Brussels sends its man to Bern ... finally: the European Commission has opened the doors of its delegation in the federal capital, Bern, and appointed its very first ambassador to Switzerland, Michael Reiterer. Swiss News went to meet him in his new offices located opposite the national corridors of power, the federal parliament building.

AuteurMirza, Faryal

We're not even half way through 2007 and it is already proving to be a momentous period in relations between the European Union and Switzerland.

The year was off to a good start when Michael Reiterer took up his post as the European Commission's first ambassador to the Alpine nation, but a bitter-tasting flipside soon followed: the EU declared Switzerland's taxation of certain companies as state aid and thus in breach of a bilateral flee-trade agreement signed in 1972 (see Swiss News, April issue).

It was against this backdrop that Ambassador Reiterer picked up the keys to his new offices in Bern.

Two worlds conjoin in the 52-year-old Austrian--academia and international relations. Former deputy head of the European Commission's Japan delegation, he has also authored more than 80 publications and served as a panellist at the World Trade Organization.

And he brings "Swissness" to the job, having lived in Geneva for four years, two as a postgraduate at the Graduate Institute for International Studies and two as an Austrian diplomat.

On his appointment, the EU Commissioner for External Relations, Benita Ferrero-Waldner said "Dr. Reiterer brings international and specific Swiss experience to this new post and I hope that this will lead us to an ever stronger and more fruitful relationship with our closest neighbour. Our partnership with Switzerland goes far beyond shared geographical borders--it is built on shared values and common interests."

Media spotlight

So is Dr. Reiterer just what the doctor ordered for these parts? "I don't know because I didn't choose myself," he laughs.

"I know that they had to find someone who was German- and French-speaking, so that was in my favour. I have limited Italian knowledge and I have already lived in Switzerland, so that all helped. I'm not sure academia played a big role!"

One thing that has surprised him is how busy he has been since he landed on Planet Suisse, even busier than in Tokyo.

"I had been warned by my friend, the Swiss ambassador to Japan, that there would be quite a lot of interest because I am the first ambassador of the European Commission to Switzerland," he says.

Reiterer thought interest would wane quickly, however. How wrong he was.

"Then came this decision by the Commission that some of the practices of the cantons are not compatible with the good functioning of the 1972 agreement and this gave me the second wave of press attention. It's not over yet ..." he smiles.

The salvo made...

Pour continuer la lecture


VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT