(Bloomberg) -- Switzerland is heading for a popular vote on its long-standing neutrality amid a debate ignited by the the country’s decision to sanction Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.

Activists and the country’s right-wing People’s Party, the largest in parliament, want to enshrine the position of permanent, armed neutrality in the constitution. In addition to preventing Switzerland taking part in any military alliance, the initiative also wants to block participation in non-military coercive measures, which would include sanctions.

The group behind the proposal submitted its petition, backed by more than 130,000 signatures, this week, though the actual vote won’t take place for some time.

Switzerland has traditionally refused to take sides in European conflicts, but decided to adopt European Union sanctions against Russia in 2022. According to critics, that was a departure from neutrality and jeopardized the country’s role as an international mediator. 

On the other hand, corporate leaders have been increasingly warning that neutrality is harming the country’s business prospects. Switzerland has been blocking weapon shipments from Germany and elsewhere to Ukraine, drawing international ire.

Read More: Switzerland Refuses to Take Sides in Ever More Divided World

The People’s Party said this week that there have been “targeted attempts to undermine neutrality,” citing the country’s adoption of EU sanctions against Russia. It said this has undermined the international view of Switzerland as neutral.

The government says sanctions are compatible with neutrality and is trying to revive Switzerland’s relevance by hosting on a conference on peace in Ukraine in June. Russia has already said it won’t attend the meeting.

While the backers of the initiative have collected enough signatures, a vote is still some time off. Once the tally is legally certified, the government and parliament will discuss the issue, and the full process usually takes a number of years.

Swiss neutrality, which can be traced back to medieval cantons hiring out mercenaries to warring European states, was enshrined at the Treaty of Paris in 1815, after the defeat of Napoleon. Switzerland follows the legal obligations imposed on neutral states by the 1907 Hague Conventions.

A history of political fence-sitting barely survived World War II, when Switzerland violated its own neutrality by granting loans and selling arms to Nazi Germany. The neutral nation — while helping wounded soldiers and children — also sealed its borders to thousands of Jewish refugees.

(Updates to add timing of vote starting in third paragraph.)

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