04. what does federalism mean?

In Switzerland, the Federalism and the Subsidiarity to the basic principles of state policy. In simplified terms, this means first of all that the Confederation, the 26 cantons and the approximately 2,600 municipalities in Switzerland divide up public tasks among themselves, with the cantons being as independent as possible.

Federalism: The cantons in Switzerland have a high degree of autonomy. They have their own constitutions, parliaments (not in all cantons), governments, courts and police. One consequence of this is that there are a large number of different legal norms. Agreements among the cantons ensure that the Swiss economic area nevertheless functions well.

Thanks to this federal system, the interests of small groups and minorities are better protected. One disadvantage, however, is that the interaction between the federal government, cantons and municipalities can sometimes be very complex and time-consuming.

Subsidiarity: The important basic idea here is that the smaller structures (municipalities and cantons) are initially responsible for solving tasks. If the municipality cannot handle a task, the canton takes over responsibility. And for those tasks that even the canton alone cannot fulfill, the responsibility passes to the federal government. Examples of this are foreign policy, labor law, civil and criminal law, vocational training or national infrastructure.

Scroll to Top