In the latest installment of Switzerland’s-problems-are-not-like-the-rest-of-our-problems, Swiss Army helicopters unexpectedly crossed an internationally recognized border into the sovereign state of France last Thursday on a mission to suck up water from its neighbor’s lakes to give to its own dehydrated cows. Switzerland is trying to cope with a heat wave and water shortages by airlifting water for some 20,000 cows. The operation is supposed to be conducted on Swiss lakes, and Agence France-Presse reports the Swiss Army helicopters understandably “startled swimmers and fishermen enjoying the beaches of the lake in eastern France.”
As they say in Switzerland: whoops. “On Monday, local [Swiss] officials [-] sent a letter to their counterparts across the border apologizing for the incident, which they described as a ‘misinterpretation’ of a bilateral agreement that allows the Swiss air force to fly over France—but not to take its water,” according to AFP. “French officials confirmed they received the letter of apology, along with an offer of reimbursement.”
But what of the brazen water heist? According to the Swiss media, the mix up that resulted in mildly annoyed French swimmers and parched cows was, you know, a communication problem. Officials in Paris signed off on the maneuver, but local authorities didn’t get the word the Swiss Army was going to be dropping by.
It’s still a bit unclear where exactly Switzerland got the impression it was cool to airlift the water out of France's lakes, but it's probably nothing a few moderately worded communiqué’s can’t settle. The Swiss, for their part, are taking the water shortage seriously—as evidenced by their military incursion into France—and have been dipping into their military disaster relief funds to get their cows hydrated. Cows are, of course, an important part of providing food in many parts of the world. And in Switzerland? “Thirsty cows produce less milk, of particular concern in the [affected] mountainous [-] region of France and Switzerland,” AFP notes. “Dairy farmers there provide milk to producers who make prized cheeses including the French Comté and Morbier varieties as well as the Swiss Tête de Moine.”