An Interview with …


On the occasion of the Annual Curators Meeting (ACM) 2015, taking place from 13 to 17 August in Geneva, Guillame Barazzone, Young Global Leader (YGL) 2015, gave an exclusive interview to the Geneva Hub Media Team, which will be featured in their daily ACM magazine. This week, he will be attending the Annual YGL Summit, also held in Geneva.

Guillaume is a Swiss politician and member of the Swiss Christian Democratic Party (CDP). He was elected to the Administrative Council of the City of Geneva in 2012 and re-elected in 2015, and has been member of the Swiss National Council since December 2013. He holds a master's degree in law (L.L.M.) from Columbia Law School in New York. He has also studied at the School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) Columbia University.

Congratulations on your recent appointment as YGL in 2015. Can you tell us about your experience in this community so far? What do you like the most about being a YGL?

My experience has been limited so far, since I have only been a part of YGL for few months. That said, I have recently met very interesting Young Global Leaders and Global Shapers in Geneva. I am amazed by the various backgrounds and experiences of the members of the YGL community. It is a great opportunity for Geneva to host the YGL Annual Summit. I am excited about attending my first YGL event in my home town!

Having started your political career in Switzerland and in the Geneva Canton, you have gained significant knowledge of the area.In your opinion, what are the characteristics that make Geneva such a special place?

Geneva is Switzerland’s most international and multicultural city. Of its 480,000 inhabitants, 41% are foreigners representing 184 nationalities. This is very unusual for such a small city. Geneva’s global GDP is $51.6 billion. Its per capita of $108k, is one of the highest in the world. The healthy economic environment, combined with a steady political system, has ve been core in developing sustainable and diversified growth. The region’s economic layout includes many leading multinational headquarters, prominent financial institutions, international organization and NGOs, as well as a strong layer of diverse local service and industrial businesses. Geneva’s strong international purpose has made it the host of more than 95 international organizations, programs or institutes such as the UNO, WHO, WTO, WIPO, CERN and ICRC. Over 200 international NGOs and nonprofit organizations are registered in Geneva.

What has been the focus of your political action over the years? What are the areas you have tried to improve and how?

In Geneva, my main focus has been security and the environment. During the past 3 years we have developed the “proximity police” of Geneva and increased by 50% the number of policemen.

Our goal is to make Geneva one of the greenest cities in Europe. For that purpose, we are developing many “pocket parks” to increase the quality of the city urbanism.

As a member of the Swiss parliament, I was mainly involved in the drafting of the regulations on financial reform. My main focus was to ensure that Switzerland could implement the new GAFI (Groupe d'Action Financière Internationale, also know as Financial Action Task Force) rules regarding anti money laundering and effectively fight the financing of terrorism. We are also making sure that the Swiss financial institutions remain competitive and innovative.

According to the Tribune de Genève, you are one of the most influential members of parliament in 2015 rankings. How do you manage to keep a close link with your electorate, and particularly to engage youth?Being able to play a political role at the local level is vital. Meeting regularly with my constituents in the different neighborhoods of Geneva is very important to keep a close link with the electorate. It gives you new ideas and is the only way to really understand their concerns. Swiss people are regularly asked to vote on particular issues and this also helps keeping people engaged. As regards youth, social media is probably the most important communication channel.

In May, you have been reelected in the Administrative Council of the City of Geneva. What challenges will Geneva have to face in the coming years?

Geneva will have to face new challenges. The end of banking secrecy is one of them. The Swiss financial industry is becoming one of the most transparent in the world. In the future, Geneva can become an international hub for financial innovation and sustainable finance.

The continued strength of the Swiss franc against the US dollar and Euro, originating from Switzerland’s safe-haven status, has affected Geneva, which heavily depends on exports for its internationally orientated financial, trading and watch industries. In addition to currency pressure, the OECD’s has challenged Switzerland on its favorable tax structure for multinational companies (multinationals benefit from a 12% rate).

The stable economic environment and strong Swiss Franc have led to high labour costs and housing prices (the vacant house ratio is below 0.5%).

Geneva is perceived as expensive and unattractive in terms of living. This negative perception remains a challenge in attracting tourism, talent, and modernization. Additionally, the relatively solid economic situation has put little pressure on government and local businesses to reposition themselves.

In 2013, the Swiss nationalist party launched  a general referendum on immigration was launched by the Swiss nationalist party. On 9 February 2014, Swiss voters narrowly backed this controversial referendum proposal to bring back strict quotas for immigration from European Union countries. Final results showed 50.3% voted in favour (people from Geneva voted against it). This vote is catastrophic for Switzerland and Geneva because it could render the Swiss-EU agreement on freedom of movement moot. It further jeopardizes other Swiss-EU agreements on trade, air and road traffic, agriculture, science, research and education. While other cantons have more flexible options, Geneva is at the center of the issue, as its international organizations, NGO’s and multinational companies are greatly exposed to potentially restrictive immigration policy.

What are your expectations from your first YGL meeting? It is a great opportunity for Geneva to host the YGL Annual Summit.

I consider this first YGL meeting as a unique opportunity to acquaint myself with other YGLs, with which I hope to develop a fruitful relationship over the years. I am sure I will learn a great deal from my peers, and looking forward to exchanging views and acting as each other’s sounding board.

I am excited about attending my first YGL event in my hometown!

As today’s leader, what is your advice for tomorrow’s leaders, in particular for the Curators attending the Global Shapers Annual Curators Meeting (ACM) this week in Geneva?

Always be yourself and never pretend to be someone else. People will trust you as a leader because of your own personality and skills, and will turn away from someone who seems a fake.

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