FEDERAL LAW ON NATIONAL LANGUAGES AND MUTUAL UNDERSTANDING BETWEEN LINGUISTIC COMMUNITIES (LAW ON LANGUAGES), 5TH OCTOBER 2007
The Federal Assembly of the Swiss Confederation,
on the basis of articles 4, 18 and 70 of the Constitution,
on the basis of the report of the Commission of Science, Education and Culture of the National Council of 15th September 2006,
on the basis of the opinion of the Federal Council of 18th October 2006,
Art. 1 Purpose
This Act regulates:
a. the usage of the official languages by the federal authorities, and in the relationship with them;
b. the encouragement of the mutual understanding and of the exchanges between the linguistic communities;
c. the support granted to plurilingual cantons for the execution of their particular tasks;
d. the support granted to the cantons of Grisons and Ticino for the measures that they took in favour of Romansh and Italian.
Art. 2 Goal
Through this law, the Confederation aims at:
a. reinforcing quadrilingualism, which characterises Switzerland;
b. consolidating national cohesion ;
c. encouraging individual and institutional plurlingualism through practising the national languages;
d. protecting and promoting Romansh and Italian as national languages.
Art. 3 Principles
1 Fulfilling its duties, the Confederation specially respects the following principles:
a. it ensures an identical treatment to the four national languages;
b. it guarantees linguistic freedom in all areas of State activity, and it ensures its implementation;
c. it takes intro account the traditional distribution of the languages;
d. it encourages the mutual understanding between the linguistic communities.
2 The Confederation works with the cantons in carrying out its duties in the field of languages and mutual understanding between linguistic communities.
Official languages of the Confederation
Art. 4 Scope
1 This section applies to the following federal authorities:
a. the Federal Assembly and its bodies;
b. the Federal Council;
c. the federal administration as defined in art. 2, al. 1 to 3, of the law on the organisation of the government and the administration of 21st March 1997 (LOGA);
d. federal courts,
e. extraparlamentary commissions of the Confederation.
2 Insofar as the objectives of this law require, the Federal Council may provide:
a. that some enactments of this section apply to organisations or individuals outside the federal government pursuant to Art. 2, para. 4 LOGA, to which which administrative duties under federal law are assigned;
b. that the award of concessions or mandates and the allocation of financial assistance are linked to the obligation to comply with certain provisions of this section.
Art. 5 Official languages
1 The official languages of the Confederation are German, French and Italian. Romansh is an official language of the Confederation when communicating with persons who speak Romansh.
2 Federal authorities use the official language in their standard form.
Art. 6 Choice of language
1 Any person adressing the federal authorities may do so in the official language of his or her choice.
2 Les Federal authorities answer in the language used by their interlocutor. They can answer in another language with his or her consent.
3 The Romansh-speaking people can adress the federal authorities in one of their languages or in Rumantsch Grischun. The authorities answer them in Rumantsch Grischun.
4 The Federal Council may restrict the choice of language in official dealings with authorities whose activity is limited to a part of the Swiss territory.
5 In relations with people that do not master any of the official languages, federal authorities use as far as possible a language understood by them.
6 The specific provisions of the federal proceedings are reserved.
Art. 7 Understandability
1 Federal authorities try to use an appropiate, clear and understandable language, and take into account gender-neutral language.
2 The Federal Council takes the necessary measures; particularly it makes sure that basic training, continuing education and the necessary tools are given to staff members.
Art. 8 Federal Assembly
1 in the deliberations of parliamentary committees and Councils, MPs speak in the national language of their choice.
2 In general, messages, reports, draft legislation and proposals must be avaiable in German, French and Italian for the work of the parliamentary committees and Councils.
Art. 9 Federal Council and federal administration
1 Members of the Federal Council, the chancelor of the Confederation and the employees of the federal administration work in German, French or Italian as one chooses.
2 Federal bodies to which legislation give the statue of employers provide the necessary tools.
Art. 10 Publications in German, in French and in Italian
1 The federal legislation and the other texts that must be published under the law 18th June 2004 on official publications or other provisions of federal law are published in German, in French and in Italian, unless the law orders otherwise.
2 Documents are published simultaneously in German, in French and in Italian.
Art. 11 Publications in Romansh
Text of particular importance, as well as documentation federal elections and ballots are also published in Romansh. The Federal Chancellery chooses these texts, after having consulted the State Chancellery of the canton of the Grisons and the federal agencies involved.
Art. 12 Notices to the population, official inscriptions, identity cards
1 Federal authorities write notices to the population in the local official language.
2 Federal authorities appear to the public in the four official languages, particularly:
a. in their printed material;
b. in the main pages of their Internet sites;
c. in the signs of their buldings.
