The Federal Council takes its decisions at the Federal Council meeting. In order to be able to take decisions on the 2500 items of business each year, each meeting needs to be prepared in minute detail following formal and informal rules.
The law states that the Federal Council should gather as often as is necessary. As a rule the government meets for a regular meeting once a week in the Federal Council chamber, usually on a Wednesday, but on Fridays while parliament is in session. The meetings usually begin at 9 am, lasting several hours, and are chaired by the president.
The Federal Council constitutes a quorum when at least four members are present. It decides by consensus whenever possible, and sometimes also holds a vote. In the event of a tied vote, the president’s vote counts twice.
Federal Chancellor has no vote
The Federal Chancellor also attends the meetings of the Federal Council. She has no vote, but may submit requests and proposals on matters relating to the Federal Chancellery. The vice chancellors are present during the meetings as long as the Federal Council does not decide otherwise.
Guests rarely invited
Guests are rarely invited to attend Federal Council meetings, and when they are, they are received in the "Bureau du Président", one of the adjoining rooms on the first floor of the Federal Palace’s west wing. The chairman of the governing board of the Swiss National Bank is invited to attend once a year to present his report. Occasionally the Federal Council will invite senior administration officials and experts, if the government feels it is appropriate to hear information first hand. However, the Federal Council conducts its deliberations in private (albeit in the presence of the federal chancellor and the two vice chancellors).
'extra muros' and special sessions
Once or twice a year, the Federal Council holds a meeting away from Bern and the Federal Palace to demonstrate its bond with the cantons. Sometimes it holds special closed sessions so that it can concentrate on addressing a specific important issue.
Each year some 2500 items of business appear on the Federal Council’s agenda. Responding to parliamentary procedural requests accounts for a large share of the workload.
Last modification 05.11.2015