The Protocol Section deals with all protocol and ceremonial matters concerning the Federal Council, the president of the Confederation and the head of the FDFA. It organises official visits and manages privileges and immunities of the diplomatic corps.
FDFA Protocol is composed of the Office of the Head of Protocol, the Ceremonial and Visits Section and the Privileges and Immunities Section.
Office of the Head of Protocol
The Office of the Head of Protocol drafts ceremonial correspondence that carries the signature of the president of the Confederation and is destined for heads of state or heads of government (condolences, congratulations, thanks and good wishes). It also arranges visits by heads of mission to the president of the Confederation and to other members of the Federal Council.
It coordinates official visits by heads of mission to cantonal governments and, together with the competent authorities, the conferral of titles/honours on Swiss nationals. It processes applications to halt the circulation of official foreign passports, processes new passports and the filing of specimen signatures.
Finally, on request, it advises federal, cantonal and municipal services, foreign embassies and private individuals on matters of protocol.
Ceremonial and Visits Section
The Ceremonial and Visits Section organises state visits, official visits to Switzerland by heads of state, heads of government, government ministers, high representatives of international organisations and other foreign dignitaries at the invitation of the Federal Council, the president of the Confederation or the head of the FDFA.
It is responsible for coordination among all federal services involved in the organisation of these official visits.
It also organises diplomatic receptions hosted periodically by the president of the Confederation, such as the New Year reception for the diplomatic corps, and the biennial excursion or cultural event which the Federal Council hosts for the heads of mission. In addition it organises the cocktail party and excursion for the Annual Conference of Swiss Ambassadors. The section also assists with the organisation of selected multilateral events, concentrating on the protocol aspects.
Also featuring among the tasks of the section are: processing requests for approval (agrément) of new foreign heads of mission; organising the ceremony during which the newly appointed foreign heads of mission present their credentials; authorising VIP airport services; and administering the Protocol Rules of the Swiss Confederation and matters of precedence. The section also assists other federal departments and the Protocol Office of the Federal Parliament with their protocol-related activities.
Privileges and Immunities Section
The Privileges and Immunities Section manages the registration of arrivals/changes/departures of embassy and consular staff; issues FDFA legitimation cards; handles the opening and closing of consular posts; conducts personnel checks, handles the exequatur procedure for heads of consular posts and the approval (agrément) of military attachés.
It monitors the application of the Vienna Conventions on Diplomatic and Consular Relations, privileges and immunities, legal status, reciprocity, violations of Swiss law, prevention of abuses, and debt collection. It provides information and issues guidelines on these matters.
Together with the competent authorities, it coordinates security, customs and tax privileges, legal issues, property issues, visa requests in accordance with Art. 16 ERO, CD/AT/CC vehicle registration and access to the Swiss job market.
It draws up and administers the “List of Members of the Diplomatic Corps”, the “List of Members of the Consular Corps in Switzerland” and the “Privileges and Immunities” web page for diplomatic missions and consular posts in Switzerland, and members of their staff, their families and private household employees.