Calmy-Rey faces her first test

Calmy-Rey wants parliament to grant a SFr240 million credit for peace-building efforts Keystone

Michelin Calmy-Rey faces her first test as Switzerland's new foreign minister on Monday when she is to present her policy priorities to a parliamentary commission.

This content was published on January 11, 2003

She is widely expected to confirm a commitment to promote peace which Switzerland made when it joined the United Nations last year.

"Like many other countries, France is waiting on Switzerland to implement its humanitarian-based policies now that it is a member of the UN," Stéphane Schorderet, spokesman for the French Mission at the UN told swissinfo.

The French foreign minister, Dominique de Villepin, said as much when Switzerland was admitted to the UN last September.

Calmy-Rey is due to present her dossier to the foreign affairs commission of the House of Representatives on Monday.

She will also put forward a government request to parliament for a credit of SFr240 million ($160 million) to help pay for policy initiatives.

Humanitarian policy

Analysts say Calmy-Rey is likely to follow her predecessors and present a policy focused on defending human rights and promoting peace.

"No doubt she will follow in the footsteps of her predecessors rather than make waves," Victor-Yves Ghebali, professor at the Graduate Institute of International Studies in Geneva, told swissinfo

"The room for manoeuvre in any case is very limited," he added.


Non-governmental organisations are keen for Switzerland to use its neutral status to lead peace efforts in conflict areas around the world.

"We hope especially in the Iraq crisis and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that Switzerland will strongly press all parties to respect international humanitarian law," said Alain Bovard of the Swiss section of Amnesty International.

"There have been calls for the Swiss foreign ministry to venture beyond its humanitarian-orientated policy. We hope that Calmy-Rey will resist such calls," he added.

Eric Sottas of the World Organisation Against Torture believes that, as a member of the UN, Switzerland should actively seek to mediate or facilitate negotiations in places like the Middle East and Africa.

Coherent policy

Sottas said he hoped Calmy-Rey would deliver a more coherent Swiss foreign policy.

"Switzerland can no longer repatriate asylum seekers to countries deemed safe by the Federal Office for Refugees, and yet criticise those countries for violating human rights.

"It is equally incoherent that the economics minister supports certain policies that might pave the way for human rights principles to be contravened."

Amnesty's Bovard said a key step towards forming a more coherent foreign policy would be for Calmy-Rey to push for the creation of a federal human rights commission.

The dossier Calmy-Rey is putting before parliament will largely be the work of her predecessor, Joseph Deiss, since she only took office at the start of the year.

But her every word will be scrutinised on Monday for clues to her own agenda and priorities.

swissinfo, Frédéric Burnand in Geneva

In brief

Calmy-Rey is expected to follow her predecessor's policy of defending human rights and promoting peace.

Human rights groups are keen for Switzerland to use its neutral status to lead peace efforts in conflict areas around the world.

They also want a "more coherent" Swiss foreign policy. They criticise the government for sending asylum seekers back to countries which it condemns for violating human rights.

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