Switzerland: Foreign minister Cassis picked as new president

GENEVA (AP) — Switzerland’s parliament on Wednesday selected Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis to become the rich Alpine country’s next president on New Year’s Day.

The choice of Cassis, 60, was largely a formality after he was chosen as vice president a year ago. Switzerland’s presidency rotates every year among the seven members of the executive Federal Council, and the president serves as the first among equals.

Cassis, the first president from Switzerland’s Italian-speaking Ticino region this century, will succeed President Guy Parmelin on Jan. 1. Parmelin hosted a Russia-U.S. summit in Geneva in June, and his tenure also saw a souring of Switzerland’s crucial relationship with its giant neighbor, the European Union.

In May, the Swiss government pulled out of years-long negotiations on a comprehensive package of bilateral accords with the EU after the two sides failed to reach agreement on the cross-border movement of jobseekers and other key issues. Switzerland has more than 100 bilateral treaties with the EU.

Cassis, who has a medical degree and practiced as a doctor specializing in internal medicine, is a fluent speaker of German, French and Italian, Switzerland’s three main languages.

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