Switzerland

   

Executive Capacity

#9
Key Findings
Reflecting a collegial, decentralized political system, Switzerland receives high overall rankings (rank 9) with regard to executive capacity. Its score on this measure has improved by 0.1 point relative to its 2014 level.

Strategic planning, largely performed by the Chancellery, has been given new weight in recent years. As there is no prime minister, the seven members of the Federal Council act collegially. Coordination has become more difficult as government parties have become more polarized.

While no formal RIA process exists, functional equivalents with effective sustainability checks are in place in some areas. Influential groups are involved in policy planning, with their influence heightened by the perpetual option of calling a public referendum. Most tax revenue is raised by highly autonomous local administrations. Cantonal autonomy ensures significant variation in standards.

International coordination has been problematic, as it is seen as infringing sovereignty. A stalemate over the EU’s rejection of Switzerland’s preferred bilateral-treaty model, along with tensions over recent referendums’ violations of EU norms, has highlighted inflexibilities with regard to domestic adaptability.

Strategic Capacity

#18

How much influence do strategic planning units and bodies have on government decision-making?

10
 9

Strategic planning units and bodies take a long-term view of policy challenges and viable solutions, and they exercise strong influence on government decision-making.
 8
 7
 6


Strategic planning units and bodies take a long-term view of policy challenges and viable solutions. Their influence on government decision-making is systematic but limited in issue scope or depth of impact.
 5
 4
 3


Strategic planning units and bodies take a long-term view of policy challenges and viable solutions. Occasionally, they exert some influence on government decision-making.
 2
 1

In practice, there are no units and bodies taking a long-term view of policy challenges and viable solutions.
Strategic Planning
5
Strategic planning is not given significant weight in Switzerland. It is further rendered difficult by the fact that the country has a quasi-presidential political system (meaning the government cannot be voted out of office by the parliament) with a collegial government, a strong non-professional element, a consociational decision-making structure, a strong corporatist relationship between a weak federal state and outside interest organizations, and considerable uncertainty deriving from the system of direct democracy.

The Swiss government is not strictly speaking a parliamentary government, and does not have a policy agenda comparable to a “normal” parliamentary government. Furthermore, all seven members of the government have equal rights and powers; there is no prime minister. The president of the government is primus inter pares. He or she is not leader of the government in the sense of a prime minister.

Strategic planning is the task of the Federal Chancellery, the central coordinating body of the Federal Administration. With the new chancellor, Walter Turnheer, elected in 2016, strategic planning has been given more weight as part of the new public management model implemented in the Federal Administration. In 2018, an overall strategic outlook of Swiss policymaking will be published.

How influential are non-governmental academic experts for government decisionmaking?

10
 9

In almost all cases, the government transparently consults with a panel of non-governmental academic experts at an early stage of government decision-making.
 8
 7
 6


For major political projects, the government transparently consults with a panel of non-governmental academic experts at an early stage of government decision-making.
 5
 4
 3


In some cases, the government transparently consults with a panel of non-governmental academic experts at an early stage of government decision-making.
 2
 1

The government does not consult with non-governmental academic experts, or existing consultations lack transparency entirely and/or are exclusively pro forma.
Scholarly Advice
7
In the Swiss political system, the drafting of bills takes place primarily within extra-parliamentary and parliamentary committees. As of November 2017, 119 of these extra-parliamentary committee existed, with government-selected members that included academics, representatives of interest groups and parties, individuals with particular expertise and other such experts. While there are multiple criteria for selecting members, the government seeks a balanced representation of language groups, political parties and ideologies and other societal interests. Academics are selected on the basis of academic profile, but their allegiance to political parties or other societal interests may also be taken into account.

Thus, while expert commissions and their members do have a dominant influence on governmental decision-making, the influence of academics per se is much more limited than is the influence of the politically constituted groups as a whole. In addition, the share of academics on these commissions is rather limited, amounting to about 11% of all seats. However, the combined total of academics and high-level federal and canton civil servants (who usually have academic training) accounts for about half of all commission seats.

In Switzerland, public policies are regularly assessed by evaluators who have had academic training. According to a recent study (Pleger et al. 2016), about 50% of these evaluators felt influenced or pressured by stakeholders; about the same level as in the United States, but considerably less than in Germany and the United Kingdom (about 80%).
This finding underscores the importance of evaluations for policymaking. A large-scale cooperative research project concluded that policy evaluations not only play an important role for policymaking in the executive-administrative nexus but also contribute to decision-making in parliament and to a lesser degree in direct-democratic decision-making (Sager et al. 2017; Sager 2017).

