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Friday, June 14, 2024

The Diplomatic Dispute Over Tourism Posters in Bern

In the picturesque city of Bern, nestled amidst the pristine Swiss landscapes, a diplomatic tiff has arisen, not over matters of state, but rather, over tourism posters adorning the fence of the Polish ambassador’s residence. This seemingly innocuous display has sparked a contentious debate between Poland and the city of Bern, where perceptions of law and diplomacy collide. This article delves into the heart of this dispute, dissecting the perspectives of both parties involved, the legal intricacies surrounding such promotional displays, and the potential ramifications.

The Polish Perspective: A Bridge of Understanding

For the Polish embassy, the posters draped along the exterior fence of their residence symbolize more than just a picturesque display of their homeland’s beauty. These striking images of Poland’s landscapes are intended to serve as a conduit for international understanding, an invitation to explore a country rich in culture and natural splendor. Moreover, it is also a gesture of goodwill towards the local residents, a subtle invitation to delve into the charm of Poland.

In the eyes of Ambassador Iwona Kozlowska, who was inspired by the Swiss Embassy in Warsaw’s similar approach, these posters are a positive initiative. Switzerland’s embassy in Warsaw has also adorned its fence with advertising posters, a practice that, according to the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA), has gone unchallenged by Warsaw authorities. The Polish embassy believes it is following suit, fostering cultural exchange through visual engagement.

The City of Bern’s Stand: Law Prevails

However, the city of Bern sees things differently. To the city council, the display of advertising posters on the embassy’s fence represents a violation of local advertising regulations. City council member Reto Nause emphasized that, regardless of the embassy’s noble intentions, the city’s laws and cantonal regulations apply to embassies as well. The legal stance is unequivocal: billboards of this nature are not eligible for approval within the city’s confines.

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The Swiss city’s stand is firm: if a building permit is required for such promotional displays, the Polish embassy will have to go through the same channels as any other entity seeking such approval. The legality of the posters remains the central point of contention, and the city council has made it abundantly clear that they will communicate their stance to the Polish embassy.

Diplomatic Ripples

The posters initially came to public attention through a report by public radio SRF, putting the matter in the spotlight. While the Polish embassy’s intent was to foster goodwill and cultural exchange, it has inadvertently ignited a diplomatic dispute. The city of Bern’s position is firm and rooted in its legal framework.

Furthermore, the city council is keeping an eye on other embassies in Bern that may have similarly adorned their fences with promotional materials. Should such cases arise, they pledge to enforce the applicable regulations consistently. This situation underscores the delicate balance between diplomatic gestures and adherence to local laws.


In the serene Swiss capital of Bern, a dispute over tourism posters has stirred the diplomatic waters. While the Polish embassy views these posters as a bridge to international understanding and goodwill, the city of Bern insists that the rule of law applies uniformly, even to embassies. This diplomatic imbroglio, initially brought to public attention by media scrutiny, serves as a reminder of the intricate interplay between diplomacy, local regulations, and cultural outreach.

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