Top Swiss EU negotiator to be replaced

State Secretary Roberto Balzaretti was appointed head of the Directorate for European Affairs on February 2018. He is also in charge of coordinating all negotiations with the European Union. Keystone / Peter Klaunzer

Roberto Balzaretti, Switzerland’s top negotiator with the European Union, is reportedly losing his job because of the current stalemate in sealing a new framework agreement.

This content was published on October 13, 2020 - 16:43

Several sources in the foreign ministry have confirmed this information according to Switzerland's public radio and television channels, SRF and RTS.

This follows a report in the Tamedia group of newspapers that Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis has decided to “sacrifice” his chief negotiator “because of the political turmoil surrounding the framework agreement - the agreement Balzaretti negotiated with the EU in 2018”. The papers, citing “reliable sources” said the government is expected to formalise this on Wednesday.

Although “the news had been in the air” for weeks, RTS said Cassis’s timing for the decision is surprising, coming a couple weeks after the September 27 vote on the free movement of people that was key for relations with the EU.

“The Swiss people’s ‘yes’ was supposed to signal a resumption of talks with Brussels on signing a framework deal to consolidate bilateral relations,” said RTS. “But today in Switzerland nobody wants it. And, so leaves the chief negotiator to try and defuse a dossier that has already worn out four secretaries of state.”

According to the newspaper reports, Balzaretti’s succession has already been decided. It reports that he will be sent to Paris as new ambassador and that the current Swiss ambassador in the French capital, Livia Leu, will take his post as State Secretary.

It could also be accompanied by a restructuring within the foreign ministry. However, this remains to be confirmed.

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