Citations:
Lyn Pleger, Fritz Sager, Michael Morris, Wolfgang Meyer, and Reinhard Stockmann 2016: Are Some Countries More Prone to Pressure Evaluators Than Others? Comparing Findings From the United States, United Kingdom, Germany and Switzerland, American Journal of Evaluation, DOI: 10.1177/1098214016662907

Sager, Fritz (2017). “Evaluation and democracy: do they fit?” Evaluation and Program Planning. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.evalprogplan.2017.08.005

Sager, Fritz, Thomas Widmer und Andreas Balthasar (Hg.) (2017). Evaluation im politischen System der Schweiz – Entwicklung, Bedeutung und Wechselwirkungen. Zürich: NZZ Verlag, Reihe „Politik und Gesellschaft in der Schweiz“.

Interministerial Coordination

#26

Does the government office / prime minister’s office (GO / PMO) have the expertise to evaluate ministerial draft bills substantively?

10
 9

The GO / PMO has comprehensive sectoral policy expertise and provides regular, independent evaluations of draft bills for the cabinet / prime minister. These assessments are guided exclusively by the government’s strategic and budgetary priorities.
 8
 7
 6


The GO / PMO has sectoral policy expertise and evaluates important draft bills.
 5
 4
 3


The GO / PMO can rely on some sectoral policy expertise, but does not evaluate draft bills.
 2
 1

The GO / PMO does not have any sectoral policy expertise. Its role is limited to collecting, registering and circulating documents submitted for cabinet meetings.
GO Expertise
5
The Swiss political system does not have a prime minister or a prime minister’s office. The government is a collegial body. However, there are several instruments of interministerial coordination and various mechanisms by which ministries’ draft bills are evaluated. Departments engage in a formal process of consultation when drafting proposals, the Department of Justice provides legal evaluations of draft bills, and the Federal Chancellery and Federal Council provide political coordination.
Due to the double role of the Federal Council as a collegial unit with the task of producing widely acceptable proposals, and individual federal councilors as heads of departments with the task of satisfying their parties’ programs and their department policies, coordination becomes more difficult with the increasing political polarization between government parties.

Can the government office / prime minister’s office return items envisaged for the cabinet meeting on the basis of policy considerations?

10
 9

The GO/PMO can return all/most items on policy grounds.
 8
 7
 6


The GO/PMO can return some items on policy grounds.
 5
 4
 3


The GO/PMO can return items on technical, formal grounds only.
 2
 1

The GO/PMO has no authority to return items.
GO Gatekeeping
5
There is no prime minister in Switzerland. The Federal Chancellery manages and prepares the agenda of the Federal Council, and can return items and postpone consideration of political issues if they are deemed to conflict with other policies.

To what extent do line ministries involve the government office/prime minister’s office in the preparation of policy proposals?

10
 9

There are inter-related capacities for coordination in the GO/PMO and line ministries.
 8
 7
 6


The GO/PMO is regularly briefed on new developments affecting the preparation of policy proposals.
 5
 4
 3


Consultation is rather formal and focuses on technical and drafting issues.
 2
 1

Consultation occurs only after proposals are fully drafted as laws.
Line Ministries
7
Switzerland’s government consists of only seven ministries, each of which has a broad area of competency and is responsible for a large variety of issues. There are no line ministries. However, there are federal offices and institutions connected to the various ministries. These work closely with the minister responsible for their group. Since ministers must achieve a large majority on the Federal Council in order to win success for a proposal, there is strong coordination between offices. Indeed, political coordination among the high ranks of the administration can be rather intense, although the limited capacity and time of the Federal Council members, as well as their diverging interests, create practical bottlenecks.

How effectively do ministerial or cabinet committees coordinate cabinet proposals?

10
 9

The large majority of cabinet proposals are reviewed and coordinated first by committees.
 8
 7
 6


Most cabinet proposals are reviewed and coordinated by committees, in particular proposals of political or strategic importance.
 5
 4
 3


There is little review or coordination of cabinet proposals by committees.
 2
 1

There is no review or coordination of cabinet proposals by committees. Or: There is no ministerial or cabinet committee.
Cabinet Committees
2
Not surprisingly, given the small number of ministries, there are no cabinet committees in Switzerland’s political system. However, there is considerable coordination, delegation and communication at the lower level of the federal government. Every minister is in a sense already a “ministerial committee,” representing the coordination of a large number of cooperating departmental units.

