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In my nearly five years as Swiss Ambassador in Washington, I have experienced how decidedly close and friendly the relations between Switzerland and the United States have proved to be. There is substance to the frequently quoted phrase "Sister Republics." The partnership between our two countries is characterized by similar fundamentals of government and values. However, this may not obscure the fact that in the last few decades differences of opinion have repeatedly arisen, as illustrated by the UBS case and the extradition of Roman Polanski. I am proud that we were always able to find solutions which testified to mutual recognition and respect. Time and again, the U.S. demonstrates its attitude of partnership toward us, whether by the above-average number of personal contacts between U.S. cabinet members and Swiss federal councillors or by entrusting us with the protecting power mandates. Switzerland has represented the United States in Cuba since 1961 and in Iran since 1980. That commitment is still highly appreciated and actively pursued, as demonstrated by the release of the American citizen Sarah Shourd from Iranian detention, for example.
Time and again, we are presented with new opportunities for further strengthening our relations, whether in the area of science and technology or politics and democracy. The concept of the "debt brake" and Swiss healthcare policy, for example, have received not only praise and recognition from the American side, but have also illustrated an interest in Swiss approaches to solutions. Americans regard Switzerland positively, as demonstrated by a recent study.
Along with this openness, on a personal level, I have always been fascinated by the optimism and the pioneer spirit of the Americans. Here the glass is never half empty, but always half full. This attitude paired with entrepreneurial spirit and the willingness to always do one's best guarantees that the United States is the undisputed leader in many areas. The worst financial and economic crisis since the thirties, however, has left its mark. Unlike beforehand, today many Americans doubt that their children will inevitably be better off than they themselves are. The same confidence in the country that one encountered still a few years ago is no longer prevalent. I hope, however, and in my heart I am also optimistic that the old American spirit will return. We Swiss with our sometimes especially critical attitude should learn a thing or two from this spirit time and again. During my time in Washington, I personally was able to learn much from this positive basic attitude. With rich memories and refueled with good spirit, I would like to say, "Good-bye America, see you soon!"
Ambassador Urs Ziswiler
Historic Vote Results in Female Majority in the Swiss Cabinet
Four out of seven members of the newly elected Swiss Federal Council (Cabinet) are female. Revolutionary? Not quite. It is primarily a matter of political parties. Ever since the ´50s, the seats of the Swiss Federal Council have been evenly divided according to the so-called Zauberformel (magic formula). The Zauberformel represents the political powers, approval in substance, the different regions and mentalities. Therefore it stands for a nonpartisan government based on concordance. Nevertheless the Swiss are full of pride and hope for their first female-majority government in Swiss history. The election was followed by a big reshuffling of federal departments.
Federal Department of Foreign Affairs Welcomes the Release of U.S. Citizen Sarah Shourd
The Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) welcomes U.S. citizen Sarah Shourd's release from Iranian detention, which took place on September 14, 2010. In the framework of the protecting power mandate for the U.S., for more than a year the FDFA has been engaged in Iran in working toward a solution in the case of three imprisoned U.S. citizens, including Sarah Shourd. The FDFA will continue its efforts on behalf of the two Americans remaining in detention. From the beginning, the Swiss Embassy has been in close contact with the Iranian authorities and represented the interests of the U.S. The protecting power mandate is part of the good offices provided by Switzerland in the framework of its humanitarian tradition for the benefit of the international community. Switzerland has represented U.S. interests in Iran for more than 30 years. (photo: swissinfo)
U.S.-Swiss Dialogue Series Hosted Seminar on the Comprehensive Peace Agreement for Sudan
The Center for Strategic and International Studies CSIS in Washington, D.C., and the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs hosted a seminar on Sudan on October 7, 2010. The event brought together senior officials who participated in drafting the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), including two experts from the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Andrea Semadeni, Special Envoy for Sudan and the Horn of Africa, and Julian Thomas Hottinger, Senior Mediator. The participants agreed that the upcoming months will be a tremendous challenge for Sudan as well as for the international community.
Step-by-Step Integration into Switzerland
Former detainees at the Guantánamo Bay detention center, the two brothers Arkin and Bahtiyar Mahmut began their new lives in a French-speaking region of Switzerland six months ago. Their integration is continuing step by step, learning French and establishing a daily routine Swiss authorities admitted them to Switzerland on humanitarian grounds. From the outset, the Swiss government has welcomed President Obama's intention to close Guantánamo as soon as possible. (photo: swissinfo)
Lex Duvalier: Swiss Parliament Passed the Return of Illicit Assets Act (RIAA)
Heads of state and high-ranking public officials (politically exposed persons, PEPs) who illegally enrich themselves through state funds deprive their state of capital and hinder the development of their country. These so-called potentate funds (dictators’ assets) are frequently sent out of the country and invested in international financial centers. Switzerland has a fundamental interest in ensuring that assets of criminal origin are not invested in the Swiss financial center. Swiss laws and procedures for combating money laundering, corruption and the financing of terrorism are effective means of keeping out potentate funds. Demonstrating its long-term commitment to the restitution of potentate funds, the Swiss Parliament approved the Federal Act on the Restitution of Assets of Politically Exposed Persons Obtained by Unlawful Means (RIAA) during the 2010 autumn session. It should go into effect in early 2011 after the expiration of the three- month referendum deadline. Then, on the basis of Article 14 of the RIAA, the Swiss Confederation will freeze the Duvalier assets and take the necessary legal steps for the assets to be returned to Haiti to improve the living conditions of the Haitian people.