3 Personal identity cards are labelled in the four official languages.
4 The forms of the Confederation that are designed to the people must be available in all the official languages. The federal authorities can make exception for those forms designed for a limited group of people.
Art. 13 International agreements
1 The authentic version of bilateral agreements whose publication is required must be available in at least one of the official languages of the Confederation.
2 Establising in at least one of the official languages of the Confederation the authentic version of the multilateral agreements whose publication is required will be seeked.
3 Some exemptions are possible, pursuant to art. 14, al. 2, of the law 18th June 2004 on the official publications and of the particular dispositions of the federal law.
Promotion of the mutual understanding and of the exchanges between linguistic communities
Art. 14 School exchanges
1 The Confederation and the cantons encourage exchanges of students and teachers at all grade levels.
2 The Confederation may grant financial assistance to cantons and organisations who are dealing with the exchanges.
Art. 15 Teaching
1 The Confederation and the cantons make sure, within their powers, that the teaching language, particularly its standard form, is the subject of special attention at all levels of education.
2 Within their powers, the Confederation and the cantons encourage plurilingualism among teachers and learners.
3 The Confederation and the cantons, within their powers, are committed to a teaching of foreign languages that guarantees enough skills in a second national language at least, as well as in another foreign language, at the end of the compulsory education. The teaching of national languages will take into account the cultural aspects that are linked to a multilingual country.
Art. 16 Other measures for promoting languages
The Confederation may gran financial assistance to the cantons for the following purposes:
a. creating a favourable environment for the teaching of a second or third national language;
b. encouraging the acquisition of the local national language by the allophones;
c. promoting among the allophones the knowledge of their first language.
Art. 17 Scientific institution for promoting plurilingualism
The Confederation and the cantons may support a center of scientific expertise to coordinate, initiate and lead applied research in fields linked to languages and plurilingualism.
Art. 18 Financial assistance granted to organizations
The Confederation may grant financial assistance:
a. to nationwide news agencies that disseminate informations on the four language areas of the country;
b. to nation wide non-profit organizations and institutions which, through the activities they carry out in at least one language area, encourage the mutual understanding between linguistic communities or deliver a basic-level work towards plurilingualism and disseminate its outcomes;
c. to local authorities that support projects aiming to the mutual understanding between linguistic communities.
Art. 19 Financial assistance for translation expenses
The Confederation may grant financial assistance to non-profit organizations and institutions acting throughout the country for translation expenses from one national language to another one.
Art. 20 Plurilingualism in public services
1 The Confederation encourages language skills of its staff in the national languages.
2 The Confederation shall ensure that linguistic communities are represented in equity in the federal authorities and in the extra-parliamentary commissions. The Confederation encourages plurilingualism in the army.
3 The Confederation and the cantons give themselves the right to reciprocal and free access to their terminological databases.
Support to plurilingual cantons
1 The Confederation, within the framework of its appropiations, grants financial assistance to plurilingual cantons to enable them to perform their specific tasks.
2 The plurilingual cantons are the cantons of Bern, Fribourg, Grisons and Valais.
3 Specific tasks may include specially:
a. creating conditions and adequate means allowing political, judicial and administrative authorities to perform their plurilingual work;
b. encouraging plurilingualism, at all levels of education, among teachers and learners in the official languages of the canton.
Protection and promotion of the Romansh and Italian languages and cultures
1 The Confederation, within the framework of its appropriations, grants financial assistance to the cantons of Grisons and Ticino so that they support:
a. means to protect and promote the Romansh and Italian languages and cultures;
b. organizations or institutions which perform supraregional tasks aiming at protecting and promoting the Romansh and Italian languages and cultures;
c. publishing in the regions of Romansh or Italian language.
2 To protect and promote the Romansh language, the Confederation may take measures in support of the Romansh language press.
3 The financial assistance of the Confederation shall not exceed 75% of the total cost.
Implementation and evaluation
Art. 23 Granting financial assistance
1 The Confederation grants financial assitance on demand. Applications mention the forseen measures and a financial plan is attached to them.
2 The Confederation grants financial assistance in the form of a provision agreement or a decision. As far as possible, the provision agreements are concluded for several years.
Art. 24 Exclusion of multiple financial assistance
A measure cannot be the subject of several financial assistances provided by this act.
Art. 25 Report and evaluation
1 The cantons, the organizations and the institutions periodically inform the Confederation of the allocation of the financial assistance.
2 The Confederation periodically verifies the appropriateness and effectiveness of the finacial assistance and assesses its impact.
Art. 26 Repeal and amendment of law in force
Repeal and amendment of law in force are regulated in the appendix.
Art. 27 Referendum and entry into force
1 This act is subject to a referendum.
2 The Federal Council established the date of the entry into force.