Long-standing Swiss Foreign Minister Resigns

Long-standing Swiss Foreign Minister Resigns

By Urs Geiser and Armando Mombelli, Swiss Info
7.9.2011
 
Micheline Calmy-Rey, Swiss Foreign Minister and long-time supporter of the Geneva Initiative, has announced her resignation.
 
During her nine years in government, Calmy-Rey’s style and actions have often drawn criticism, but Swiss diplomacy has gained in international visibility.
 
The 66-year-old, who also holds the rotating post as Swiss president this year, said she would not put herself up for re-election in December.
 
Wednesday's move had been subject to intense media speculation.
 
"I gave my best for the country. I focused on bilateral relations with the European Union, the strengthening of ties with countries outside Europe through strategic partnerships and positioning Switzerland as a mediator on the international stage," she told a news conference.  
 
She said she was particularly proud of the role of Switzerland in the Human Rights Council.
 
Calmy-Rey said it was in the interest of Switzerland to increase its visibility in a global context.
 
However, she added that there was no consensus in Switzerland about the country's foreign policy and rejected criticism that her diplomacy activities were mere public relations.
   
Her resignation comes just under 50 days before parliamentary elections on October 23 and is likely to boost the campaign of her centre-left Social Democratic Party.
 
Calmy-Rey is the fifth cabinet minister to step down within the four-year term of the current government which runs out in December. 
 
Active Neutrality
 
Observers say two characteristics marked her time in government: her openness to the world as head of the foreign ministry and a dogged and tough attitude, which helped her to achieve her goals.
 
Calmy-Rey was not an easy personality to get along with. The first woman to head the foreign ministry, she shook up the diplomatic corps, used for years to the low-key leadership style of her predecessor Joseph Deiss.
 
Demanding, controlling and at times impulsive, the foreign minister did not always use the most diplomatic tone in dealing with her staff. Some revived the nickname “Cruella”, which had stuck to her in Geneva when she was head of finance there.
 
Her aim was clearly not to win plaudits from within the ministry, but to raise Switzerland’s profile on the international stage. Dynamic and hardworking, Calmy-Rey made a concentrated effort to revive the policy of  “active neutrality” adopted by Switzerland in the early years of the Cold War.
 
On March 20, 2003 she became the first minister of a foreign country to walk across the demarcation line between the two Koreas, and she went on to Pyongyang for talks with the North Korean leadership.
 
Also in 2003, she actively supported the “Geneva Initiative”, an unofficial peace plan which aimed to reopen dialogue between the Israelis and the Palestinians. In the years that followed, she promoted the creation of an international Human Rights Council, conceived as a more effective instrument to monitor conformity with the principles promulgated by the United Nations.
 
In 2006, in the name of the Geneva Conventions, she openly denounced Israeli bombing in Lebanon, terming it “disproportionate”, and called for respect for humanitarian law.
 
Her intervention drew criticism from the Israeli side, but also praise in Switzerland and elsewhere. This was a new tone for Swiss diplomacy, which up till then had taken a softly-softly approach so as to avoid confrontation.
 
 
Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey
has announced her resignation.