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New foundation to promote Switzerland in US

The new Swiss foundation will launch a charm offensive on Capitol Hill Keystone Archive

Switzerland is to launch a charm offensive in the United States in a bid to improve its image in the wake of repeated scandals over its wartime past.

The Swiss Foundation for World Affairs (SFWA) is to begin operations in Washington this spring. Its main objective is promote Swiss foreign policy to the US administration by cultivating a relationship with the US media, in particular the New York Times and the Washington Post.

The foundation will be run by Peter Ziegler, former editor of the Bern-based newspaper “Der Bund”, and will be located at the School of Advanced International Studies, part of the private John Hopkins University in Washington.

Ziegler’s task will be to publicise and promote Swiss foreign policy in the US, and to highlight the contribution Switzerland is making to solve worldwide conflicts and protect minorities.

The idea for the foundation was conceived in 1999, at a time when Switzerland was thought by political analysts to be ignoring the United States in favour of closer ties with Europe.

But SWFA has been beset by problems since its conception. Switzerland’s ambassador to Singapore, Raymond Loretan, turned down an offer to head the foundation on the grounds that the foundation served no real purpose and lacked focus.

Some analysts are already predicting it will not have sufficient funds to survive for more than three years.

The foundation, which will have an annual budget of $700,000 (SFr1.15 million), is the latest in a long line of Swiss initiatives overseas.

Last October, the Swiss House for Advanced Research and Education opened in Boston, and Swiss multinationals including Credit Suisse and Nestlé are helping to fund the US-based “Fondation Avenir Suisse”, a think tank endowed with SFr50 million in subsidies.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR