In Switzerland, diplomats are grouped in Bern and in Geneva. By tradition, the head of the diplomatic corps is the representative of the Holy See.
The diplomatic corps is the body of diplomatic staff posted to a particular state. It is presided over by a dean (doyen). In Switzerland, the representative of the Holy See, the apostolic nuncio, is recognised as the dean of the diplomatic corps.
Diplomats represent their state’s economic, cultural and military interests in their host country. They also attend to their state's interests in connection with international organisations.
Representing their country’s interests
Some 170 countries have accredited an ambassador to the Federal Council. Half of these ambassadors lead representations based in Bern. A quarter also head permanent missions and are thus accredited both to the Federal Council and to the UN. Their representations are based in Geneva. The remaining quarter head a diplomatic mission located abroad. The 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations regulates the special status accorded to diplomats.
Bilateral diplomacy is diplomacy that takes place between two countries. In multilateral diplomacy, like the diplomacy practised at the UN, representatives of various states seek shared solutions.
New Year’s reception
In accordance with the Swiss Confederation’s protocol regulations, in mid-January the dean of the diplomatic corps extends New Year’s greetings to the Swiss president at the Federal Palace. The Swiss president returns the greetings on behalf of the Federal Council in an address to the diplomatic corps accredited to Switzerland.
The ceremony is attended by the ambassadors, chargés d'affaires, presidents of the National Council and Council of States, chairs of both councils’ foreign affairs committees and the head of the FDFA. Prior to this, the Swiss government accepts greetings from the authorities in Bern (the Canton, City and ‘Burgergemeinde’ of Bern).