Federal Council meeting

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.   

Accompanied by his usher, Dario Oggier, President Didier Burkhalter heads to the first cabi-net meeting of the new year on Wednesday 15 January 2014.
Accompanied by his usher, Dario Oggier, President Didier Burkhalter heads to the first cabinet meeting of the new year on Wednesday 15 January 2014. (KEYSTONE/Alessandro della Valle)

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.

Busy agenda

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.

Formal and informal aspects

  • Each member of the Federal Council addresses cabinet in his or her own language.
  • During the meetings, cabinet members address one another using their formal titles: Monsieur le Président, Madame la Vice-présidente, Frau Bundesrätin, meine Herren Bundesräte or Frau Bundeskanzlerin.
  • The agenda is presented in colour-coded form. The orange list contains uncontested items of business, which are usually approved swiftly. The blue list consists of responses to parliamentary requests. The items on the white list are discussed and decided one by one due to their political importance; occasionally, the discussions can be spread over a number of meetings. And the green list contains confidential items of business, which are also discussed in detail.

Last modification 05.11.2015

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