Each country has its own diplomatic traditions. What is involved for FDFA Protocol in organising an international event like this?
FDFA Protocol sends out the invitations, contacts the authorities in Bern, mobilises the various partners (fedpol, FOBL, Parliamentary Services, etc.), contacts the Apostolic Nuncio regarding his address, establishes the protocol, and oversees the entire process. At the event itself, FDFA Protocol welcomes the guests of the President of the Confederation and, based on the precedence list, lines up the heads of mission in the correct order in the Wandelhalle at the Federal Palace. The head of Protocol officiates at the event. She announces each country to the President of the Confederation and calls speakers to the podium in the National Council Chamber.
Will the same procedure be followed this year, given the COVID-19 restrictions in place?
No. This year, the pandemic presents specific challenges in terms of the organisation of the New Year's reception. The usual lineup to greet the diplomats cannot take place in the Wandelhalle. FDFA Protocol therefore had to devise an alternative programme.
You must have attended several of these New Year's receptions in your time as head of Protocol. Is there a particular reception that stands out in your memory?
12 January 2022 is my second New Year's reception. The 2021 New Year's reception was, unfortunately, cancelled because of the pandemic. I have vivid memories from January 2020 of discussions with the Iranian ambassador on how to greet President Sommaruga. The ambassador refused to shake hands with the President, so a diplomatic solution had to be found. Eventually it was decided that Federal Councillor Cassis, as the FDFA's representative, would not shake hands with the ambassador either, but like the President, would greet him by placing his hand over his heart.