50 years

Bern, Press release, 26.01.2011

6 January 2011 marks 50 years of Switzerland representing American interests in Cuba. Switzerland accepted the mandate in 1961 following the Cuban revolution which led to the break-off of relations between Cuba and the US.

Switzerland accepted the function as Protecting Power in the framework of its traditional policy of offering its good offices. It has carried out this function for the last 50 years in agreement with both countries. Since 1 April 1991, i.e. for the last 20 years, at the request of Havana, Switzerland has also represented Cuban interests in the US. Until then, Czechoslovakia had performed this function. In the Swiss Embassy in Washington, there is a section for Cuban interests under Swiss diplomatic protection and in the Swiss Embassy in Havana there is a section for US interests.

A Protecting Power is one that represents one State (the sending State) in another State (the receiving State) in situations where the sending State and the receiving State do not conduct direct diplomatic or consular relations. The task of the Protecting Power is to maintain - in agreement with the States concerned - the minimum necessary level of contact between two States that have broken off bilateral relations.

As a Protecting Power, Switzerland's mandate has basically two aspects: firstly, to deal with the consular matters of the sending State, such as receiving passport applications, authenticating birth and marriage certificates, and taking care of nationals of the sending State held in detention in the receiving State; secondly, Switzerland provides a reliable channel for diplomatic communication between the sending and the receiving States and thus encourages dialogue between the two governments in the absence of formal relations.

The Protecting Power, as representative of the receiving State, acts in accordance with the instructions it receives and within the scope of the relevant provisions of international law. The tasks and duties of a Protecting Power are governed by the Vienna Conventions on Diplomatic Relations and on Consular Relations. Currently, Switzerland has the following six Protecting Power mandates: for the US in Cuba and Iran, for Cuba in the US, for Iran in Egypt, for Russia in Georgia and for Georgia in Russia.

Foreign interests as a part of Switzerland's good offices are an important pillar of Swiss foreign policy and contribute to promoting peace in the world. The professional and discreet provision of these services is greatly appreciated by the States concerned. Good offices create goodwill for Switzerland at the international level, foster good relations with partner States, and help open doors in capitals. In this way, Switzerland's good offices are also part of its policy of safeguarding swiss interests in a stricter sense of the term.

Further information:

Protective power mandates

Address for enquiries:

Information FDFA
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CH-3003 Bern
Tel.: (+41) 031 322 31 53
Fax: (+41) 031 324 90 47
E-Mail: info@eda.admin.ch


Federal Department of Foreign Affairs