8 OVIDIU-HORIA MAICAN
5. The swiss model
There are three institutional actors in Swiss federalism, the federation, the
cantons and the communes18.
All of them levels of government have specific constitutional tasks though
their nature and extent naturally vary and it is very important to include the
communes because they play an essential role in Switzerland.
The cantons are still the central actors. They are representing the crucial
middle level between the federation and the communes.
The federation is a very important factor. In some aspects, the federal
constitution implies that the ‘Confederation’ means with the whole Swiss political
system, including cantons and communes19.
The division of competences between the three levels of government is mainly
regulated by constitutional rules (federal norms regulate the relationship between
the federation and the cantons, and cantonal norms regulate the relationship
between canton and communes).
The presence of constitutional rules at both federal and cantonal level means
that each of the three levels has legal constraints and has to respect the autonomy
and prerogatives of the other levels and to cooperate with them. Cantonal acts are
subject to judicial review by the Federal Tribunal and federal acts are not and can
only be challenged through referendum.
The division of competences is not very clear and it is not fully specified and it
operates through several categories, fully cantonal, mixed, and fully federal.
The three levels are working together in a cooperative manner by a variety of
Cantons have collective veto power over any shift of competences to the
federal level because all amendments to the federal constitution are subject to
approval by a majority of cantons, as well as of the people, in a mandatory
referendum. It happens that popular and cantonal majorities do not coincide and
thus that amendments are not passed.
Political representation takes place via the Council of States, which, has equal
power with the National Council. Members are now elected on party lines and
owe greater loyalty to their party than to their canton.
Cantons also serve as constituencies21.
The role of representation of the cantons is made by the intergovernmental
conferences of cantonal ministers and cantonal presidents, which are the collective
18 See C. Church, P. Dardanelli, The Dynamics of Confederalism and Federalism: Comparing
Switzerland and the EU, Regional and Federal Studies, Vol. 15, No. 2, 163-185, Centre for Swiss Politics,
Department of Politics and IR, University of Kent, p. 172.
19 See C. Church, P. Dardanelli, op. cit., p. 173.
20 See C. Church, P. Dardanelli, op. cit., p. 173.
21 See C. Church, P. Dardanelli, op. cit., p. 174.