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'The crisis has revealed nothing new', by Andrés Luther

'The crisis has revealed nothing new', by Andrés Luther

Andrés Luther

Until 2014, head of global communications for one of the two largest Swiss banks. Today, entrepreneur advising companies on strategy, branding and communication.

What would you highlight about the way Mexico City has handled the crisis?

Switzerland has a close relationship with China, so it wasn’t long before the threat of COVID-19 came to light. Switzerland was surprised by the ferocity of the virus in Italy. And despite a few complaints, the Basel Carnival was cancelled, as was the Geneva Motor Show; people understood the situation, although they weren’t really fully aware of the danger. Lockdown was ordered in time and this prevented worse consequences. Switzerland is radically federal: political management is shared between the central government, the cantons and the municipalities. To tackle the crisis, the Confederation (the Swiss State) took control, with the Federal Council (government) in Bern taking the lead, and the cities and cantons gratefully accepting. Everyone pulled together, political rights were ceded to the central government without opposition, and all the political forces concentrated on finding solutions.

How has Barcelona’s management of the crisis been viewed from your city?

In Switzerland, the situation in Italy shaped our perception of the crisis in southern Europe as a whole. Spain was not really in the spotlight, and Barcelona even less so. The political struggle in Madrid served to illustrate how political cynicism can result in the needs of the population being ignored. The Dutch finance minister's initial stance towards Italy and Spain reinforced the view that Europe does not provide enough support during emergencies. Barcelona was not in the news, although later we learnt about the solidarity of its citizens. And there was talk of the absence of tourists and the mixed feelings of the residents, who enjoyed getting their city back to themselves but were also worried about the economic consequences. In Switzerland, Ada Colau was seen as a mayor and not a political figure. Despite the harshness of the crisis, it has not had a negative impact on Barcelona's image.

Proposal for Barcelona

The crisis has revealed nothing new: an unsustainable form of tourism is eclipsing the fact that Barcelona is a magnet for highly qualified professionals and entrepreneurs. Efforts must continue to be made to distribute and manage resources so that they contribute to high-quality and sustainable growth. Direct democracy and the political system in Switzerland are often cited as an example to follow in Catalonia, and the tradition of participation in Switzerland has certainly helped in this crisis. People are confident that the power of the state lies in everyone's hands and there is also a conviction that participation should be based on consensus rather than confrontation. If in everyday life we seek and maintain consensus, it is much easier to act together in the event of an emergency. The next few weeks will show whether, in the long run, common sense will outweigh individual interests.

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