Neutrality – in its complex conceptualization – is an integral part of Swiss history and a value rooted in the conscience of Swiss citizens. This principle has its roots in the battle of Marignano in 1515 but it is in the Vienna Congress of the post-Napoleonic Restoration that it finds an explicit ruling also at the international level, when it is recognized that “the neutrality and inviolability of Switzerland and the its independence from any foreign influence is in the interest of the whole of Europe ”. Permanent, voluntary neutrality – which Switzerland could therefore renounce – and armed, that is, implying full defense capacity against any aggressor. However, Swiss neutrality appeared to be remarkably flexible, as a ‘means’ to pursue goals and not an ‘end’: in the course of the twentieth century, Switzerland thus passed from a ‘differentiated’ neutrality after the end of the First World War – for example by joining the League of Nations and declaring itself available to participate in economic sanctions – to a subsequent ‘integral’ neutrality, to which – in addition to the lack of participation in military initiatives and coalitions – there was also the decision not to join (at least not immediately) the main international organizations. This conceptual dynamism became even more evident with the end of the Cold War: by declaring on various occasions the full compatibility of a more accentuated commitment on the international scene with the principle of neutrality, Switzerland participated in sanctions established by the UN against some countries ( Iraq, Haiti, Libya, Yugoslavia), to the NATO Partnership for Peace, joined the United Nations in 2002, took part in peacekeeping missions. Therefore a relativized neutrality, considered ‘active’ by its supporters but harshly criticized by detractors, who speak openly of the end of one of the founding principles of Swiss history. In an increasingly interconnected world, Bern has also had to renounce one of its cornerstones such as banking secrecy – of which the revelations deduced from the Falciani list have further exposed the distortions – and unhooked the franc from the euro, with respect to which it had been a minimum exchange rate has been set at 1.20 francs. If the Swiss are still tied to the neutrality of their country – 95% said they were in favor according to a survey published in 2015 – this cannot be considered a dangerous isolation.
– Francis I of Valois, king of France (Cognac 1494 – Rambouillet 1547). Son of Charles Count of Angoulême, he had the Duchy of Valois as his prerogative; in 1514 he married Claudia, daughter of the king of France and on 1 January 1515 he succeeded Louis XII on the throne of France. The campaign for the reconquest of the Milanese, after the battle of Marignano, ended with the peace of Noyon (1516), which assigned the Milanese to France. But the attempt to succeed Maximilian I in the Empire failed and it was
elected Charles V of Habsburg. Against these in 1521 Francesco began the war that lasted for his whole life. In Pavia on 24 February 1525 he fell prisoner. Transferred to Madrid, he signed a burdensome peace treaty which, as soon as he was free, he renounced to form the Holy League with the Pope and the Italian princes. There was no lack of attempts at composition, even with matrimonial agreements: in the peace of Crépy (1544), the last one signed by him, the marriage was stipulated between the Duke of Orleans, Charles, and the daughter or niece of Charles V. In the long Struggle, availing itself of a first-rate diplomacy, had tried to exploit the discontent of the Italian and German princes, threatened by the ‘universal monarchy’ of Charles V. Inside he established royal absolutism. Cellini was a splendid patron, protector of Leonardo,
Rabelais, Erasmus, and collected ancient paintings and statues in the castle of Fontainebleau, which were then transferred to the Louvre.
– Massimiliano Sforza, Duke of Milan (Milan 1493 – Fontainebleau 1530). Son of Ludovico il Moro, he lived in the imperial court after the ruin of his father (1499) and in 1512 he regained the duchy of Milan, reconquered from the French: the congress of Mantua reconfirmed it. But to satisfy the demands of the occupying troops, especially the Swiss (who actually ruled the duchy), Maximilian had to impose taxes, creating discontent among the population. Forced to lock himself up in Novara due to the Franco-Venetian invasion (1513), he was saved by the Swiss in the battle of Ariotta. The financial needs of the war forced him to renounce in favor of the Milanese the right to collect some important revenues and to appoint the city magistrates: a decisive event for the history of Milan. After defeated in the battle of Marignano, he retired to France.
Chronology of Swiss history
– 1291. In an anti-Hapsburg function, the representatives of the Cantons of Uri, Schwyz and Sottoselva sign a pact in which they swear to join forces to defend the peace and promise each other mutual assistance: this is the Grütli Oath, considered the first founding act of the Swiss Confederation.
– 1353. The Confederation is joined by Lucerne, Zurich, Zug, Glarus and Bern.
– 1481. The cantons of Friborg and Solothurn unite.
– 1499. In the Swabian War, the Confederates got the better of the Habsburg troops. With the subsequent peace of Basel, the de facto independence of the Confederation was sanctioned.
– 1513. The Confederation has 13 members. Its structure will remain unchanged until 1798.
– 1515. Battle of Marignano. The ‘myth’ of Swiss neutrality is born.
– 1648. Peace of Westphalia after the Thirty Years War. The independence of the Confederation is formally recognized.
– 1798-1803. The Confederation is occupied by French troops and the Helvetic Republic is born. After some clashes in 1803, recognizing the failure of the model, Napoleon intervenes and the Confederation is re-established.
– 1815. At the Congress of Vienna the number of Swiss cantons increases to 22, and Switzerland’s neutrality and inviolability is recognized.
– 1847. War of the Sonderbund: Conservative and Catholic cantons rebel against liberal and Protestant cantons, majority of the Confederation. The civil conflict is resolved with the victory of the confederal forces over the rebels.
– 1848. The Swiss Constitution is promulgated, on which the Swiss confederal state is founded. It is inspired by the US Constitution and adopts the ideas of the French Revolution.
– 1914. In the First World War, Switzerland is neutral.
– 1939. In the Second World War, Switzerland is neutral.
– 1971. In a referendum, Swiss voters (male only) approve the recognition of voting and eligibility rights for women.
– 2002. By referendum, voters vote in favor of Switzerland’s accession to the UN.