How effectively do ministry officials/civil servants coordinate policy proposals?

10
 9

Most policy proposals are effectively coordinated by ministry officials/civil servants.
 8
 7
 6


Many policy proposals are effectively coordinated by ministry officials/civil servants.
 5
 4
 3


There is some coordination of policy proposals by ministry officials/civil servants.
 2
 1

There is no or hardly any coordination of policy proposals by ministry officials/civil servants.
Ministerial Bureaucracy
10
The federal government deliberates behind closed doors, and minutes of these meetings are not public. A leading expert on government decision processes has estimated that in most decision-making processes, “either the preliminary procedure or the co-reporting procedure leads to an agreement.” The preliminary procedure consists of interministerial consultations at the level of the federal departments. After the departments have been consulted, the co-reporting procedure begins. The Federal Chancellery leads the process by submitting the proposal under consideration as prepared by the ministry responsible to all other ministries. These then have the opportunity to submit a report or express an opinion. A process of discussion and coordination ensues, designed to eliminate all or most differences before the proposal is discussed by the Federal Council.

Two instruments, the large and the small co-reporting procedures, are specifically designed to coordinate policy proposals between the ministries. These processes invite the ministries to take positions on political issues. The co-reporting procedure is largely a process of negative coordination, which highlights incompatibilities with other policies but does not systematically scrutinize the potential for synergy.

How effectively do informal coordination mechanisms complement formal mechanisms of interministerial coordination?

10
 9

Informal coordination mechanisms generally support formal mechanisms of interministerial coordination.
 8
 7
 6


In most cases, informal coordination mechanisms support formal mechanisms of interministerial coordination.
 5
 4
 3


In some cases, informal coordination mechanisms support formal mechanisms of interministerial coordination.
 2
 1

Informal coordination mechanisms tend to undermine rather than complement formal mechanisms of interministerial coordination.
Informal Coordination
9
Given the small size of the federal administration and the country’s tradition of informal coordination, there is a continuing presence of strong and effective informal coordination. Informal coordination not only takes place among administrative units in the seven departments, but also between the respective administrations at the different federal levels (Mavrot and Sager 2017).

Citations:
MAVROT, Céline, and Fritz SAGER (2017). Vertical epistemic communities in multilevel governance. Policy & Politics: early online.

Evidence-based Instruments

#9

To what extent does the government assess the potential impacts of existing and prepared legal acts (regulatory impact assessments, RIA)?

10
 9

RIA are applied to all new regulations and to existing regulations which are characterized by complex impact paths. RIA methodology is guided by common minimum standards.
 8
 7
 6


RIA are applied systematically to most new regulations. RIA methodology is guided by common minimum standards.
 5
 4
 3


RIA are applied in some cases. There is no common RIA methodology guaranteeing common minimum standards.
 2
 1

RIA are not applied or do not exist.
RIA Application
8
There is no formal institution responsible for ex-ante impact assessment in Switzerland. Article 170 of the constitution states that “(t)he federal parliament shall ensure that the efficacy of measures taken by the confederation is evaluated.” In some ministries such as the Department of Economic Affairs, individual units occasionally perform ex-ante impact assessments. Furthermore, ex-ante evaluations by the administration always include checks for consistency with existing law (performed by the Department of Justice), compatibility with EU regulations, and if necessary, analyze budget implications, probable administrative costs and personnel requirements. Ex-post evaluations have also been strongly developed; however, it is unclear whether the results of these analyses have any substantial effect on implementation.

In a recent study, the authors argue that “the meager impact and success of the RIA is due to its institutional context, namely Swiss semi-direct referendum democracy. Direct democratic involvement and the division of power in the course of consensual government are both great barriers for effective policy appraisal” (Sager/Rissi 2011).

Beyond these processes, functional equivalents of impact assessments do exist. First, expert commissions that draft or suggest laws also evaluate alternatives, while examining the potential impacts, benefits and problems associated with proposed solutions. Second, and probably more important, is the so-called consultation procedure derived from Article 147 of the constitution. This article stipulates that “the cantons, the political parties and the interested circles shall be heard in the course of the preparation of important legislation and other projects of substantial impact, and on important international treaties.” As a consequence, all those who are affected by a planned law have a constitutional right to give their opinion as to its pros and cons.
From a comparative perspective, Switzerland was a relative latecomer to performance-management policies, as were Germany and Austria. It was only in 2011 that the federal administration decided to implement some form of performance management on a consistent basis.

In 2016, a report by the Federal Audit Office criticized RIA praxis in Switzerland arguing that it did not fully comply with the formal requirements for RIA (EFK 2016). This critique led to a political debate about whether the Federal Administration had deliberately misinformed the parliament. In the course of this debate, the widespread neglect of RIA by politicians was largely ignored (Sager 2017).

Citations:
EFK [Eidgenössische Finanzkontrolle] (2016). Prognosen in den Botschaften des Bundesrates, Evaluation der prospektiven Folgenabschätzungen von Gesetzesentwürfen, Bern.

Fritz Sager/Christof Rissi 2013: The limited scope of policy appraisal in the context of referendum democracy – the case of regulatory impact assessment in Switzerland, Evaluation: The International Journal of Theory, Research and Practice 17(2): 151-164.

Fritz Sager (2017). „Regulierungsfolgenabschätzung (RFA): Prognosen und Kompromisse“, Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 14. Februar 2017, S. 9.

Does the RIA process ensure participation, transparency and quality evaluation?

10
 9

RIA analyses consistently involve stakeholders by means of consultation or collaboration, results are transparently communicated to the public and assessments are effectively evaluated by an independent body on a regular basis.
 8
 7
 6


The RIA process displays deficiencies with regard to one of the three objectives.
 5
 4
 3


The RIA process displays deficiencies with regard to two of the three objectives.
 2
 1

RIA analyses do not exist or the RIA process fails to achieve any of the three objectives of process quality.
Quality of RIA Process
7
While stakeholder participation in regulatory impact assessment (RIA) procedures is a particularly strong point in Switzerland, communications processes vary between regions and policy fields. For in-depth RIA, an extended version of standard RIA, Rissi and Sager (2013) shave how procedural assessments used to be the most prominent form of RIA utilization in Switzerland. RIA are often outsourced to independent research companies, though this does not affect utilization. In the course of the debate about the Federal Audit Office report on the quality of RIA, an independent Regulation Assessment Unit was demanded by some politicians. However, the proposal is yet to be made concrete.

Citations:
RISSI Christof and Fritz SAGER (2013). “Types of Knowledge Utilization of Regulatory Impact Assessment (RIA). Evidence from Swiss Policymaking,” Regulation & Governance 7(3): 348–364.

Does the government conduct effective sustainability checks within the framework of RIA?

10
 9

Sustainability checks are an integral part of every RIA; they draw on an exhaustive set of indicators (including social, economic, and environmental aspects of sustainability) and track impacts from the short- to long-term.
 8
 7
 6


Sustainability checks lack one of the three criteria.
 5
 4
 3


Sustainability checks lack two of the three criteria.
 2
 1

Sustainability checks do not exist or lack all three criteria.
Sustainability Check
7
The government conducts effective sustainability checks within the framework of RIA. Given the decentralized political and administrative system of Switzerland, however, they are only used in few departments.

The Federal Office for Spatial Development uses the Sustainability Impact Assessment (Nachhaltigkeitsbeurteilung NHB) and the Federal Office for the Environment uses the Economic Impact Assessment (Volkswirtschaftliche Beurteilung VOBU). There is no social impact assessment at the federal level.

Societal Consultation

#1

To what extent does the government consult with societal actors to support its policy?

10
 9

The government successfully motivates societal actors to support its policy.
 8
 7
 6


The government facilitates the acceptance of its policy among societal actors.
 5
 4
 3


The government consults with societal actors.
 2
 1

The government rarely consults with any societal actors.
Negotiating Public Support
10
Within Switzerland’s corporatist system there are numerous pre-parliamentary procedures and committees focused on consultation with various societal groups. These instruments are designed to prevent government proposals from failing in parliament or in referenda, and to offer solutions that benefit all parties. However, research shows that the degree of corporatist integration has declined in recent years. This is in part attributable to the growing intensity of conflicts between the social partners, as well to the influence of EU integration and internationalization. In addition, lobbying and pluralist pressure-group politics have gained in importance. If judged from a comparative perspective, the level of corporatist integration remains very high in Switzerland, but from a historical perspective it is low. In any case, direct democracy offers interest groups major influence by threatening to trigger a referendum. This offers strong incentives for political elites to incorporate major interest groups in policy development.

Policy Communication

#4

To what extent does the government achieve coherent communication?

10
 9

The government effectively coordinates the communication of ministries; ministries closely align their communication with government strategy. Messages are factually coherent with the government’s plans.
 8
 7
 6


The government coordinates the communication of ministries. Contradictory statements are rare, but do occur. Messages are factually coherent with the government’s plans.
 5
 4
 3


The ministries are responsible for informing the public within their own particular areas of competence; their statements occasionally contradict each other. Messages are sometimes not factually coherent with the government’s plans.
 2
 1

Strategic communication planning does not exist; individual ministry statements regularly contradict each other. Messages are often not factually coherent with the government’s plans.
Coherent Communication
8
Switzerland’s government acts as a collegial body. All members of the government have to defend the government’s decisions, irrespective of their own opinion. However, in the 2003 to 2007 period, when the Swiss People’s Party’s (SVP) Christoph Blocher participated in government, communication was less coherent than before and afterward, and the country’s politics moved in a more populist, aggressive and confrontational direction. Although the current government is much more consistent in its public statements, coherence has not yet returned to the level reached in the 1970s through the 1990s. The new government elected by parliament in December 2015 includes two SVP members who will have little incentive to increase communication coherence. The following factors have contributed to this decline in the coherence of government policy communications:

• the structure of the collegiate body itself, which makes it difficult to speak with one voice in the mass media age;
• political polarization, even among the members of the broad coalition government;
• the systematic distortion of the Federal Council’s communication leaks on the part of some aggressive media outlets; and
• the Federal Council’s lack of authority or capacity to punish and deter communication leaks, and its inability to manage its communication policy effectively.

Implementation

#2

To what extent can the government achieve its own policy objectives?

10
 9

The government can largely implement its own policy objectives.
 8
 7
 6


The government is partly successful in implementing its policy objectives or can implement some of its policy objectives.
 5
 4
 3


The government partly fails to implement its objectives or fails to implement several policy objectives.
 2
 1

The government largely fails to implement its policy objectives.
Government Efficiency
9
The Swiss polity contains many different potential veto points, including political parties, cantons that have veto power in the second chamber, and interest groups with the power to trigger a referendum. Thus, the government must hammer out compromises carefully when drafting legislation. This is done in the pre- parliamentary stage of legislation. Once a bill is introduced into parliament, many of the necessary compromises have already been reached. For this reason, a substantial number of bills are passed in parliament without being modified.

To what extent does the organization of government provide incentives to ensure that ministers implement the government’s program?

10
 9

The organization of government successfully provides strong incentives for ministers to implement the government’s program.
 8
 7
 6


The organization of government provides some incentives for ministers to implement the government’s program.
 5
 4
 3


The organization of government provides weak incentives for ministers to implement the government’s program.
 2
 1

The organization of government does not provide any incentives for ministers to implement the government’s program.
Ministerial Compliance
8
Government in Switzerland is not (primarily) party-driven. Ministers are expected to work together as a collegium, and to abstain from any politics or policies that benefit their party or themselves as individual politicians. In general, this worked quite well so long as all members of government felt bound by the rules of collegiality. In recent years, due to growing political polarization and an attack on consociational politics by the right-populist party, there have been some deviations from this course. However, even in periods of polarized politics, the Swiss government and its policy implementation is much less driven by the interests of individual politicians or parties than is typically the case for parliamentary governments. In the current review period, ministerial compliance and cooperation were much more pronounced than between 2003 and 2007.
In the Swiss federal system, implementation is first the task of the cantons and even the municipalities. Implementation therefore must be seen as a multilevel process. Implementation varies among the cantons, and is determined by political party government composition, policy pressures and bureaucratic preferences at the cantonal level (Sager and Thomann 2016).

Citations:
SAGER, Fritz, and Eva THOMANN (2016). “A Multiple Streams Approach to Member State Implementation Re-search: Politics, Problem Construction and Policy Paths in Swiss Asylum Policy,” Journal of Public Policy 37 (3): 287–314.

How effectively does the government office/prime minister’s office monitor line ministry activities with regard to implementation?

10
 9

The GO / PMO effectively monitors the implementation activities of all line ministries.
 8
 7
 6


The GO / PMO monitors the implementation activities of most line ministries.
 5
 4
 3


The GO / PMO monitors the implementation activities of some line ministries.
 2
 1

The GO / PMO does not monitor the implementation activities of line ministries.
Monitoring Ministries
9
Switzerland’s government features neither a prime minister’s office nor line ministries, but does offer functional equivalents. Given the rule of collegiality and the consociational decision-making style, as well as the high level of cooperation at lower levels of the federal administration, there is little leeway for significant deviation from the government line. Monitoring is built into the cooperative process of policy formulation and implementation.

How effectively do federal and subnational ministries monitor the activities of bureaucracies and executive agencies with regard to implementation?

10
 9

The ministries effectively monitor the implementation activities of all bureaucracies/executive agencies.
 8
 7
 6


The ministries monitor the implementation activities of most bureaucracies/executive agencies.
 5
 4
 3


The ministries monitor the implementation activities of some bureaucracies/executive agencies.
 2
 1

The ministries do not monitor the implementation activities of bureaucracies/executive agencies.
Monitoring Agencies, Bureaucracies
6
Switzerland’s governance system offers considerable flexibility in implementing decisions. The central administration is very small; this does not prevent bureaucratic drift, but in all likelihood the opportunities for such drift are much smaller than in huge administrations.

A number of factors mitigate for close coordination between the federal government and the federal administration. The country’s direct democracy means that citizens have the ability to limit the maneuvering room of both government and administration. In the collegial governmental system, coordination is essential to success, and government and administration alike depend on efficient collaboration given the reality of parliamentary control. There is little evidence of an administrative class that acts on its own; moreover, administrative elites perceive themselves to be politically neutral.

Furthermore, Switzerland’s system is not characterized by a unitary federalism such as in Germany. Rather, it resembles the federalism of the United States. This implies that cantons have considerable responsibility for implementing policy, while the federal state has a subsidiary role. According to Article 3 of the constitution: “The cantons are sovereign insofar as their sovereignty is not limited by the federal constitution; they shall exercise all rights which are not transferred to the confederation.” Even in areas in which the federal state has tasks and powers, such as social insurance, environmental protection or zoning, implementation is carried out by the cantonal and sometimes municipal administrations. These bodies have considerable flexibility in performing their work, and implementation of federal guidelines frequently varies substantially between cantons. Zoning policy has offered examples in which the same federal regulation has led to opposite outcomes in different cantons. In addition, much implementation is carried out by interest organizations though the corporatist channel.

A 2016 study by Fritz Sager and Eva Thomann on cantonal asylum policies showed that implementation was mainly dependent on the extent of the problem, politicization and partisan power distribution in the respective canton as well as the previous policy. This analysis allows for many different constellations, which can explain the large variation in cantonal implementation of federal laws.

Citations:
Fritz Sager and Eva Thomann: Multiple streams in member state implementation: politics, problem construction and policy paths in Swiss asylum policy. Journal of Public Policy, Available on CJO 2016 doi:10.1017/S0143814X1600009X

To what extent does the central government ensure that tasks delegated to subnational self-governments are adequately funded?

10
 9

The central government enables subnational self-governments to fulfill all their delegated tasks by funding these tasks sufficiently and/or by providing adequate revenue-raising powers.
 8
 7
 6


The central government enables subnational governments to fulfill most of their delegated tasks by funding these tasks sufficiently and/or by providing adequate revenue-raising powers.
 5
 4
 3


The central government sometimes and deliberately shifts unfunded mandates to subnational governments.
 2
 1

The central government often and deliberately shifts unfunded mandates to subnational self-governments.
Task Funding
9
In Switzerland, cantons and municipalities levy most of the country’s tax revenues. They determine local tax rates and decide how tax revenues will be distributed. Between 2004 and 2007, Switzerland passed a rather successful reform of its financial federalism, which has now taken effect. The basic idea was to establish a clear division of tasks between the federation and the cantons, and create transparency with regard to the flow of resources between the federal state and the cantons. In this reform, the basic principle of fiscal equivalence was strengthened. This means that communes, cantons and the federation each are responsible for the funding of their own tasks, and for the balance of their own budgets. The fiscal equalization scheme has been retained, as it is necessary to reduce certain geographical, economic and social disparities, but the danger of providing badly aligned incentives through earmarked subsidies is eliminated through the use of grants. Funds thus continue to flow vertically (from the federal state to the cantons and vice versa) as well as horizontally (between communes and cantons). Nonetheless, it remains to be seen whether the new fiscal equalization scheme will help cantons that have serious problems in fulfilling their tasks or in meeting their goals due to their small size, lack of resources, or other reasons. In any case, there is a divide between those cantons that pay more and those receiving payments.

To what extent does central government ensure that subnational self-governments may use their constitutional scope of discretion with regard to implementation?

