Trust, calm and objectivity
Ambassador Patric Franzen wants to involve the embassies in the EU area even more in his work as head of the Europe Division in the FDFA.
Ambassador Patric Franzen, Head of the Europe Division in the FDFA and Deputy State Secretary © FDFA
Ambassador Patric Franzen joined the FDFA in 1999. The trained lawyer worked in the international humanitarian law and human rights section of the Directorate of International Law before serving in the Swiss embassy in Singapore in 2000–01, where he was responsible for international finance, promotion of SME cooperation and science cooperation. Between 2001 and 2004, he worked in the Security Policy Division at head office in Bern. From 2004 to 2008, he was responsible for security policy, judicial cooperation and human rights at the Swiss representation in Moscow. After two years as the regional coordinator for the Middle East with a special focus on Switzerland's good offices in connection with the nuclear negotiations with Iran, Franzen moved to the Federal Department of Finance in 2010, becoming the chief of staff of the State Secretariat for International Finance (SIF). From 2014 to 2018, he served as deputy head of mission at the Swiss embassy in Moscow before being appointed Swiss ambassador to Georgia by the Federal Council in 2018.
As head of the Europe Division and deputy state secretary, Franzen is taking over the reins from Joseph Philipp Renggli, who held these posts on an interim basis in recent months and will take up his post as Swiss ambassador to Tunisia in the summer of 2021.
You were appointed in January 2021 to head the Europe Division of the FDFA. Having just started in this position, at a time when European policy is a burning topic, what are your top priorities now?
I am very much looking forward to this important and diverse portfolio and have enjoyed meeting the motivated and highly qualified team. The urgent job now is to swiftly take on operational responsibility for the demanding and complex dossiers, to establish trust with all the actors involved and to calmly and objectively build up a network within the Federal Administration, as well as contacts with stakeholders and foreign interlocutors. I am also particularly keen to involve our embassies and our colleagues throughout the EU even more closely in our work.
Most recently, you were the Swiss ambassador to Tbilisi. Is the move to head office in Bern more of a diplomatic routine for you – or what specifically attracted you to the Europe Division?
I've never seen a transfer that was routine. The interplay between working at head office and abroad is enriching; it's a unique aspect of diplomacy. It is very useful to have experienced both sides. I am eager to bring my leadership and diplomatic experience, as well as the external perspective I have gained, to bear in addressing the challenges in our relations with the rest of Europe.
You joined the FDFA as a lawyer in 1999 and initially worked in international humanitarian law and human rights. But your career has also focused on financial policy and security policy – in Singapore, at the SIF, as deputy head of mission in Moscow and more. What is your personal motivation driving your engagement in all of these quite different fields?
The various fields are enriching and complement one another. In addition, I'm used to getting to grips with dossiers rather quickly. But ultimately, the task at hand is always the same: representing Switzerland's interests, principles and values as comprehensively and effectively as possible and striking the right balance with the other side.
What kinds of expertise, developed at each stop on your professional journey, do you think will particularly come in handy at the helm of the Europe Division?
My experience in attending to Federal Council and parliamentary business, negotiating financial and tax matters, working on the European dossier from the perspective of a specialist agency, managing the construction of sustainable structures, supervising a protecting power mandate for several years, and managing crises reliably is sure to form a solid, multifaceted foundation for this post. But it seems equally important to me to tackle the new task with an open mind, curiosity and pragmatism, and to approach the challenges without any preconceptions.
In addition to heading the Europe Division, you and Ambassador Johannes Matyassy are deputies of State Secretary Livia Leu. What will you be responsible for in this role?
One part of this role is to support, advise, and represent the state secretary – who is also the chief negotiator with the EU – as best I can with my team as regards all Europe-related matters. On the other hand, I look forward to being able to play a complementary, deputy role in managing the State Secretariat so as to successfully implement the Federal Council's foreign policy strategy and, where possible, to set priorities.
Patric Franzen, a diplomat with rich experience
Ambassador Patric Franzen is a career diplomat and has served in a range of different diplomatic positions over the past 20 years. In 1999–2000, he served in the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) in Bern, in the Directorate of International Law, in the humanitarian law and human rights section. In 2000-2001, he worked in the embassy of Switzerland in Singapore, focusing on international finance, promotion of SME cooperation and science cooperation. Between 2001 and 2004, back in Bern, he served in the FDFA's Division for International Security Policy: Partnership for Peace, New Security Threats, Civil-Military Cooperation. In 2004–2008, he served in the Swiss embassy in Moscow, concentrating his work on Russian foreign and security policy, judicial cooperation, human rights and internal policy. Between 2008 and 2010, while serving at the head office in Bern and in the Africa and Middle East Department as Middle East regional coordinator, he focused in particular on the Swiss facilitation of the international nuclear talks with Iran.
In 2010–2014, he served in the Federal Department of Finance in Bern as chief of staff and member of the board of the State Secretariat for International Finance. Between 2014 and 2018, he was minister and deputy head of mission at the embassy of Switzerland in Moscow. In 2018, he was appointed Ambassador of Switzerland to Georgia, where he is currently serving. Ambassador Franzen holds a law degree from the University of Bern and speaks German, French and English.