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Team player juggles business and politics

Laurent Favre - parliamentarian with an interest in football swissinfo.ch

A decision to extend a key treaty with the European Union and a debate on the global food crisis were for Laurent Favre the highlights of parliament's summer session.

This content was published on June 13, 2008 - 17:23

Favre, who comes from a remote region in French-speaking Switzerland, sees himself as representing the agricultural sector. He is also a proponent of renewable energy.

He was elected to parliament last October as a member of the centre-right Radical Party in canton Neuchâtel and plays for a team of football enthusiasts in the House of Representatives.

Favre looks the sportsman in his white shirt and his red-blue tie and his closely cropped hair. He is among the younger generation of parliamentarians and appears at ease with himself.

"I see myself as a hard worker, not necessarily somebody who seeks the limelight with spectacular ideas. These qualities have served me well so far in my professional and political career," Favre says.

He admits that he will have to prove himself in the next three years to be-elected. Favre has so far focused on agriculture and the environment – areas he is familiar with.

But he does not want to be labelled exclusively as a farmers' representative.

"My interests include foreign policy and peace promotion, and I would like to expand my knowledge on energy issues."

Business

The summer session offered plenty of discussions on European relations and development aid as well as petrol prices and the global food crisis that Favre followed with interest.

He is not entirely happy with parliament's decision on the labour treaty between Switzerland and the EU, because he preferred the option proposed by government.

"Citizens should be able to vote on two separate issues, rather than packaging them into one vote. But it was a political move and I'm confident voters will approve the accord."

He is quick to point out the role of the labour treaty for the country's economy, as might be expected from a member of the Radical Party which is traditionally close to the business community.

He quotes similar reasons when explaining his position on agricultural and energy policies or the role of the Swiss abroad.

"They are an economic factor and many of them work for Swiss companies abroad. They also represent our country and give a favourable image of Switzerland."

Favre is open to the idea of seats for the Swiss abroad in parliament. But he says he has not studied a proposal by a member of the centre-left Social Democrats in detail.

Green conscience

Thirty-five-year-old Favre has no problems admitting that he is still in a learning process and relies on his political party for information on many political issues.

"I'm generally fine with the party line, be it on foreign policy or the role of the state and the values of self-responsibility and freedom.

"But I would like to put renewable energy, - biogas, solar and wind power - higher on the agenda. I have a Green conscience and am not afraid of nature," he says.

Favre may not stand out amongst some of his colleagues in parliament. He appears to hedge his bets and prefers a realistic approach also in development aid.

"I'm pleased that we voted to keep the level of development aid at the moment, an increase is unrealistic at this stage. But I would not exclude it in the long term."

Getting over it

Favre says his personal aim is to achieve a better balance between his job as director of a local business association and his political mandate.

"It's not easy to be a part-time politician – like most parliamentarians in Switzerland - and have a professional career. There is a risk of overdoing it. I hope I can reduce my hours in the job by autumn."

Sport is one of Favre's hobbies but he says he notices that his body is becoming more prone to injury as he gets older.

He took part in a prestigious ski-mountaineering race in southern Switzerland and has been following the Euro 2008 tournament.

"Of course I'm disappointed with the Swiss team. I had hoped they would make it to the quarterfinals, maybe even to the semis."

He blames the two defeats for the Swiss on bad luck and a lack of striking power against higher rated opponents.

"But we will get over it. And the early exit might be a blessing in disguise for companies because employers will go back to work," he laughs.

swissinfo, Urs Geiser and Pierre-François Besson

In brief

Favre sits in the House of Representatives for the centre-right Radical party and is one of more than 50 new parliamentarians elected last October.

His party has 43 seats in both chambers. The Radicals were the founding fathers of modern-day Switzerland in the 19th century.

They are now only the fourth-largest group behind the rightwing Swiss People's Party, the centre-left Social Democrats and the centre-right Christian Democrats.

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Laurent Favre

Favre grew up in the Jura mountain region. He trained as agricultural engineer and is director of the Neuchâtel farmers and winegrowers association.

The 35-year-old sat on the local council of Fleurier, an industrial town and former watch-making centre with 3,500 residents between Neuchâtel and the border to France.

He represented the Radical Party in the cantonal parliament for two years until 2007.

Cycling, cross-country skiing and football are among his hobbies. The former amateur footballer is a member of the team of enthusiasts of the House of Representatives which play up to 15 matches a year and take part in international tournaments.

Germany are his favourite team at the Euro 2008.

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