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Refugee office director gets new job

Jean-Daniel Gerber takes up office as the head of Seco on April 1 Keystone Archive

The director of the Federal Refugee Office has been appointed head of the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (Seco).

Jean-Daniel Gerber stressed that he had applied for the job before the election of Christoph Blocher as Swiss justice minister.

Gerber has been in charge of the office for over six years and his move to Seco is no surprise, given that he has a strong background in economics.

He had been widely tipped for a new post for several months, and is believed to have discussed a move with his boss – the former justice minister, Ruth Metzler – in the summer.

Metzler was replaced on January 1 by Christoph Blocher from the rightwing Swiss People’s Party, which gained a second seat in the cabinet after its strong showing in last October’s parliamentary elections.

Economic policy

Gerber’s new position at Seco has a large remit. The secretariat is responsible for all matters relating to Swiss economic policy.

Within Switzerland, it serves as an interface between business, social partners and policy, and is charged with ensuring the protection of employees.

Outside the country, Seco represents Switzerland in multilateral trade organisations.

It is also involved in efforts to reduce poverty in the form of economic development assistance to poorer countries.

WTO and World Bank

Gerber, 58, worked for many years in the field of economics before taking up his position at the refugee office.

He was Switzerland’s representative at the World Trade Organization, and later served as an executive director at the World Bank, where he represented the interests of Switzerland, Poland, and the Central Asian republics.

He is no stranger to Seco, having served from 1981 to 1984 as the head of its department for relations with developing countries.

But Gerber first came to real prominence when he took over as director of the Federal Refugee Office.

He joined the office just before the conflict in Kosovo came to a head, and presided over a period in which Switzerland accepted record numbers of asylum seekers from the region.

Gerber was among 22 candidates for the position at Seco, and succeeds the current head of the secretariat, David Syz.

swissinfo with agencies

Jean-Daniel Gerber worked at the World Bank and for the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (Seco) before becoming director of the Federal Refugee Office.
In his new job as head of Seco, he will be in charge of all matters relating to Swiss economic policy.
He was among 22 candidates who applied for the position.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR