Although it is the Federal Council that represents Switzerland on foreign policy matters, negotiating and ratifying international agreements, it must still ensure that the Federal Assembly has its say on foreign policy and gives its approval to those agreements.
Recent decades have witnessed an intensification in international cooperation on economic affairs, which has resulted in a corresponding increase in international agreements. As these agreements normally have repercussions for domestic law, this trend has been accompanied by a desire on the part of Parliament, as the legislature, to become involved in the negotiation process at an early stage. Since the turn of the millennium, there has been far greater cooperation over foreign policy between the executive and the legislature.
The Federal Council thus now consults the foreign policy committees on a wide range of issues. At the same time, the Federal Assembly participates in international parliamentary associations and cultivates relations with other parliaments. Through parliamentary foreign policy, members of parliament, office holders (council presidents and vice presidents) and parliamentary bodies (committees, standing and ad hoc delegations) can gain foreign policy experience and first-hand access to information. Parliamentary foreign policy also allows members of parliament to shape and influence political work in inter-parliamentary organisations, to represent Swiss interests at international parliamentary meetings, to establish a channel of communication complementary to that at government level and to expand the network of parliamentary contacts.