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The Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) formulates and coordinates Swiss foreign policy on the instructions of the Federal Council. A coherent foreign policy is a precondition for the effective protection of Swiss interests vis-à-vis foreign countries.
The activity of the FDFA is based on the 5 foreign-policy objectives defined in the Federal Constitution:
- peaceful coexistence among peoples
- respect for human rights and the promotion of democracy
- safeguarding the interests of the Swiss economy abroad
- relieving need and poverty in the world
- preserving the natural environment.
The FDFA consists of the headquarters in Berne and over 300 representations abroad (embassies, missions, consulates, liaison and coordination offices). Headquarters consists of the General Secretariat, the State Secretariat and 6 directorates: the Political Affairs Directorate, the Directorate for European Affairs (DEA), the Directorate of International Law, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) the Directorate for Resources and the Consular Directorate. About one third of FDFA staff work in Berne, while the remaining two thirds are in foreign postings.
Embassies and consulates have different functions. An embassy is the official representation of one state in another. Besides maintaining diplomatic relations, its tasks also include supporting Swiss companies in the host country. A consulate is the most important link between Swiss nationals abroad and the authorities at home. Functions that are carried out in Switzerland by local authorities (issuing passports, determining voting rights etc.) are the responsibility of consulates abroad – as is the protection of the rights and interests of Swiss nationals in the event of accident, arrest or similar situations.