As first among equals, the Federal Council member serving as President of the Confederation is not the Swiss head of state. However, the entire Federal Council is the collective head of state.
The constitutional provisions relating to the organization of the Federal Government and Federal administration are set out in Section 1 Organisation and Procedure of Chapter 3 Federal Council and Federal Administration of the Title 3 Confederation, Cantons and Communes of the Swiss Federal Constitution at articles 174 to 179. Article 176 specifically relates to the Presidency.
The Swiss president is not – as are, for example, the Presidents in Austria or Germany – the head of state of the country: under the Swiss Federal Constitution, the Federal Council doubles as a collective head of state and head of government. When a tied vote occurs in the council (which sometimes happens, because the six Federal Councillors who are not president vote first), the president – as the chair of the council – casts the deciding vote (or may abstain).
In addition to the control of his or her own department, the president carries out some of the representative duties that are normally carried out by a single head of state in other democracies. For example, since joining the United Nations, Swiss presidents have on occasion spoken at inaugural sessions of the General Assembly along with other visiting heads of state and government. However, because the Swiss have no single head of state, the country carries out no state visits. When traveling abroad, the president does so only in their capacity as head of their department. Visiting heads of state are received by the seven members of the Federal Council together, rather than by the President of the Confederation. Treaties are signed on behalf of the full Council, with all Federal Council members signing letters of credence and other documents of the kind.