Campaigner for active neutrality bows out

Calmy-Rey's departure had been long anticipated (Reuters

by Armando Mombelli,

Swiss President Micheline Calmy-Rey has officially announced her resignation, it emerged on Wednesday.
During her years in government, Calmy-Rey’s style and actions have often spurred criticism, but Swiss diplomacy has gained in international visibility.

The 66-year-old, who is also foreign minister, will not put herself up for re-election in December. The move had been widely expected and was subject to much media speculation.

Jean-René Germanier, speaker of the House of Representatives, told French-language local radio that he had received Calmy-Rey’s letter of resignation.

On December 4, 2002, Calmy-Rey was elected to the Swiss government. The woman who stood before parliament to take the oath was almost unknown to the country at large.

Born and raised in Valais, Calmy-Rey had made her political career in Geneva as a member of the cantonal parliament, president of the Geneva Social Democratic Party and then head of the cantonal finance department.

She was a new face in federal politics: elegantly but austerely attired, almost always in black or white, sometimes with a touch of red. She wore her hair with a fringe as wide as her smile, and with a few blond or white locks – an original look in the federal capital. The new minister was slight and delicate in appearance, but energetic and decisive.

“I bring with me a certain character, which comes from my family, from Valais. And I bring also my Geneva experience, characterised by openness to the world,” she declared after her election.

These two characteristics would mark her time in government: her openness to the world as head of the foreign ministry and the attitude of the traditional Valais mountaineer, dogged and tough, which would help her to achieve her goals.

Active neutrality

Calmy-Rey was not an easy personality to get along with. The first woman to head the foreign ministry, she shook up the diplomatic corps, used for years to the low-key leadership style of her predecessor Joseph Deiss.


NOTE FROM THE EDITOR: This is the real test of democracy, to know when to leave … (Hint to all the new democracies…) (OK, it took the Swiss 519 years to learn it…)

Categories: Switzerland

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