Capital issue of Switzerland

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

When the Swiss federal state was founded, a controversy arose as to whether Switzerland should have a capital and which one. It ended in a compromise: on November 28, 1848, the National Council and Council of States elected the city ​​of Bern as the federal seat of Switzerland, but it is not called the capital but the federal city and is only de facto , but not de jure capital of Switzerland. Neither “federal city” nor “capital” are legally stipulated (in the federal constitution ).

Because Bern fulfills all the central functions of a capital in a modern understanding of the state, the municipal council of the city of Bern (city government) has recently increasingly used the term “capital”. In French-speaking and Italian-speaking Switzerland , Bern is also known colloquially as the “Capitale”, i.e. the “capital”. The official designation in these languages ​​is “Ville fédérale” or “Città federale”.

Before the election

Capital issue of Switzerland (Switzerland)
Location of the candidate cities

In the draft of the federal charter of 1832, the idea of ​​a central capital was found in which the federal assembly, the federal council and the main federal authorities were to be located. This compromise idea failed due to opposition from both centralist and radical federalist circles. The question of the capital of Switzerland was delegated to the legislature in the Federal Constitution of 1848 : Article 108 stipulated that the “seat of the federal authorities”, i.e. the Federal Council , Federal Assembly and Federal Administration , was subject to legislation by the Federal Assembly.

Since 1803, the so-called « suburb of Switzerland », that is, the seat of the Diet and the Federal Chancellery , has changed every year, later every two years. In November 1848 the councils agreed to abolish the rotation principle. It remained open which city or which place should become the capital. The question of whether a canton capital could also become a federal city was discussed. Even the establishment of a new city as the seat of government and parliament (a so-called planned capital , such as Washington in the United States ) was considered. The three former suburbs of Zurich , Bern and Lucerne remained for the election of November 28, 1848 as serious candidates .

Advantages and disadvantages of the candidates

Coat of arms of Zurich Zurich Coat of arms of Bern Bern Coat of arms of Lucerne Lucerne
advantages In the middle of the 19th century, Zurich had a good infrastructure and a cosmopolitan character. Bern is strategically located and in close proximity to French-speaking Switzerland ; In addition, the city undertook to provide the federal government with the necessary workrooms free of charge. Lucerne is located in the center of Switzerland; the negative attitude towards the new state in central Switzerland would have been positively influenced.
disadvantage Rejection in parts of eastern Switzerland and federal concerns about further strengthening the already strong center. Bern did not yet have the infrastructure necessary for a federal city. The negative attitude of the population in the area of ​​the former Sonderbund (Lucerne only narrowly voted for the Federal Constitution of 1848).

The choice of the federal city

The election fell on November 28, 1848 in the National Council and Council of States in the first ballot of Bern , for which 58 national and 21 Council of States voted. 35 national and 13 councilors voted for Zurich, 6 national and 3 councilors for Lucerne.

In return, Zurich received the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology and Lausanne received the Swiss Federal Supreme Court . Lucerne did not receive the less important Federal Insurance Court until 1917 , which is now part of the Federal Supreme Court.

Applicable regulation

There is no federal law anchoring the status of the city of Bern as a federal city and regulating the relationship between the federal government and the city of Bern, and the current federal constitution does not contain any provisions on the federal city.

Bern around 1858 with the Federal City Hall built by the city of Bern (on the right in the picture with the flag)

Services provided by the city of Bern to the federal seat

In the cantonal elections in 1850, the canton of Bern turned conservative. As a result, the Swiss Confederation demanded provisions to protect the federal authorities and in 1851 issued the so-called Guarantee Act. Art. 108 of the Federal Constitution of 1848 was adopted in Art. 115 of the revised Constitution of 1874. In 1875, in an agreement between the Federal Council and the Bern City Council, the «benefits of the City of Bern to the federal seat» were laid down in writing. In the area of ​​security, there are two agreements from March 1997 on measures to safeguard internal security.

Government and Administrative Organization Act and Parliament Act

In the current Government and Administrative Organization Act (RVOG) of March 21, 1997, Art. 58 confirmed Berne as the official seat of the Federal Council , its seven departments and the Federal Chancellery. Berne as the seat of the Federal Assembly is specified in Art. 32 of the Parliament Act of December 13, 2002.


As part of regionalization since the 1990s, the federal authorities have been partially decentralized and several federal offices have been relocated from Bern to other cities and regions, namely the Federal Statistical Office (FSO) to Neuchâtel , the Federal Office of Communications (OFCOM) to Biel / Bienne and the Federal Housing Office (BWO) to Grenchen .

The judiciary is also decentralized. The highest court, the Swiss Federal Supreme Court , has its seat in Lausanne . The social law departments of the Federal Supreme Court have long been located in Lucerne (1917 to 2006 under the name of the Federal Insurance Court ). The Federal Administrative Court has been based in St. Gallen since 2012 . Before that, it had been provisionally in Bern since it began its work in 2007. The Federal Criminal Court began its work in Bellinzona in the canton of Ticino in 2004 .

New regulation between the federal government and the city of Bern

In 2002 the government council of the canton of Bern and the municipal council of the city of Bern approached the federal authorities with the request to legally anchor the existing partnership relationships between the federal government and the city of Bern. As a result, a tripartite working group on “Federal City Status” was set up to clarify the issues specific to the federal city. The working group came to the conclusion that a new regulation of the federal city status was necessary and should take place in a new federal city law. After examining a preliminary draft for the Federal City Act, however, the Federal Council denied the need to reorganize the relationship between the federal government and the city of Bern and found in October 2004 that the previous regulations were fully adequate. The federal authorities therefore no longer pursue the drafting of a federal city law.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Chancellerie fédérale ChF: Création d'une loi fédérale sur le statut de Berne en tant que ville fédérale . ( [accessed on August 27, 2018]).
  2. ^ Negotiations of the Federal Assembly, the National Council and Council of States. In: Swiss Federal Gazette No. 5, March 14, 1849. P. 138 f. , accessed December 15, 2011 .
  3. Agreement between the Swiss Federal Council and the municipal council of the city of Bern regarding the services of the city of Bern to the federal seat. Completed on June 22, 1875. (PDF; 30 kB) Swiss Confederation, accessed on December 15, 2011 .
  4. ^ Federal Chancellery BK: Federal City Status City of Bern. Retrieved June 30, 2018 .