Switzerland Federal state


The federal system grants a considerable amount of autonomy to the cantons with regard to the management of their municipalities.

For some time, Switzerland has been active in attempting to reduce the number of its municipalities. Accordingly, in 2012, only 2 495 municipalities remained out of the 3 021 existing in 1990. Most of the cantons have been pushing for municipal mergers, sometimes by proposing financial compensation, but the final decision needs to be approved by popular referendum. Similarly, the country has been exploring ways to significantly develop its network of intermunicipal cooperation.

The federal state is also seeking to shrink the disparities between cantons. A 2008 law set up fiscal equalisation in order to give equal opportunity to each territory and to prevent any regions from suffering disproportionately from negative effects resulting from the economic and financial crisis. There have also been efforts to readjust municipalities’competences, distributed differently from one canton to the next, at national level, to achieve a better balance.

Any final decisions concerning local governments depend, however, on the cantons and the views of the people. Any cost reduction or municipal efficiency improvement programmes that have been established are not in response to a national directive.

Local self-government in Switzerland:

All decisions affecting local governments in Switzerland are carried out in cooperation with the population concerned, through consultations scheduled on a very regular basis. Moreover, municipalities and cantons do not seem to have been subject to any major budget cuts on account of the crisis that might hinder their autonomy.