Why does the Swiss Federal Council go on holiday together every year?
When talking about the cut-throat world of politics, we don’t usually expect political rivals to be very close or friendly to each other. However, in Switzerland, the Federal Council breaks the mould by taking a traditional holiday together during the summer.
What is the Federal Council Holiday (Bundesratsreisli)?
The Federal Council Holiday (Bundesratsreisli) is an annual tradition for the Swiss government. Every summer, members of the executive Federal Council, the Federal Chancellor and the two Vice-Chancellors spend two days together on a special holiday visiting Swiss historical sites, cities and landmarks.
The holiday has been held every year since 1957 and typically involves fun activities, team building and speeches. Since 1961, it has been a tradition to spend part of the trip in the home canton of whoever is president at the time.
Why do political opponents holiday together in Switzerland?
Unlike the National Council and Council of States in Switzerland, the executive Federal Council is meant to “govern in consensus.” This means that, despite having councillors from four different political parties, the seven-member group must work together to resolve the issues the country faces.
This makes a holiday and bonding experience beneficial as it showcases how the group works together socially as well as politically. It also gives the public the opportunity to meet with the heads of state in a more relaxed atmosphere, as they spend most of the trip dressed in holiday clothes and are generally free to mingle among the public.
The trip also gives the current president, who usually plans the holiday, the opportunity to highlight some of the "key themes" for their term. This typically means certain destinations and themed activities are used to showcase what the president wants to do during their time in office.
Where are the Swiss Federal Council visiting in 2022?
This year, Ignazio Cassis declared that diversity was the main theme of his presidency. To showcase this, the trip in 2022 went from the most northern canton in Switzerland (Schaffhausen) to the most southern (Ticino).
When visiting Schaffhausen, the president gave a personal speech to hundreds of people in the old town. Cassis was largely unguarded, meaning residents could get within a metre of the incumbent president.
After visiting the city, the Federal Council took an adrenaline-fuelled joy ride on the River Rhine, visiting the Rhine waterfall and the Rhine Fall Rock. From there, the group took a special train from north to south, arriving at Cassis’ home in Canton Ticino.
Once in Ticino, the Federal Council participated in an archery competition with a local youth sports group. The trip will finally come to an end on Friday evening with an aperitif with the people of Mendriso.
Federal holiday one of the quirkier aspects of Swiss politics
Despite only being a couple of days every year, the Federal Council's mini-trip tends to produce some of the quirkier moments in Swiss politics. One can only conclude that, even for the most powerful people in the country, it is important to have some rest and relaxation, even if it is with your work colleagues.
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