Political and Legal affairs

Swiss Domestic Politics

Switzerland is a multi-cultural, multilingual and multi-confessional nation shaped by the will of its people. It has been a federal State since 1848. Switzerland has a federal structure with three different political levels: the Confederation, the cantons and the communes.

The Federal State

The Swiss Confederation - a brief guide

Switzerland is a federal republic with a system of direct democracy in which the people are sovereign. All Swiss citizens over the age of 18 have the right to vote. They get to exercise this right regularly, as they are called on three to four times a year to take part in popular votes on a variety of political issues.

Information about past and upcoming votes and elections

The party system of the past decades underwent a change in the 2011 National Council Elections.

2011 National Council elections: analysis and documentation – Shift in the party landscape since 1971

Swiss Foreign Policy

Switzerland enjoys close political and economic ties with a great number of countries around the world and is a member of various international organisations:In 1960, Switzerland was a founding member of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA); in 1963 it joined the European Council and in 1975 the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). Switzerland is also a member of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Switzerland joined the Bretton Woods organisations in 1992.

In 2002, Switzerland became the 190th member of the United Nations following a nationwide vote on the issue. Prior to this, Switzerland had played an active role in various UN bodies.

Switzerland has also signed a great many bilateral agreements with other states. Relations between Switzerland and the European Union are founded on bilateral sectoral agreements: Bilateral Agreements I (1999) and Bilateral Agreements II (2004).

The goals of Swiss foreign policy are:

  • Peaceful co-existence of people of all nations
  • Promotion of and respect for human rights
  • Environmental sustainability
  • Representing the interests of Swiss businesses abroad
  • Combating need and poverty in the world

Swiss Foreign Policy Strategy 2012-2015

Automatic exchange of information in tax matters between Switzerland and Canada

On 4 February 2016, the honourable Diane Lebouthillier, Canadian minister of national revenue, and Swiss ambassador Beat Nobs signed a joint declaration on introducing the reciprocal and automatic exchange of information in tax matters. In application of the international Standard for Automatic Exchange of Financial Account Information in Tax Matters of the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Switzerland and Canada aim to collect, as from 2017, and exchange, as from 2018, banking information as soon as the necessary legal bases are in place in the two countries. 

The new international standard on the automatic exchange of information (AEOI) will help combat international tax evasion. To date, more than 100 states, including Switzerland, and all the major financial centres have declared their readiness to implement the standard.

Switzerland supports the new international standard, having taken an active part in developing it. As this standard applies to all financial centres, it allows fair competition and constitutes an important instrument for combating international tax evasion. Implementation of the new global standard has no impact on banking secrecy at the national level. 

To date, Switzerland has signed an agreement with the European Union (28 countries and Gibraltar) to introduce AEOI as well as joint declarations with Australia, Jersey, Guernsey, the Isle of Man, Iceland, Norway, Japan, Canada and South Korea, which enable AEOI to be introduced on the basis of a multilateral international agreement developed by the OECD.  

Subject to approval by the Federal Assembly, AEOI will apply to all taxpayers with tax residence in Canada (including Swiss citizens) and to taxpayers whose tax residence is in Switzerland (including Canadian citizens). 

Swiss financial institutions (banks, some collective investment instruments, and insurance companies) will gather, as from 2017 and for the following years, information[1] about the accounts of all taxpayers resident in Canada and will transmit it to the Federal Tax Administration (FTA). Once a year, the FTA will automatically transmit the information it collects to the Canadian tax authorities. Canadian financial institutions will proceed accordingly with the accounts of taxpayers resident in Switzerland. 

More information on this subject will be provided once the new standard is approved by the parliaments and the procedures have been published. 

[1] The information includes details relating to the account holder (name, address, residence, tax identification number, date of birth), account number, account balance, the amount of interest, dividends and other revenue generated by the assets held in the account and the proceeds from the sale of financial assets.