|Africa, Asia, Europe, North America, South America, Australia – you name it, he’s worked there. In fact, one of the few places, Hans-Peter Erismann, the new Swiss Ambassador to Thailand, hasn’t worked is Antarctica, but give him time, he’s still young.|
there are few diplomats that can match the Swiss ambassador when it comes to the
diversity of the assignments he’s taken in his three decades of diplomatic
Scott Murray had a chance to sit down and talk to him about his new posting.
Normally, we would have just proceeded into a review of Swiss-Thai relations,
but as the events of September 11 have changed the global political landscape so
much, it seemed natural to begin there as well as focus briefly on the Swiss
before we get to the interview, let’s take a quick look at Ambassador
Erismann’s life and career. He
was born in 1941 in Saint-Gall, Canton of Saint-Gall, Switzerland, but he did
not start out his professional life as a diplomat, but rather he was an
economist, having studied economics at Saint-Gall University, where he graduated
with a Doctoral Degree.
in 1971, after seven years of experience as a marketing specialist with Swiss
and US-companies in Switzerland and Australia, he entered the Swiss Foreign
Service as a trainee and honed his craft in Bern and Brussels for two years.
His first posting came in 1973 when he was sent
to Warsaw, as the Deputy Head of Mission of the Swiss Embassy in Poland. In
1976, he moved in the same position to the Swiss Embassy in Canberra, Australia.
Then in 1979, he went back to Switzerland for a few years because he took a
position as Diplomatic Collaborator at the Swiss Ministry of Foreign Affairs,
from 1982-86 he switched to a new continent, becoming the Counsellor
and Deputy Head of Mission, for the Swiss Embassy in Cairo, Egypt. Then in 1986,
he took his first posting as ambassador, becoming his nation’s top diplomat to
the Republic of Korea.
stayed there until 1989, when he was then sent to New York City where he served
as the Swiss Consul General until 1993.
Then from 1993-97 he went to Africa becoming his
nation’s ambassador to the Republic of Kenya, Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda,
Seychelles, Somalia and Permanent Representative to UNEP (United Nations
Environment Programme), with residence in Nairobi.
Craving a little Latin American experience, the versatile diplomat was then shipped to Santiago where he was his country’s ambassador to Chile from 1997 until earlier this year. Now he’s here in Thailand, where he succeeded Bernard Freymond (who is now the Swiss Ambassador to Sweden) and Ambassador Erismann says he is ready and willing to accept the challenges of his new position.
and his wife Freda have two married daughters, Pia and Eva.
been thinking that a number of well-known people in this world should do a
little more under the present circumstances. I mean not just high-ranking people
in the UN like the great personality of Kofi Annan, whom I think, does have the
ear of many important people in the world.
Pope in Rome could become more active and other religious leaders. They should
use all the possible means of mass communication in the fight against terrorism
to get their message across and correct misperceptions of what has happened.
Otherwise we run the risk that the fight against terrorism is perceived as a
religious war, which it isn’t. It is not Christianity against Islam. Nothing
could be further from the truth, yet the view so many people have is exactly
“Everyone in this world who has some influence should use it in the fight against terrorism, also political leaders.
“Sometimes I feel very sorry for the Americans. I think they are almost condemned to commit errors. They absolutely had to react to the events of September 11, due to external and internal political reasons. It would have been impossible for them not to react. But could they have responded differently? This is what I don’t know. Would it have been possible for the US Government under the current circumstances, to tell the American people and the world, "look, we don’t want to go in with air attacks, we have seen in other situations that success is doubtful. What we will do is slow investigative work with which we try and infiltrate the terrorist network in a quiet way, and maybe, we will have results in a year, or five or ten?
would have been an alternative but probably not feasible given the current
atmosphere in America. That’s why I think they have been condemned to a plan
of action, and a quick one at that.
“The Americans and their allies are predominately fighting against the symptoms of the problem right now, but they must also focus on the causes, such as a new attitude towards the Middle East, including the relations between Israel and its neighbors.”
was in France on vacation at the time and I saw it on TV a few minutes after it
had happened. It really did affect me sincerely. I have visited the WTC towers
many times. My two daughters live in America; one used to study and work in New
York and due to the repercussions of September 11th has lost her job.
I am really concerned about the future, not only for my two daughters, but for
the world as well. I believe the world has changed because of these attacks.”
“Two Swiss-Americans were killed in one of the hijacked airliners.”
“Some bank accounts have been blocked and investigations are under way.
It is extremely difficult for terrorists and money launderers to use Swiss banks. Swiss banking laws today are much stricter than most people believe. Switzerland in this sector deserves a much better reputation.”
bank reforms and also external pressure are responsible for the change. Fines
for delinquent banks and other financial institutions are very large.”
“Switzerland is not a member of the UN. This
is because Switzerland has a system of direct democracy. The Government cannot
decide to join the UN against the people's will. A decision must be taken by
popular referendum. If anywhere in the world people are asked by their
respective governments to decide on any issue such as this, they normally tend
to be much more conservative then the respective governments.
“We last voted for UN membership in 1986 and seventy-five percent of the voters voted against it. Now we will hold another vote on 3 March 2002.”
“It depends on what company and what product
you are talking about. For example, you find copies of certain well known and
relatively expensive Swiss watches the whole world over. The manufacturers of
those watches have found out that it is the first step in the life of the owner
of a fake watch to eventually own a real Swiss watch of that particular Swiss
“Of course, we Swiss are all concerned, and of
course we will try and fight this problem, with all legal means at our disposal.
The protection of intellectual property rights is also especially important in
the pharmaceutical sector and for artists. The fight is not easy since not only
private companies but governments are involved as well.”
“Nestle is building the world’s largest milk processing factory for condensed milk in Samut Prakan, and they will export its products throughout the region. And this will mean a lot of jobs and be a real boost for the economy.”
“Another new factory is being constructed for
the manufacture of all kinds of different ropes at the ThaiSwiss SME Industrial
Center Limited in Pranburi, Prachuap Khirikhan.”
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