Foreign diplomats residing in the Swiss cities of Bern and Geneva owe millions of Swiss francs in parking and other traffic-related fines which go unpaid every year.
The SonntagsZeitung newspaper reported on Sunday that between 2014 and 2017, traffic fines of over CHF745,000 ($764,000) were issued to foreign diplomats in canton Bern, which hosts 90 embassiesexternal link. However, only CHF141,300 were paid.
In canton Geneva, home to the European headquarters of the United Nations and 33 diplomatic missionsexternal link, the situation is worse. During the same period, traffic fines exceeded CHF4 million. But the authorities were only able to collect just under CHF629,000, leaving a deficit of CHF3.4 million.
Drivers of cars with diplomatic plates benefit from diplomatic immunity under the rules of the 1961 Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations. In the case of non-payment of fines, traffic violation notices will usually be passed from the police to the Swiss foreign ministry which will in turn forward the notice to the embassies.
The payment situation appears to have improved slightly in recent years. In 2010, only 10% of diplomatic traffic fines in canton Bern were paid. This compares to 25% for last year, and around 20% in Geneva.
“The Swiss foreign ministry does not comment on the payment behaviour of the staff of foreign diplomatic missions in Switzerland," a Swiss ministry spokesperson told Sonntagszeitung newspaper on Sunday.