Some thoughts after a strenuous week walking 100 kilometers along the Northern Way to Santiago de Compostela, from Bilbao to Laredo:
+ The Guggenhein Museum in Bilbao has put the city on the map after its industrial decline in the 1980’s. The museum is the fruit of a collaboration between the Basque Administration and the Guggenheim Foundation in New York. The Frank Gehry design is monumental with over 33,000 titanium plates covering the façade. Its impact on tourism in the region proves that a cultural center like a museum can be a magnet that draws people from all over the world. Comparisons with the Museum of Art and History in Geneva and the acrimonious debate over its potential redesign with the Gandur collection point to a particular Geneva political paralysis.
+ Another Spanish/Geneva comparison: The Portugalete suspension bridge allows cars and pedestrians to cross the river Nervion while ships pass underneath. A ferry is suspended from a frame by wires attached to wheels on tracks above the cabin and moves from one side of the river to the other by a traction system. Built in 1893, it was designed by a disciple of Gustave Eiffel and declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2006. The bridge is a unique solution to crossing a waterway, a problem that continues to confound Geneva.
+ During the week on the international scene: The designation of Switzerland as an intermediary in the current diplomatic crisis between the United States and Venezuela is a welcome sign that Switzerland’s international reputation has not been irreparably damaged as a result of recent controversial decisions i.e. not signing the ban on the use of nuclear weapons, not signing the migration pact and abstaining from joining all the European Union members in condemning Saudi Arabia’s human rights violations at the Human Rights Council. Swiss Ambassador in Caracas, Didier Chassot, has a formidable challenge to join the ranks of Walter Stucki and Erik Lang as outstanding Swiss Ambassadors when acting as Swiss representatives in the role of Good Offices between conflicting states; Stucki between France and Germany during World War II and Lang between the United States and Iran during the hostage crisis.
+ The election in Ukraine follows a trend. Citizens seem frustrated with traditional politics, see the elections of Emmanuel Macron in France and Donald Trump in the United States as examples of opposition to the status quo. In Ukraine, the actor/comedian Volodymyr Zelensky easily won the presidential election over the incumbent. Voters in Ukraine, the second largest country in Europe, were disappointed in the current president Petro Poroshenko and, like voters in France and the United States, chose somebody new. Friday’s raucous debate between the two candidates before thousands in Kiev’s Olympic football stadium does not augur well for serious politics. Does experience count in politics? The 23 weeks of protests by the Gilets Jaunes in France and the low popularity polls for Donald Trump in the United States indicate that newcomers are not an automatic solution.
+ The Mueller Report. To impeach or not to impeach, that is the Democrats’ dilemma. Attorney General Barr’s four page summary, hastily written over a weekend reading of the 400 page document as well as his press conference presentation have done little to settle the question if there was collusion or obstruction. The Democrats seem undecided about whether to begin impeachment hearings; they know that 2/3 of the Senate will never vote to remove President Trump from office. The Democrats in a House Committee have asked for the entire Report, but formally voting for impeachment just before the 2020 election remains uncertain.