Politically savvy--Calmy-Rey: since 2003, Micheline Calmy-Rey has been the Swiss minister of Foreign Affairs. During her first year of office, the social democrat successfully highlighted her country as a safe haven for human rights and humanitarian aid.

AuteurHeddema, Renske
Fonction Politics

"I want to be known as a woman pursuing a left policy" Micheline Calmy-Rey had stared right after her election in December 2002. The words were followed by her characteristic broad smile, which soon became her brand mark.

The then newly appointed Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey (58) didn't fail to take appropriate action. Hardly three weeks in office and she requested a meeting with US Secretary of State Colin Powell at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

Redefining Swiss Neutrality

In a last attempt to prevent a war in Iraq, the Swiss Minister offered the US to organise a peace conference on Swiss soil. Powell courteously declined. Undeterred, Calmy-Rey steadily proceeded. Shortly after, the minister convened two humanitarian conferences on the threatening war in Iraq, which the UN organisations and the International Red Cross in Geneva could not leave unattended. However, this had little effect on the political agenda of the USA.

In the first 100 days of her term of office Calmy-Rey had rocked the boat more vehemently than all of her predecessors had in decades.

MCR, as people refer to her, decided to re-establish the traditional image of Switzerland as a neutral mediator and a defender of human rights. The home of the International Red Cross and the Geneva Conventions had played a silent diplomatic role during the cold war between east and west. This profile was now being repolished with a new dimension by Calmy-Rey.

The traditional Swiss silent diplomacy was replaced by a rather visible 'public diplomacy. On her visits to France and Germany, the Foreign Minister declared Switzerland's support 16r the European criticism of the US approach of the Iraq conflict. Pushing the neutrality of the country to its limits, Calmy-Rey smiled and did what she deemed appropriate.

As an aside, she launched the idea to publish a list of prisoners of war on the Internet. At smiled point, the Swiss Parliament had enough. The Upper House condemned the Foreign Ministers' unconventional methods and gave her a reprimand Meanwhile, the publicity had paid off. Previously unknown in the German part of Switzerland, Calmy-Rey now was dearly present on the political map of Switzerland

Spotlight on Calmy-Rey

Politically savvy, she has a preference for issues that bring her into the limelight. She knows that a journey abroad is more effective with a carefully chosen member of the press on board of the plane.

Her predecessor Ruth Dreifus may have been a purer...

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