Sanctions: Federal Council commentary on Control Committee recommendations

The Control Committee of the Council of States (CC-S) commended the Federal Council’s prompt implementation of European Union sanctions regarding the Ukraine crisis in its report dated 14 November 2023. However, the CC-S maintained that enhancements to the execution of economic sanctions were imperative and devised six additional suggestions for the Federal Council to consider.

The Federal Council provided its commentary on the CC-S recommendations on 14 February 2024. As per the press release, the Federal Council acknowledges that the sanctions imposed in response to Russia’s military aggression against Ukraine exceeded expectations in multiple ways. Consequently, this may engender a sense of ambiguity among the relevant authorities and other stakeholders. Nevertheless, due to uncertainties alone, the Federal Council believes that additional authorizations or oversight by SECO would be extremely beneficial in a unique crisis. As a result, its proposal for a transparency register as a component of the partial revision of the Anti-Money Laundering Act is its primary focus. According to the Federal Council, SECO has demonstrated its capability to respond promptly and effectively to inquiries or complications that may arise during the implementation of novel sanction measures. Nevertheless, the Federal Council endorses the CC-S’s suggestion to reassess SECO’s crisis concept.

The Federal Council maintains its stance regarding the CC-S’s request for clarification regarding the extent of the reporting obligation for attorneys: the Federal Supreme Court has ruled that the particular activities of attorneys are protected by professional secrecy. This encompasses activities such as legal document drafting, representation, or assistance in administrative or judicial proceedings, and the provision of legal counsel. However, professional secrecy does not automatically apply to every action taken by an attorney. The Federal Council continues to assert that professional secrecy is not incompatible with the requirement to disclose information regarding activities that do not pertain to the practice of law. Therefore, attorneys who aid in the violation of sanction provisions may remain subject to prosecution.

According to the CC-S, Switzerland has adopted the list of individuals sanctioned by the EU. Consequently, the CC-S is of the opinion that it is necessary to investigate whether measures to ensure the rule of law require scrutiny. The Federal Council asserts that the implementation of EU sanctions has demonstrated its value as the preeminent trading partner in this context. The efficacy of unilateral sanctions would be constrained, whereas Switzerland’s propensity for numerous deviations could facilitate their circumvention and diminish predictability. Sanctioned entities, including organisations, companies, and individuals, still could assert their rights, according to the Federal Council.

Finally, the CC-S approves the actions implemented by the SECO and the Federal Council in accordance. However, as part of its follow-up review, the CC-S notes that it is currently unable to render a final assessment. Therefore, the CC-S announced that it will revisit the relevant recommendations in the future. The Federal Council shares the CC-S’s view that the data basis for participation in economic sanctions has been improved and that the movement of goods is monitored more closely, particularly in connection with the sanctions against Russia.

These are the upcoming dates for our Annual General Meetings:

Thursday, 21 March 2024
Thursday, 20 March 2025