New ambassador heads for the big apple

Raymond Loretan is looking forward to his new mission in the Big Apple

Raymond Loretan, the former ambassador to Singapore, is taking up his position as the general consul to New York as Switzerland prepares to join the United Nations on September 10.

This content was published on August 25, 2002 - 10:56

Billi Bierling caught up with him a few days before his departure to find out more about his mission in New York.

After having served as the Swiss ambassador to Singapore for the past five years, Raymond Loretan is getting ready for his new position as the Swiss ambassador and general consul to New York.

swissinfo: How do you feel about your new challenge?

Loretan: It will be a big change for me. Singapore is very organised and very safe and now I am going to a big city in the United States - the world centre for finance, economics and culture. But I think this change will be very exciting for me.

Switzerland's image in the US has suffered since the scandal over Holocaust-era assets. How are you planning to improve it again?

The Holocaust debate is behind us but now we have to work on improving our image again and we have big plans for this. We also have to explain how the Swiss system works. I think the Americans, who are very proud of their own nation, can understand that a small country like Switzerland has to defend its own interests in the best way it can.

How will you promote Switzerland in New York?

I think it is very important for the Swiss representative to have a powerful network, which I will have to build up. The other important thing is that there are many Swiss artists in the Big Apple that need promoting and one of my goals is to position Switzerland as a place with a very innovative and forward-looking culture.

How well known is Swiss culture in the United States?

One should not underestimate the Swiss brand and I think it is well known in the US, even though it has been slightly damaged after last year's tragic events. I also know that we have to make an effort to promote the Swiss political culture and that there is a lot of work ahead of me.

Last year Switzerland was often in the international headlines, which may have made Americans more aware of the country. Do you think they now see Switzerland through different eyes?

I think Switzerland is generally known as a world-class financial centre but it is currently under pressure as there are very strong competitors, such as the US. We do not only have the image of a Heidi-country but also of an important financial place. Economically speaking we are among the 21 most powerful countries in the world and the American business community is certainly aware of it.

Will you be involved in United Nations' matters at all?

No, not at all. In the US we have three ambassadors. One in Washington, who is in charge of the political relations between the United States and Switzerland and two in New York. One is in charge of our mission to the UN and the second one is in charge of the general council, which means he has to deal with financial, economic and cultural matters.

How do you feel about Switzerland having joined the United Nations?

Firstly I think it was a very important decision to join the UN and it is important to emphasise that even though we were almost the last country to join the UN we were also the first country in the world that decided this matter democratically. I also feel that UN membership will be a very important tool for our foreign policy so the UN will give us a new motivation to promote our foreign policy.

Being such a small country, do you think Switzerland can achieve anything in the UN?

I think we can promote human security and the humanitarian dimensions of the UN, areas where we have expertise. Yes, I think we can contribute to a better world - modestly of course but we will do our best in the fields where we are competent.

by Billi Bierling

In brief

swissinfo journalist, Billi Bierling, met up with the new Swiss ambassador and general consul to New York a few days prior to his departure.

Raymond Loretan, who was Swiss ambassador to Singapore, is taking over from Jacques Reverdin.

One of his main priorities is to improve Switzerland's image, which has suffered since the scandal over Holocaust-era assets in the 1990s.

He hopes to portray Switzerland as a place with a very innovative and forward-looking culture.

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