Andrea Bekić reveals which area of Bern is named after the coastal region of Dalmatia, what connects her capital city with bears, and that a Croatian project in the field of urban mobility could be exciting for Swiss cities.
Article published in the info letter December 2022.
Andrea Bekić ...
... comes from Zagreb, the capital of Croatia.
... arrived in Bern at the end of 2018 and has since served as the Croatian Ambassador to Switzerland. Previously, she served as Ambassador to Poland. She joined the diplomatic service in 1992 as soon as Croatia gained independence and her first "business trip" was to Geneva a year later to assist in the newly established Croatian Mission to the UN. She came back to Geneva a few years later and her younger son was born in Genolier (Canton of Vaud) in 1997.
... is now happy to be in charge of the bilateral relations between Croatia and Switzerland and to live in the charming centrally-located federal capital, Bern.
10 questions (or more...) to Andrea Bekić
What are you responsible for?
My main responsibility is to represent the Republic of Croatia in relations with the Swiss authorities and to protect the interests of Croatia and its citizens in Switzerland. I am also responsible for the Principality of Liechtenstein.
I focus on improving all aspects of the already excellent bilateral relations between Croatia and Switzerland. This year we have celebrated 30 years of diplomatic relations with a series of cultural events and high-level meetings, including the official visit of the Croatian President, Zoran Milanović to Switzerland.
Since Switzerland is a federal and decentralised state, I also make efforts to establish good contacts with Swiss cantons and cities. It is important for an ambassador to understand how the country works and to feel the spirit of the nation. An increasing number of my activities relate to "public diplomacy", with attendance at different cultural, academic or promotional events, aiming to raise awareness of Croatia. Business diplomacy is also very important, since the Swiss economy is strong and I have to promote investment opportunities and our export products.
Since there is a large community of Croatians living in Switzerland, I often visit their associations and events. The embassy cooperates closely with schools of Croatian language and culture. My compatriots living in Switzerland are well integrated but at the same time they manage to preserve their Croatian identity.
Which projects are you most excited about right now?
I am excited to be presenting a project on urban mobility in Switzerland based on artificial intelligence, designed and produced in Croatia. It is a project which might be interesting for some Swiss cities, especially those aiming to become smarter, greener and more sustainable.
When you arrived in Bern, what were you most surprised by?
I was surprised to find out that one of the most attractive areas of Bern is named after the Croatian coastal region of Dalmatia. When I went for my first walk by the Aare I realized that the popular promenade along the river is called Dalmaziquai and that the two banks of the river are connected by the Dalmazibruecke bridge. It seems that the name of the Bernese "riviera" was introduced by a 17th century Swiss mercenary who returned to his hometown after some time spent in Dalmatia.
What do you appreciate about Bern?
I appreciate its beauty which I compare to a clear cut diamond thanks to its ideal proportions, architecture and links with nature. Also, people in the city are very kind and easy going, there is no stress like in bigger cities. The absence of heavy traffic, pollution and noise is a great asset.
What is the difference and/or the commonality with your culture and the culture in Bern?
In Croatia, people go to the city centre to drink coffee or spontaneously meet friends and socialize, especially on Saturdays. In Bern, people seem less eager to spend their free time in the city, but the commonality is that there are many outdoor cafés and restaurants, in the style of Mediterranean culture.
Tell us about your favourite place in Bern.
My favourite part of Bern is along Rathausgasse, where you can still feel the medieval spirit of the old city. In particular, I enjoy exploring brocante and antique stores, seeing the traditions of local artisans, although more for the pleasure of observing than buying. When passing by, I try to imagine life in historical Bern. It feels authentic and exciting.
Albert Einstein or Paul Klee?
Albert Einstein, the great mind from Switzerland who gave so much to mankind. I am proud that two scientists of Croatian origin at the ETH in Zurich were awarded Nobel Prizes for chemistry, Lavoslav Ružička in 1939 and Vladimir Prelog in 1975.
Bears or Beer?
Bears. We are in Bern after all! Also, the mountain near Zagreb is called "Medvednica", Baerenberg with Castle Baerenburg overlooking our capital… Bears rock!
Hike or Ski?
I am not in shape for skiing, however I do enjoy "Apres-ski"!
Any advice to newcomers in Bern?
Drive carefully, bikes pop up from everywhere.
Have you tried to learn Swiss German and if yes, which is your favourite word?
I am learning every day with limited success but the first one I heard upon my arrival to Bern is my favourite word: "Gruessech".
Who would you like to hear from next?
Marjan Osvald, Deputy Director General of UPU.
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