World’s Longest Tunnel in Switzerland
Switzerland has one more record-breaking site: the world’s longest tunnel. An estimated 24 million tons of rock have been excavated out of the Gotthard massif over the last 11 years. On October 15, 2010, the miners did the final breakthrough to cheers and applause. Miners, the general public and officials celebrated this historic event with big festivities. But there are still seven years of work ahead. The tunnel is expected to open in 2017 and will be the most important element of the new flat-rail link through the Alps.
The total cost of the project is $10.1 billion--or $1,300 per Swiss citizen. Switzerland now has the world’s longest tunnel at 57 kilometres. The new transit route will reduce the travelling time from Zürich to Milan by one-and-a-half hours. It is also a cornerstone of the policy to move freight from the roads to the rails.
Swiss Solar Catamaran MS TÛRANOR to Circumnavigate the Seas
Lord of the Rings on the seas? You might think so when you hear the name of the newest Swiss green-tech project. Raphaël Domjan, the founder of the Swiss project, was inspired by J.R.R. Tolkien’s novel when he named the boat “MS TÛRANOR.” Naming the solar-powered vessel has certainly been the easiest part of the expedition so far. It has taken an inspired team, support from experts of all kinds and financial resources to undertake the first-ever voyage around the globe by a solar-powered vessel.
The Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA), which has supported the project for nearly two years, is associated with the expedition as an official partner. The vessel left the port of Monaco on September 27, 2010, follow the boat at sea.
The mission of the catamaran MS TÛRANOR PlanetSolar is to complete the first voyage around the globe by a boat powered solely by photoelectric energy. The project aims to contribute toward expanding the body of knowledge in the field of solar mobility and its development.
Innovative Swiss Vehicles on the Rise
The X-Tracer, the Swiss ultimate low-drag high-performance vehicle which won the Progressive Insurance Automotive X PRIZE, is a smart innovation; Read about the event, including video, photos, and President Barack Obama´s message. You can also view clips from the National Geographic Documentary, X PRIZE Cars: "Accelerating the Future." There is more green driving to come: the Airpod.
The small three-wheel vehicle is driven by compressed air. The car, which will hit the road next March, will be seen mainly at industrial sites and airports. But the investors are certain that they will also convince private buyers since the car can be driven for 200 km before it needs to be refilled. The compressed air is filled into a carbon tank while attached to the electrical power grid. The Industrial Electronics Laboratory at the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) supports the technical development of the Airpod. Professor Alfred Rufer, head of the laboratory, likes the idea of being able to completely do without the use of raw materials for the power unit, unlike other electrically powered cars that use a lithium battery.
Soirée Suisse 2010
The Embassy of Switzerland in Washington wishes to express its sincere appreciation to all those who contributed toward making the Soirée Suisse 2010 a success. Nearly 1,000 guests attended our garden party and became inspired by Swiss themes, design, food and wine. The great interest in the Soirée Suisse is a testament to the excellent relations between Switzerland and the United States. This year's Soirée Suisse was devoted to Swiss design.
See more at http://gallery.me.com/mpamp#100384
username: soiree.suisse, password: glow
Did You Know That Switzerland Has a King?
Once every three years, there is a National Alpine Games Festival, the Eidgenössisches Schwingfest. More than 200,000 visitors made their way to Frauenfeld, where the last festival took place in August 2010. The winner is crowned the Schwinger King. He enjoys a hero’s status and wins a living bull as the main prize. This year’s winner Kilian Wenger standing next to Arnold, the bull:
Wrestling itself is not only a Swiss sport—just think of the Sumo wrestlers of Japan—but Swiss wrestling, Schwingen, itself dates back to 1600. Despite its up-to-date training methods and competition rules, it has kept a traditional touch: the ring is padded with sawdust and the competitions are only held in the open air. Athletes wear a traditional outfit with a pair of loose shorts over their clothes. The two fighters grab hold of each other's shorts and try to throw their opponent onto his back. Several festivals are held each year, but only the Eidgenössisches Schwingfest has a king at the end. Two U.S. athletes, both citizens of Switzerland and the U.S., attended this year´s competition in Frauenfeld. Martin Steiner of Vacaville, CA, didn´t win many fights this time. But he enjoyed the atmosphere and being back in Switzerland. Do U.S. athletes have plans for the Eidgenössisches Schwingfest in 2013? We will cover the Schwingfest in the upcoming issues of this newsletter.
See more and read more about this fascinating sport.
Pablo Picasso at the Kunsthaus Zürich from October 15, 2010, to January 30, 2011
Pablo Picasso had his first-ever museum retrospective in 1932. The Spanish painter had personally assembled the works for the Kunsthaus Zürich exhibition, which lasted from September to November. The exhibition constituted a veritable revolution in the art world, the first time the works for a museum show were selected by the artist himself and not by the director.
In 2010, Picasso's first retrospective will be revived. As it celebrates its centennial in 2010, the Kunsthaus Zürich is presenting itself as an institution open to avant-garde movements early on. With their homage to the 1932 exhibition, curators Tobia Bezzola and Simenotte Fraquelli evoke the background of the world's first comprehensive Picasso museum show and demonstrate its influence on the reception of the now world-famous artist. Over 70 masterpieces will be assembled in the main exhibition room, works on loan from New York's Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan Museum, London's Tate Modern, and the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza in Madrid, among others, while private collectors in Europe and elsewhere are lending rarely shown works of their own. (photo: Pro Litteris)