Crisis management: the federal government and cantons must further improve their cooperation

Switzerland has dealt with the COVID-19 pandemic in an overall satisfactory manner, mainly due to the joint action of the federal and cantonal authorities: this is the conclusion reached by the Council of States' (CoG-E) Management Committee in its report titled "Collaboration between the Confederation and Cantons in the Management of the COVID-19 Pandemic." However, the commission also identifies the need for improvements, particularly regarding the integration of the cantons into the crisis organization. The Federal Council also attaches great importance to the lessons learned from the pandemic, which is why it is following up on the recommendations of the CoG-E, as detailed in its position statement on the report adopted on Feb. 14, 2024. It has already fleshed out some of them and others have been incorporated into ongoing work, for example in the revision of the Epidemics Act (LEp).

Combating communicable diseases, pandemics, or epidemics is a joint responsibility of the federal government and cantons. Good cooperation between authorities is therefore crucial to ensure effective and successful management of future pandemics.

CoG-E notes that the federal authorities have largely complied with the criteria of legality, expediency and effectiveness during the crisis from COVID-19. At the same time, it makes recommendations on various aspects in order to improve cooperation.

The Federal Council accepts the committee's recommendations and is willing to incorporate them into the ongoing work. In the context of the partial revision of the LEp, which is in consultation until March 22, 2024, many of them will be taken into consideration, such as: clarifying the process of involving the cantons in the transition from normal to special or extraordinary situation, defining cooperation in times of special situation, and delimiting federal and cantonal responsibilities in extraordinary situations.

By improving the crisis management of the federal administration, the Federal Council also intends to ensure the most optimal coordination possible between the federal government and the cantons regarding strategic leadership in special situations.

In its position statement to the CoJ-E, however, the Federal Council makes it clear that the division of powers and responsibilities cannot be definitively determined, as the assessment of the measures to be taken always depends on the situation at hand.

The Federal Council believes it has already made concrete the recommendation to establish regular institutional meetings between the federal government and cantons in times of crisis, as well as the recommendation to improve the information of cantons on national measures in times of crisis.