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Livia Leu

04.02.2021 – Theodora Peter

Livia Leu has the hardest job in Swiss diplomacy. The Federal Council has appointed her as the new chief negotiator for further talks with the EU on the Swiss-EU framework agreement. Leu has a monumental task ahead of her – a nut that was too hard to crack for her predecessors. However, this 59-year-old leading diplomat has overcome other notable challenges during her long career. In 2008, the then Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey appointed Leu the new Swiss ambassador to Iran – making her the first-ever female head of a foreign diplomatic mission in Tehran. Leu also represented US interests in Iran during her time in this role (Iran and the USA have had no formal diplomatic relations since 1980). For example, she helped to secure the release of three young American tourists who had been held at the notorious Evin prison for two years on suspicion of spying.

After almost five years in Iran, Leu returned with her family to Berne, where she subsequently headed the Bilateral Economic Relations Division within the Federal Administration. She then took on the prestigious role of Swiss ambassador to France in 2018, before being reassigned to the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs by Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis last autumn. Now the government is pinning its hopes on Leu to break the Swiss-EU logjam. Speaking to the media for the first time in her new post, she said that she was “looking forward to this big challenge”. On how much bargaining scope there was in Brussels, Leu – ever the diplomat – gave little away to journalists. But she did say that “creative solutions” were needed. In other words? “More than just a plan A or a plan B.”