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Head of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs
Didier Burkhalter, born on 17 April 1960, grew up in the village of Auvernier on the shores of Lake Neuchâtel. He obtained a degree in economics from the University of Neuchâtel. Before his move into politics, he held a number of posts in the academic world and the private sector. Mr. Burkhalter is married and father of three children.
In 1985 Mr. Burkhalter joined the Radical Democratic Party (now the Liberal Democratic Party, or FDP). He was secretary of the Neuchâtel branch of the party, before becoming the full-time secretary for French-speaking Switzerland within the FDP Switzerland. In 1991 he was elected to the executive (town council) of Neuchâtel, which he chaired for three periods (1994/1995, 1998/1999, 2001/2002). He remained a member of the council until 2005.
During his political career, Mr. Burkhalter has served as a member of parliament at all three levels of the Swiss political system: municipal (parliament of Hauterive, Neuchâtel), cantonal (Neuchâtel parliament) and federal (National Council and Council of States).
In 2003 Mr. Burkhalter was elected to the National Council (lower house), and to the Council of States (upper house) in 2007. During this time he has served on a number of federal parliamentary commissions and was also a member of the Swiss delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
Didier Burkhalter was elected to the Federal Council on 16 September 2009 and appointed as the head of the Federal Department of Home Affairs (FDHA), a post he held until 31 December 2011. As of 1 January 2012, Mr. Burkhalter will take charge of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs.