Foreign ministry number two to take up new role

Separated: Pascale Baeriswyl and Ignazio Cassis on Wednesday in Bern. Keystone / Peter Schneider

In a major shift at the top of the foreign ministry, the state secretary for foreign affairs, Pascale Baeriswyl, will be leaving her current position at the end of the year.

This content was published on August 21, 2019 minutes

Baeriswyl, the first woman to occupy the number two spot in the ministry, will take charge of the Swiss mission to the United Nations in New York as of spring 2020, the government announced on Wednesday.

Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis told a press conference that when the UN position – allocated on a fixed-term rotating basis – became free, Baeriswyl simply applied and was accepted as the best candidate.

The posting is a recognition of her “long-standing professional experience, expertise in multilateral diplomacy and extensive network of international contacts,” according to an official press releaseExternal link.

Baeriswyl said the open position in New York (current incumbent Jürg Lauber will finish his mandate this year) was a “now or never” opportunity. It was a great honour to be selected, she said.

It’s not clear who will replace her as the foreign ministry’s number two in Bern. Cassis told reporters that the position would depend on the outcome of an ongoing foreign policy strategy elaboration, which the government will look at before the end of the year.

+ How we reported Baeriswyl's appointment in 2016

Peace and politics expert 

Baeriswyl, a 51-year-old lawyer and linguist born in Bern, has prior experience at the Swiss mission to the UN, where she led the political section from 2008-2013.  

Appointed to her current function by Cassis’s predecessor Didier Burkhalter, she managed in her three-year stint to drive the establishment of four new protecting power mandatesExternal link, as well as heading peace-building efforts in Colombia, Mozambique, Nepal and the Middle East. 

However, the current hot potato for Swiss foreign policy – relations with the European Union and the negotiation of a new framework deal – were taken out of her hands in January 2018 and given to Roberto Balzaretti, state secretary for European affairs. 

Between now and the end of the year, aside from everyday diplomatic affairs, Baeriswyl will continue to preside over the formulation of the Swiss foreign policy strategy for 2020-2023, the government said.

Her time at the UN will come notably as Switzerland vies for a seat on the Security Council for 2023-2024, a high-profile bid that is facing increasing domestic resistance

Jürg Lauber has headed the Swiss mission in New York since 2015.

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