Federal Council looking to strengthen diplomatic relations with Holy See
Bern, 01.10.2021 - At its meeting on 1 October 2021, the Federal Council decided to establish an embassy to the Holy See in Rome, so as to respond to the increase – noted for several years – in diplomatic tasks. The embassy, also to manage diplomatic relations with Malta and San Marino, will focus on better realising the potential for bilateral cooperation in Switzerland's priority foreign policy areas. Parliament's foreign affairs committees will be consulted shortly.
Since 2014, the Swiss ambassador in Slovenia has also been accredited to the Holy See. This arrangement no longer allows all the work entailed by Switzerland's diplomatic relations with the Holy See to be accomplished efficiently. Indeed, the number of high-level official visits from Switzerland has risen sharply in recent years. They require continuous on-site diplomatic preparation, support and follow-up.
Deepening bilateral cooperation
Opening this new Swiss embassy in Rome will expand the potential for bilateral cooperation on joint foreign policy priorities and define this collaboration's contours more clearly for the future. Priorities include peacebuilding and sustainable development, themes central to the Federal Council's Foreign Policy Strategy 2020–23. Having a diplomatic representation on site will also make it possible to pursue more regular dialogue with the Holy See on domestic political issues important for bilateral relations.
The culmination of a historical process
Diplomatic relations between Switzerland and the Holy See are rich and complex. While the Holy See has maintained a diplomatic representation in Switzerland since 1586, with an interruption between 1873 and 1920, Switzerland has only been represented in the Holy See since 1991. The post of ambassador was held successively by diplomats based in Bern, Prague, Geneva, Bern again and finally Ljubljana. Today's decision thus aims to strengthen the Swiss Confederation's diplomatic presence in the Holy See, furthering a consistent policy stretching back 30 years. Establishing a Swiss embassy to the Holy See in Rome does not change the Confederation's relations with the Catholic Church and the Reformed Church. The embassy will be established in accordance with the respective powers of the Confederation and the cantons.
Multiple accreditation to Malta and San Marino
The Federal Council has also planned for multiple accreditation to not only the Holy See, but also to Malta and San Marino. Concerning Malta, this accreditation will help to deepen bilateral relations within the framework of Switzerland's European policy. It will also allow Switzerland to monitor developments in the central Mediterranean closely, particularly with regard to migration flows.
As a next step, the Federal Council will consult Parliament's foreign affairs committees, as stipulated by the Parliament Act as regards changes to the external network.
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