The Federal Chancellery is headed by Walter Thurnherr. He has been the Federal Chancellor since 2016.
Staff office of the Federal Council
The Federal Chancellery was established in 1803 and as such is the oldest federal institution. It serves as a hub between the federal government, the Administration, Parliament and the People.The Federal Chancellor is elected by Parliament for four years in the same way as the members of the Federal Council. As the Federal Council’s chief of staff, he ensures the proper functioning of the government. Together with the two vice chancellors, he attends the meetings of the Federal Council. The Federal Chancellor can submit proposals on all Federal Council business, but has no voting rights.
The Federal Chancellery is the staff office of the Federal Council. It prepares the meetings of the Federal Council and informs Parliament and the public of the decisions taken. It verifies the legality of initiatives and referendums and makes sure that national elections and votes are conducted properly. It publishes official texts in several languages.
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|Staff (full-time positions) 2018
Planning for the Federal Council
The policy of the Federal Council is incorporated into a
planning process. The Federal Chancellery prepares the planning instruments in
close cooperation with the departments to produce a four-year legislature plan,
which serves as a basis for the annual objectives. In its annual report, the
Federal Council reports on whether it has achieved those objectives.
Preparing Federal Council meetings
The Federal Council generally meets once a week. The
Federal Chancellery manages the agenda. Before the Federal Council considers
the items of business, the departments and federal offices can submit their
views and make proposals. The Federal Chancellery coordinates this joint
reporting procedure and reviews the items of business from a formal and legal
point of view.
Communicating Federal Council decisions
After every Federal Council meeting, the Federal Council Spokesperson goes before the press to announce the Federal Council’s decisions. He is often accompanied by one or more members of the Federal Council and experts from the Federal Administration, who are available to answer questions from journalists.
Following the meetings of the Federal Council, the Federal Chancellery also informs all seven departments about the decisions taken. The Federal Chancellery publishes the Federal Council decisions and reports in the Federal Gazette in the three official languages. It publishes new or amended acts and ordinances in the Official Compilation of Federal Legislation.
Publishing information through a range of channels
Before a popular vote is held, the country’s nearly five million eligible voters receive a pamphlet about the proposals submitted to a popular vote. The Federal Chancellery works with the departments to prepare the pamphlet. Before the federal elections, the Federal Chancellery distributes a guide on how to go about voting. The Federal Chancellery provides information about the activities and characteristics of the federal government and the federal authorities in publications such as ‘The Swiss Confederation, a brief guide’ and on two websites.
Translating into several languages
The official languages of Switzerland are German, French and Italian. The texts of acts, ordinances and treaties, as well as voting and election material must be made available in at least these three languages, a task for which the Federal Chancellery Language Services are responsible. They also provide translations in Romansh and English when required.
Overseeing democratic rights
Swiss citizens are called on to vote three to four times a year in national referendums and popular initiatives, and every four years to elect a new parliament. The Federal Chancellery ensures that the electoral process runs smoothly. It provides the necessary information on the proper procedures to anyone interested in launching a popular initiative or a referendum. It also checks to make sure that requests for popular initiatives and referendums meet the formal requirements.
Managing the ‘Vote électronique‘ project
The Confederation and cantons have over 15 years’ experience of e-voting in federal elections and popular votes. The Federal Chancellery runs the ‘Vote électronique’ project, whose objective is to bring the voting system into the digital age, with barrier-free, mobile and transparent voting for the whole of the electorate.
Supporting the President of the Swiss Confederation
During their year as Swiss president, federal councillors have additional tasks. The Presidential Services Unit of the Federal Chancellery assists with communications and diplomatic affairs.
Managing the Federal Council’s residences
The Federal Council has two
residences in which it receives its guests from Switzerland and abroad, the von
Wattenwyl House and the Landsitz Lohn. In the von Wattenwyl House it also regularly
holds discussions with the political parties in government; these are known as
the ‘von Wattenwyl talks’.
Office of the Federal Data Protection and Information Commissioner FDPIC
The Office of the Federal Data Protection and Information Commissioner is an independent body which monitors compliance with the Data Protection Act to protect the privacy of citizens, and advises citizens in matters relating to data protection. The FDPIC also ensures implementation of the principle of freedom of information, which affords access to the official documents of the Federal Administration. If an authority denies a person access to such information, the FDPIC can be called upon to mediate.