The Federal Council’s tasks
The Federal Council submits new laws to Parliament and proposals on how to implement decisions taken in popular votes. Its proposals receive broad support: they take account of the views of the cantons, parties, associations and concerned groups, which are expressed in a consultation process. After these consultations, the Federal Council submits its bill to Parliament for debate and a decision.
Implementing the decisions of Parliament
As soon as Parliament has decided on a new law, the Federal Council issues the required ordinances. They set out the specifics on how the new law should be implemented. If Parliament requests particular measures, the Federal Council ensures that these are taken.
The Federal Council provides the cantons, Parliament and the general public with regular information on its decisions and intentions. It explains proposals that are being voted in a red booklet, which is posted to voters with their ballot papers and published on the internet.
Heading the Federal Administration
The Federal Council is in charge of the Federal Administration, which has around 38,000 employees. The Administration is organised into seven government departments. Each member of the Federal Council is the head of a department (à p. 54/55).
Planning for the future
The Federal Council sets the agenda for the future: it issues a mission statement, sets goals and indicates how it plans to invest federal funds. It has to find majority support for its plans, in Parliament and if need be among the people and the cantons.
Federal Council mission statement for the legislative period 2019-2023
1. Switzerland shall secure its prosperity sustainably and exploit the opportunities offered by digitalisation.
2. Switzerland shall encourage national cohesion and contribute to consolidating international cooperation.
3. Switzerland shall guarantee security, engage in protecting the climate and act as a reliable partner in the world.
These three elements in the Mission Statement themselves include 18 goals and 53 measures.
Governing in times of crisis
If Switzerland’s internal or external security is endangered, the Federal Council has the power to issue emergency ordinances (Federal Constitution Art. 185). In the event of there being an exceptional risk to public health, the Epidemics Act confers wide-ranging powers on the Federal Council. As a result, the Federal Council was able to order drastic short-term measures during the coronavirus crisis in 2020: bans on public gatherings, emergency credits, short-time work, and even the cancellation of a popular vote. As required by law, Parliament gave its retrospective approval to all these decisions.