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Roberto Balzaretti Switzerland appoints new EU negotiator

Roberto Balzaretti

Balzaretti (left) will take up his new role from February 1

(Keystone)

The Federal Council has appointed Roberto Balzaretti as the new director of Switzerland's Directorate for European Affairs (DEA). He will take up the job on February 1 and will coordinate all Swiss negotiations with the European Union. 

This" organisational reset" makes it possible to have "clarity about who does what and when", Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis told reporters in Bern on Wednesday. 

The rationale behind Balzaretti’s appointment is to have only one person responsible for the European dossier and a "clear line". Balzaretti will take over full charge of negotiations with the EU from State Secretary Pascale Baeriswyl who will be accountable for foreign relations for the rest of the world. 

The 52-year-old native of Italian-speaking canton Ticino is currently the director of the Directorate of International Law and a legal adviser of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs. He has previously served as the Swiss ambassador to the EU in Brussels. Balzaretti will hold the title of state secretary in his new role. 

The former director of the DEA, ambassador Henri Gétaz, has been appointed secretary-general of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA). He will remain with the foreign ministry in an advisory capacity until he assumes his new post on September 1.  

No hurry 

Foreign Minister Cassis said no framework agreement would be concluded between Switzerland and the EU before April. The Federal Council is giving itself ten months to break the deadlock with the EU and reach an agreement. 

Cassis added that Switzerland would not settle for just any framework agreement but one that takes Switzerland’s interest into account. He said quality was more important than timing. That said, a small window for securing an agreement exists this year as 2019 will see Swiss federal elections and European elections which will put deal-making off the table. However, Cassis opined that it was fine if negotiations took longer. 

SDA-ATS/ac

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