10
 9

The central government enables subnational self-governments to make full use of their constitutional scope of discretion with regard to implementation.
 8
 7
 6


Central government policies inadvertently limit the subnational self-governments’ scope of discretion with regard to implementation.
 5
 4
 3


The central government formally respects the constitutional autonomy of subnational self-governments, but de facto narrows their scope of discretion with regard to implementation.
 2
 1

The central government deliberately precludes subnational self-governments from making use of their constitutionally provided implementation autonomy.
Constitutional Discretion
10
Municipalities and cantons have a high degree of autonomy, while the federation has only a subsidiary role. The central government has little opportunity to counter decisions made by cantonal parliaments or governments. Municipal discretion in policymaking is a constitutional norm. Article 50 of the constitution states: “(1) The autonomy of the municipalities is guaranteed within the limits fixed by cantonal law. (2) In its activity, the confederation shall take into account the possible consequences for the municipalities. (3) In particular, it shall take into account the special situation of cities, agglomerations and mountainous regions.” The municipalities and cantons make use of their competences to the maximum extent possible.

To what extent does central government ensure that subnational self-governments realize national standards of public services?

10
 9

Central government effectively ensures that subnational self-governments realize national standards of public services.
 8
 7
 6


Central government largely ensures that subnational self-governments realize national standards of public services.
 5
 4
 3


Central government ensures that subnational self-governments realize national minimum standards of public services.
 2
 1

Central government does not ensure that subnational self-governments realize national standards of public services.
National Standards
7
The Swiss political system is one of the most decentralized systems in the world. Cantons and municipalities enjoy very substantial autonomy. Within the scope of their quite significant competencies, it is up to the cantons and municipalities to decide what public services they want to offer, to what extent and at what level of quality. Therefore, there are no national standards for public services except with regard to those limited parts of the administration that implement federal law. However, all public services have to comply with the rule of the law and the human rights set out in the constitution. A comparatively small number of issues (i.e., social policies) are decided at the federal level, and are thus subject to national standards. In these cases, federal laws are implemented by cantonal administrations, which have to follow national norms.

Multilateral agreements between some or all cantons (“Konkordate”) for common standards of public services can be seen as a functional equivalent to national policy standards.

Adaptability

#28

To what extent does the government respond to international and supranational developments by adapting domestic government structures?

10
 9

The government has appropriately and effectively adapted domestic government structures to international and supranational developments.
 8
 7
 6


In many cases, the government has adapted domestic government structures to international and supranational developments.
 5
 4
 3


In some cases, the government has adapted domestic government structures to international and supranational.
 2
 1

The government has not adapted domestic government structures no matter how useful adaptation might be.
Domestic Adaptability
6
Switzerland directly implements international treaties which today account for about half of the federal legislation. Whenever Switzerland agrees to cooperate with other countries or international organizations, it attempts to meet all the requirements of the agreement, including implementation of the necessary administrative reforms.

With regard to the European Union, however, the adaptation is idiosyncratic. On the one hand, the government cannot develop institutional mechanisms with Brussels, as most Swiss do not want to join the European Union and have expressed in several referenda their skepticism toward the European Union. On the other hand, adaptations to EU law reach beyond these treaties and comprise also large parts of (domestic) economic law. The strategy of bilateral treaties has been placed in jeopardy following the passage of the popular initiative capping mass immigration. The parliament solved the problem by paying lip-service to the constitutional amendment while drafting an implementation law that does not correspond to the wording and the spirit of the popular decision (“implementation light”). Moreover, there are serious concerns as to whether the “strategy of bilaterals” is sufficient or sustainable. Conflicts between the European Union and Switzerland have escalated since 2012, with the European Union demanding that institutional solutions be developed to address the bilateral system’s weaknesses. Specifically, the European Union has called for self-executing rules enabling bilateral treaties to be updated as well as independent institutions for the settlement of conflicts arising from the bilateral treaties. Switzerland has opposed these proposals. There is strong domestic opposition against any such institutional framework agreement, while the European Union is not willing to continue the previous case-by-case updating of bilateral agreements nor the limited adjudication of conflicts by a joint committee of the European Union and Switzerland. In addition, the uncertainty regarding the implementation of a constitutional rule capping immigration – which violates treaties between the European Union and Switzerland – prevented a swift development of new institutional rules. After the “implementation light,” by fall 2017 the relationship between the European Union and Switzerland seems to have strengthened or at least become more cordial. With regard to the new institutional framework, the newly elected foreign minister pleased right-wing politicians with the announcement that the government would press the “reset” button, while leaving open what that may mean. In any case, this new institutional agreement will meet strong opposition and the leader of the right-populist party has already declared that this would be the battle of his life.

To what extent is the government able to collaborate effectively in international efforts to foster global public goods?

10
 9

The government can take a leading role in shaping and implementing collective efforts to provide global public goods. It is able to ensure coherence in national policies affecting progress.
 8
 7
 6


The government is largely able to shape and implement collective efforts to provide global public goods. Existing processes enabling the government to ensure coherence in national policies affecting progress are, for the most part, effective.
 5
 4
 3


The government is partially able to shape and implement collective efforts to provide global public goods. Processes designed to ensure coherence in national policies affecting progress show deficiencies.
 2
 1

The government does not have sufficient institutional capacities to shape and implement collective efforts to provide global public goods. It does not have effective processes to ensure coherence in national policies affecting progress.
International Coordination
5
Switzerland is a fairly active member of the United Nations, the IMF, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the Council of Europe and most of the other important international organizations. Swiss foreign economic policy works actively to defend the interests of its export-oriented economy, as for instance in the context of the WTO.

The policy of neutrality and the objective of safeguarding national autonomy set clear limits to the country’s international engagement in the past, however, and direct democracy further reduced the scope of action in international affairs. During the growing polarization witnessed in Swiss politics over the past 20 years, together with the associated decline in consociational patterns of behavior, right-wing politicians have emphasized the notion of a small, neutral and independent nation-state surviving on the basis of smart strategies in a potentially hostile environment. Large portions of the population support these ideas. Popular skepticism toward European integration has mounted over the course of the last years. Nonetheless, it would be wrong to repeat the cliché of Switzerland as a solitary lone wolf, as there have been various attempts to contribute to international cooperative ventures. However, the country concentrates its efforts in areas where it can realistically have some influence, such as economic matters or technical organizations dealing with issues such as transport, ecology or development. This said, there is a clear gap between the government’s stated goals in terms of international cooperation and the resources – institutional or otherwise – that it has at its disposal for these tasks

Organizational Reform

#14

To what extent do actors within the government monitor whether institutional arrangements of governing are appropriate?

10
 9

The institutional arrangements of governing are monitored regularly and effectively.
 8
 7
 6


The institutional arrangements of governing are monitored regularly.
 5
 4
 3


The institutional arrangements of governing are selectively and sporadically monitored.
 2
 1

There is no monitoring.
Self-monitoring
8
Self-monitoring takes place as a part of the political process, which includes a large number of private and public actors. It is not institutionalized outside the context of the evaluation of policies (as by implication, policy evaluation leads indirectly to the monitoring of the institutional framework for these policies). Evaluation activity in Switzerland is high and evaluations form an important part in political life in Switzerland (Sager et al. 2017).

Citations:
Sager, Fritz, Thomas Widmer und Andreas Balthasar (Hg.) (2017). Evaluation im politischen System der Schweiz – Entwicklung, Bedeutung und Wechselwirkungen. Zürich: NZZ Verlag, Reihe „Politik und Gesellschaft in der Schweiz“.

To what extent does the government improve its strategic capacity by changing the institutional arrangements of governing?

10
 9

The government improves its strategic capacity considerably by changing its institutional arrangements.
 8
 7
 6


The government improves its strategic capacity by changing its institutional arrangements.
 5
 4
 3


The government does not improve its strategic capacity by changing its institutional arrangements.
 2
 1

The government loses strategic capacity by changing its institutional arrangements.
Institutional Reform
5
The federal government has sought to improve its institutional arrangements through the adoption of new administrative techniques (specifically, new public management practices) and a number of other organizational changes. However, whenever the central government has sought to engage in substantial change through institutional reform (e.g., through reorganization of the Federal Council and the collegiate system), it has met with resistance on the part of the public and the cantons, which do not want more resources or powers to go to the federal level. This has limited the range of feasible institutional reforms.

While the basic structures of federalism and direct democracy are very robust, and direct democracy provides incentives for political parties to cooperate within the context of power-sharing structures, lower-level government structures are subject to constant change. Recent examples of such change have affected parliamentary practices, fiscal federalism and the judicial system, canton- and communal-level electoral systems, communal organization and public management. Nevertheless, one of the most important reforms, the reorganization of the Federal Council and its collegiate system, has failed despite several attempts. While the Federal Council is not prone to institutional reforms, the administrative body undertakes reforms quite frequently, not least as a substitute for a lack of government reforms.
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