Legal bases and jurisdiction

International treaties, and above all the 1815 Treaty of Vienna, form the legal bases for the specification of the national border. The Federal Office of Topography swisstopo is the authority responsible for the national border.

Vienna Convention of 1815
Vienna Convention of 1815

The final definition of the current Swiss national border was decided at the Vienna Convention in 1815, along with all the other European borders.

The course of the border has undergone significant changes since then because of various construction projects (airport in Geneva-Cointrin, customs stations in Chiasso and Bardonnex, dams in Livigno, Emosson and Lei, etc.). Since no country has the right to annex territory of another nation, these modifications always resulted in the exchange of equally sized territories.

Because the border is a constituent of Switzerland’s sovereign territory, any modification of its course must be affirmed by Parliament and is subject to a facultative referendum. All treaties and agreements with neighbouring countries that concern Switzerland’s sovereign territory are archived in the Official Compilation of Federal Legislation (SR) under the heading “0.132”.  

Article 24 of the Federal Act on Geoinformation (SR 510.62) empowers the Federal Council to independently conclude treaties with foreign countries concerning national borders, provided these border matters are minor corrections or relate to other minor changes of the territory. In accordance with Article 13 of the Federal Ordinance on the National Survey (SR 510.626), the Federal Office of Topography is the federal authority responsible for the specification, marking and surveying of the national border.

The technical management of the national border – exact definition of its course, placement of the markers and their maintenance – was delegated to the Federal Office of Topography and includes the entire range of documentation. Article 22 of the Federal Geoinformation Act (GeoIG) provides the legal basis for this process.

At swisstopo, responsibility for the national border is an integral part of the cadastral survey and the PLR cadastre, for which the «Geodesy and Federal Directorate of Cadastral Surveying» division bears overall responsibility.

For each neighbouring country there is a commission comprising representatives of swisstopo, the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA), the Federal Customs Administration (FCA) and the surveyors from the respective cantons. These commissions are responsible for all matters pertaining to the definition of the course of the national borders.

Federal Office of Topography swisstopo Seftigenstrasse 264
P.O. Box
3084 Wabern
+41 58 469 01 11


Relevant authority

Geodesy and Federal Directorate of Cadastral Surveying

Print contact

Federal Office of Topography swisstopo

Seftigenstrasse 264
P.O. Box
3084 Wabern


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