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The purpose of bilateral visits is to foster and strengthen relations between two countries at the highest level. The following lists (in French) cover visits from 1848 to 1990 that involved at least one member of the Swiss federal government.
- Bilateral visits Asia and Oceania (192 Kb, pdf)
- Bilateral visits Africa (176 Kb, pdf)
- Bilateral visits the Americas (136 Kb, pdf)
- Bilateral visits Europe (202 Kb, pdf)
- Visits abroad of the head of the FDFA (160 Kb, pdf)
- State visits and official visits to Switzerland (212 Kb, pdf)
- Official visits abroad of members of the Federal Council (178 Kb, pdf)
The lists of bilateral visits have been compiled from one main source: the collection of files transferred by the seven federal departments to the Swiss Federal Archives (SFA). Some 3,000 files have been evaluated.
Problems of incomplete information became apparent as follows:
- In the inventories of some departments which did not compile a list of visits or at least not systematically
- In the transfer of the files to the SFA which was not systematic until 1990
- In the contents of the files, of which some were incomplete, it was not possible to confirm whether the visit actually took place and whether at least one member of the Federal Council participated.
Other sources have been consulted, in particular the (annual) Business Reports of the Federal Council, the Yearbook of Swiss Politics (published since 1965) and various lists of visits produced since the 1960s by Protocol of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA).
The information has been standardised in order to facilitate comparisons, as follows:
- Names of countries: the current name is used, even if the country’s name was different at the time of the visit. In cases of post-1990 territorial changes (as in the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia), the 1990 country designation is used.
- Names of foreign dignitaries: where possible, transcription errors found in the archived documents have been corrected and first names added.
- Functions of foreign dignitaries: the functions of head of government (prime minister, PM) and head of diplomacy (minister of foreign affairs, MFA) are indicated everywhere, even in cases where the official titles differ. In contrast, unusual or special functions or those difficult to translate are retained without change.
- Types of visit: The deciding criterion, namely the involvement of at least one member of the Federal Council, defines the type of visit. A working visit to a senior Swiss official or a visit in conjunction with a multilateral meeting involving a subsequent courtesy call to the head of a department is therefore described in the lists as a courtesy visit.
- Dates of the visit: In the case of a courtesy visit in conjunction with a working visit lasting several days or a visit in conjunction with a multilateral meeting, only the date of the courtesy visit is listed. For all other visits, the entire duration of the visit is specified.
- Members of the Federal Council: For simplicity's sake, first names are not listed. Additional information about each member of the Federal Council is available at:
Information on the Federal Councillors
- Names of federal departments: Only the current department names or a generic term are used. The Federal Department of Foreign Affairs is always referred to as FDFA, even though it was called the Political Department until 1978. Since the Federal Department of the Environment, Transport, Energy and Communications has had six different names since 1848, it is referred to as the Department of Communications.
- Location: The location is only listed if the visit took place outside the capital city.
The four geographic lists are organised according to continent and within each continent according to separate states.