Responsible for a contingent of experts in Sarajevo

"My first mission dates back to 1998. It was a 2 1/2 year stint with the United Nations Preventive Deployment Force in Macedonia (UNPREDEP). I was 35 and felt the need to broaden my horizons."

Since then Giorgio, a member of the border guards in Ticino, has been on several missions abroad. After Macedonia, his duties took him to Bosnia-Herzegovina, first to the United Nations Mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina (UNMIBH), then to the European Union Police Mission (EUPM). From January 2009 to July 2011 he worked in the coordination centre in Sarajevo where together with about 20 Bosnian colleagues and foreign police officers he was the head of mission. His task was to support and to advise the local authorities and regional offices on all questions concerning security: the fight against organised crime and terrorism, the fight against corruption, etc. He was also the contact for Brussels and for the different partners of the mission. 

Finding one's role

"In Switzerland, I am part of a clearly defined hierarchical system and carry out a clear mandate. Most other members of the border police have had the same training and they apply tried and tested processes. This is certainly not the case on missions. Here you have to become part of an international group where everyone has a different professional background and their own motivations. It's a complex environment in which you need to find your place." 

A formative experience

"My experience within the EUPM encouraged me to show initiative. I was confronted with new tasks in a stimulating international context. I had to learn to work in a different language. But now both my professional and personal horizons have widened as a result." 

Things do not always go smoothly." Certain missions may prove to be harrowing. In the Sarajevo region in 1999, I was responsible for ensuring the security of commissions that were exhuming bodies from common graves. This experience had a profound effect on me." When taking on such responsibilities a long way from home, he concluded, it's essential to be able to rely on the support of one's friends and family.

Expert advice

  • Be prepared to live simply. Make sure you have a good knowledge of the official working language
  • Be prepared to live basically in a socially fragile environment
  • Take time to familiarise yourself with the local habits and customs
  • Be flexible