteed by the international community.

According to the international public law, the states that declared their permanent neutrality assume, as a rule, the following additional duties: not to participate in political or military alliances or assume duties that have the purpose of preparation of a war; not to allow the use of its territory for the placement of foreign military bases; not to possess, produce or experiment mass destruction weapons; to pursue a policy of peaceful collaboration and maintain friendship relations with all the countries of the world.

Taking into account its specific duties, a neutral state is free to take any measures considered necessary for the protection of its territory as well as for the accomplishment of its foreign policy. However, the assumed commitments in peacetime, as a country with a status of permanent neutrality, cannot allow any ambiguous treatment on behalf of the third countries in wartime.

stitutional law regarding the permanent neutrality of Austria, which stipulates that

„in order to keep the permanent external independence and the inviolability of its territory, Austria proclaims, through the present law, of its own will, its perma- nent neutrality and is decided to maintain and protect this neutrality by all available means“ and that „in this view Austria will never adhere to any military alliance and will not tolerate the stationing on its territory of military bases belonging to a foreign country.“

In this way Austria declared itself neutral through an internal normative act, which was however nothing else than the legal consequence of the Moscow Memorandum and of the compromise with the Soviet Union. Shortly after, the Austrian government communicated this neutrality to the states that maintained diplomatic relations with Austria, asking for their recognition of this status.


The neutrality of Finland originates in the act of sovereignty over the Aaland Islands since 1921, which the Treaty of Geneva of the same year provided with a regime of neutrality and demilitarization. Later, in 1935, the House of Represen- tatives of the League of Nations unanimously approved the policy of neutrality of the northern countries – Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Netherlands, Belgium, Luxem- bourg and Finland.

As a consequence of the German-Soviet Pact since 1939, Finland was „dis- tributed“ in the Soviet zone of influence. Despite the fact that immediately after the outburst of the global conflict in the summer of 1939 Finland declared its neutrality again, it got isolated in the „winter war“ with the USSR and was forced to give up its territorial claims.

In 1941, Finland enters the war as a Germany’s ally and takes back the lost territories and in 1945, like Austria, Finland is considered as Germany’s „satellite“.

After the conclusion of the Peace Treaty since1947, on April 6, 1948 Finland and USSR signed a Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance, which provisions implicitly recognized the Finnish neutrality.

From this moment, Finland pursues a cautious policy of strict neutrality skill- fully avoiding the involvement in tensioned relations between the great Powers.

Due to its prudent policy, Finland was the only country from the Soviet zone of influence to maintain a market economy and a western type democracy founded on political pluralism, and the loyalty towards the USSR allowed it even some advantages of economic nature.

The spirit of Finnish neutrality was successfully affirmed in 1975 by signing of the Final Act of the Helsinki Conference regarding the problems of security and cooperation in Europe.


The neutrality of Ireland is often treated as neutralism (generally defined as a trend of a political system to avoid the association of the nation to a group of forces through alliances and which does not involve the obligation to remain

neutral in case of a conflict) and originates in the beginning of the Irish Republic and the first declaration of independence since 1919.

Beginning with 1921, the young „free country“ of Ireland decides not to adhere to any military treaty, this decision being a consequence of the tensioned relations with Great Britain and its position regarding Northern Ireland.

In 1939, Ireland irrevocably establishes its independence adopting a neutral attitude towards the European crises, attitude maintained through the World War despite the threats of Great Britain and the US pressures.

Its neutrality is not stipulated in any national or international normative act. It is the result of the country’s own will not to commit, at least in peacetime, in any military alliance. It has had until now an indisputable character, as a central element of Irish policy, unanimously accepted by the political forces and proved by the public opinion.


After the end of the Napoleonic Wars, namely in 1814, Sweden did not take part in any European armed conflict. As in the case of Ireland, the neutrality of Sweden is not stipulated in any national or international legislation, but represents a voluntary declaration and resides in the traditions progressively and pragmatically established during approximately two centuries. The Swedish government decides the enforcement of neutrality in total freedom, a fact that allows it to promote in the region a balance least affected by the rivalry of the great powers. Thus, free from any legal problems, Sweden can adopt in case of a conflict the most suitable attitude, obviously on condition that this attitude cannot be interpreted as bias to any of the parties.

The Swedish neutrality is primarily a military or an armed one and implies a credible armed defense due to the considerable efforts of the nation for the national defense. As a result, this neutrality was respected during the two World Wars and the Cold War.

The present neutrality of Sweden is self-defined, as a result of the failures of the efforts made in 1948-1949 for the creation of a Scandinavian defense alliance that would have regrouped Norway, Denmark and Sweden. While Norway and Denmark are involved in the alliance with NATO, Sweden prefers to remain neutral, considering the fact that this policy has allowed Sweden to avoid the wars fought in the last century. Thus, Sweden, of its own will, has defined its position of a country nonaligned to military blocks in peacetime, in order to remain neutral in case of war.


The neutrality of Switzerland can be explained or understood only in the historical context. Its neutrality at the beginning wasn’t a deliberate choice, it was gradually imposed from within as well as from outside all along history. It does not represent an immobilized and monolithic concept, but evolved under the double pressure of time and events.

The Swiss Confederation was created in 1291 from the alliance of three cantons that united against the will of the Habsburgs. Beginning with the 14th century, the Confederation got involved in numerous wars for the expansion of its territories and consolidation of independence, wars that lasted up to the great defeats since1515. Often this is considered the beginning of the Swiss desire to search for refuge in neutrality as a mean of survival.

In that period, the Confederation already consisted of 13 independent and sovereign cantons with an almost inexistent central government, yet sufficient for a common foreign policy. In order to continue a policy of expansion, it was necessary to concentrate the forces, i.e. a centralization, a thing in contradiction with the principles of foundation and functioning of the Confederation. This fact was another reason to give up the active foreign policy and advance towards neutrality as a major state idea.

The division according to confessions also favored the implantation of the idea of neutrality. From the very beginning two major confessions (Catholic and Protestant) coexisted within the Confederation in conditions of a relative equilib- rium, mutually neutralizing the sympathy and support from within towards the confessionals of a foreign state that, in other conditions, would have provoked the split of the Confederation and would have led to the dissolution of the Swiss nation.

The exceptional geographic position of Switzerland and an important number of Swiss mercenaries involved in serving the French kings have contributed to the fact that France always tended to discourage the countries in the region from taking hostile actions against Switzerland and from interfering in its domestic conflicts resulting in the affirmation of its neutrality from outside.

The historical evolution proved that the Swiss policy of neutrality has always been dependent on the balance of powers. The events during the Napoleonic Wars could serve as an example, when Switzerland was forced to provide France with more than 38, 000 soldiers and when its territory was occupied becoming a scene for military actions.

After Napoleon’s defeat, the participants in the Paris Conference on Novem- ber 20th, 1815 (Great Britain, Russia, France, Austria, Prussia and Switzerland) signed a declaration that recognized and guaranteed the permanent neutrality of Switzerland. Through the same declaration, Switzerland accepted its borders, imposed by the five countries..

The policy of permanent neutrality of Switzerland had been respected until the end of the World War I when the Treaty of Versailles recognized that this fact was possible only due to an international commitment that envisioned the main- tenance of the nonbelligerent status by the Confederation.

On February 13, 1920 the Council of the League of Nations recognized and officially guaranteed the permanent neutrality of Switzerland in the „Declaration of London“. The pacifist euphoria that dominated that particular era and the hopes associated with the recently created League of Nations led to the fact that

the Swiss nation pronounced itself in favor of adherence of the Swiss Confedera- tion to the League of Nations. The consequence of this decision was the giving up on the permanent neutrality in favor of differentiated neutrality, as Switzerland accepted the obligation to take part in economic sanctions against a state.

At this time, there was a relatively big number of neutral countries in Europe:

Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland. As a result of the events that shocked Europe between 1920 and 1938 (the consoli- dation of the Fascism in Germany and Italy, Italy’s occupation of Abyssinia, the Civil War in Spain, etc.) Switzerland demanded the League of Nations to reestab- lish and recognize its status of permanent neutrality. On May 14, 1938 the Council of the League of Nations accepted this demand.

During the World War II, Switzerland’s status of neutrality was, with some insignificant exceptions, respected and, after the War, Switzerland, as probably all the neutral states, was blamed for not joining the belligerents and envied for the fact that by avoiding human casualties and material damages, it managed to profit economically from the commercial relations with the belligerents.

This historical context and the national tradition resulted in the fact that Switzerland did not participate in the creation of the United Nations Organiza- tion, maintaining a proper attitude towards it: to observe with attention its activity, to adhere to some specialized international organizations, to facilitate the activities of the UN on its territory, preferring in the meantime the status of observer to the full membership.

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As we notice, the neutrality of those five neutral countries is different in essence and principles. If the neutrality of Austria and Finland is a direct conse- quence of the World War II, particularly of the Soviet influence, the neutrality of Sweden and Ireland is a result of their own choice and are completely similar only with regard to the expression of their own will. About the Swiss neutrality, we can say that it is a fact created from a historic necessity, the strong desire of a small state to survive being surrounded by large powers and major conflicts, external benevolence and tradition.