Reports that Switzerland could purchase US fighter jets are likely to increase tensions with the European Union.

According to reports in the Swiss press, Switzerland's ministry of defence is looking to purchase the American F35-A Lightning II fighter jet.

The Swiss broadcaster SRF reported that the Lockheed Martin jet "performed by far the best in the evaluation process" conducted by the military.

However, the news that the country's defence minister Viola Amherd wants to recommend the government buy the US F-35 jet and not French Rafale or the Airbus Eurofighter - the country's traditional weapons suppliers - is likely to cause tensions with its European neighbours.

According to the three anonymous sources speaking to the SRF, the US fighter jet "both financially and technically, the stealth jet is well ahead of the F/ A-18 Super Hornet, the Eurofighter and the Rafale."

Relations between the EU and Switzerland have frayed after Bern walked away last month from signing a comprehensive framework agreement between the EU and Switzerland due to "remaining substantial differences on key aspects."

The decision marked an end to seven years of negotiations which would have modernised an existing web of agreements that number more than 120. Swiss voters have rejected joining the EU and the Eurozone and instead rely on bilateral agreements with the political and economic union.

Behind the scenes, France's is ramping up intensive lobbying efforts to get the bid for the fighter jets by offering an additional counter deal which, amongst other things, would provide political support to the landlocked country at the EU level.

In September of last year, Swiss voters in a referendum voted by a razor-thin majority of 8,670 votes to approve the government spending more than $6.5 billion on fighter jets.

Following the latest leaks surrounding the acquisition of the US-made fighter jets could be an opening gambit by Swiss authorities playing hardball with the EU.

One commentator warned, "Switzerland, after decades of buying military kit from different European arms makers [is] now going to buy F-35s from [the] US. Sovereign decision but wise for CH to crudely spurn its closest neighbours?"

According to local reports in the country, Switzerland's Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis, perhaps fearing the coming wrath of neighbours, prefers a European aircraft.

The Swiss legislature has approved an Air 2030 modernisation program, which would see the country buying up to 40 new aircraft and spending a further $2 billion on a ground-based air defence system.

The new aircraft would replace the ageing fleet of the 30 F/A-18 French Hornets, which will go out of service in 2030. Any new jets would be delivered by 2025.

Perceptions of the EU in the small Alpine nation have hardened in recent years.

The German ambassador to Switzerland lamented recently that "in some media and social networks, it is depicted as a monster."

Following Brexit, the EU is increasingly worried that allowing neighbouring states to craft their bespoke deals could encourage other countries to either not join the club or encourage others to leave.

Yet, increasing pressure on Switzerland by Brussels to capitulate to EU demands on the terms of the relationship has worried politicians and citizens of the country that the nation's strict interpretation of neutrality could be threatened.

Source: TRT World