«The Federal Council – a brief guide» – Part 5: Meddling permitted

«The Federal Council – a brief guide» – Part 5: Meddling permitted


This is Helvetia, the symbol of Switzerland. She is going to tell us how the Federal Council works. The Federal Council is holding its weekly meeting. There are many items on the agenda,
some of which are controversial. Just imagine: the Federal Council deals with
around 2,500 items of business a year! HOW does it manage? It’s quite simple: the Federal Council is well organised. Before business gets to this desk,
it is examined in written procedures. One of them is the o-f-f-i-c-e c-o-n-s-u-l-t-a-t-i-o-n. Ouch, what a complicated phrase! But the idea behind it is really quite clever. Let’s look at an example —
let’s say there’s a proposal to improve the railway network. The relevant office in the Department of Transport
prepares a draft bill. This draft is then sent to all the other federal offices
which have an interest in the matter. They can make amendments to the draft. In the case of our example, improving the railways, lots of offices react — after all, the proposal involves large sums of money, regional interests, legal issues, environmental protection and much more. So. The draft bill is amended. The Department of Transport now needs
the Federal Council’s decision to go ahead. But the draft bill first has to overcome another hurdle. It is examined a second time in the joint reporting procedure. Each of the federal councillors and
the Federal Chancellor take a very close look at the bill. They can pose questions or request amendments in writing. They can express criticism or their political position. In other words they are permitted —
indeed, encouraged — to meddle. The department responsible replies to the feedback. In the meeting itself,
the federal councillors have all the facts on the table. They can concentrate on the most important issues
and the points of disagreement. The way things are done reminds me
somewhat of the tasters in ancient Rome. Their job was to check whether
their master’s food was poisoned. Things are not quite that drastic in the government in Bern. But care is taken to ensure that
the federal councillors don’t get stomach ache.

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