Top news from our partner swissinfo

  • The weird and wonderful world at Palexpo

    Sat, 29 Apr 2017 09:00:00 GMT

    All year round Geneva’s convention and exhibition centre hosts fairs and events of all sorts. Geneva photographer Olivier Vogelsang has recently published a series of previously undisclosed pictures taken from the different scenes and in the corridors of Palexpo.  He began his reportage more than three years ago and came across traders, shoppers, exhibitors as well as researchers and enthusiasts of new technology, arts, sport and nostalgia. Palexpo notably hosts the annual Geneva Motor Show and a major book fair. It is a world of its own with glitter, gimmicks and smiling hostesses and surprising moments behind the scenes, that Vogelsang captured with his camera. The series of pictures is entitled Grand-messe in French – High Mass or big event in English. An exhibition of his pictures is on display until mid-June at the Castle of Gruyères, a medieval town 35km south of Fribourg. A book with the photographs is due to be published in May. swissinfo.ch/ug

  • Southeast Asia seeks new solutions to drug crisis

    Fri, 28 Apr 2017 09:00:00 GMT

    Former Swiss President Ruth Dreifuss, founder and president of the Global Commission on Drug Policy, recently returned from a trip to Southeast Asia. She tells swissinfo.ch that the policy shift in Thailand and Myanmar towards health-based solutions for chronic drug abuse is a notable evolution in a region long known for its “tough-on-drugs” position. Established in 2011, the commission took its starting point from the position that the so-called war on drugs launched by former United States President Richard Nixon in 1971 had been a total failure, as drug trafficking has become more prevalent than ever and the number of users continues to rise. However, Dreifuss says attitudes to tackling issues associated with illegal drug use are finally beginning to change. swissinfo.ch: How far are Thailand and Myanmar willing to take their reforms? Ruth Dreifuss: In these two countries, which are dealing with epidemics of HIV and Hepatitis C among those who ...

  • Donald Trump: 1,360 more days of resistance

    Fri, 28 Apr 2017 09:00:00 GMT

    When the first 100 days of an incoming US president come to completion, it is normally the hour of political scientists or economists, not of ethicists. But Donald Trump’s is no normal presidency, and its implications are not merely political or economic, but fundamentally moral. His first 100 days in office have been a time of destruction (as well as distraction), intolerance and bad governance. But they have also been a time of inspiration, protest and resistance. And it is in the latter that lies the hope and the potential of Trump’s time in office. 100 days of destruction… It seems ironic for a man who has called himself a builder throughout much of his professional life, that his presidential agenda has been one of destruction. His policy follows a logic of escalation, it is impulsive and defies evidence and facts, and it is ignorant of the lasting damage it may cause. During his first 100 days in office, Trump launched an unsuccessful attack ...

  • Switzerland celebrates 25 years of solar innovation

    Fri, 28 Apr 2017 06:00:00 GMT

    On April 28, 1992, the first solar power station in Switzerland, the largest in Europe at the time, was inaugurated on the aptly named Mont-Soleil mountain. Twenty-five years on, solar power has made significant strides but is still struggling to truly emerge from the shadows. “We first looked for sites all over the Alps, but no one was interested. We were regarded as a group of wacky engineers who were throwing money down the drain,” recalls Martin Pfisterer, one of the initiators of the project and current president of the Mont Soleil company, managed by the Bernese electric group BKW. The solar power station finally found a home in the Jura mountains on Mont-Soleil. Initial doubts and criticism gave way to awe at the sheer audacity and scale of the project. With 10,560 solar panels scattered over 20,000 square metres at an altitude of 1,200 metres, Mont-Soleil was by far the largest solar power plant in Europe at the time. Its inauguration generated media ...

  • What makes Basel such a good place to live?

    Thu, 27 Apr 2017 09:00:00 GMT

    Two expats living in Basel tell us why they think the Swiss city deserves to rub shoulders with Zurich, Sydney and Vancouver in the rankings for the world’s best places to live.           Basel was ranked joint tenth with Sydney in the Mercer annual quality of living survey for expats. It was the first time that the city bordering both Germany and France has been included in the survey. It is the third largest city in Switzerland after Zurich and Geneva, with around 200,000 inhabitants – of which 35.7% are foreigners. It is a pharma industry hub, but also home to 40 museums. Jacqueline Huwyler, 24, is half Swiss, but was raised in New Jersey, in the US. She arrived in August 2016 and is studying for a PhD in Egyptian Archaeology at the University of Basel. I’d been to Basel a couple of times before to visit my family. I’ve always felt that the quality of life here is very high. In general, people in Basel seemed to have very happy and comfortable ...

  • Episode 2: My big fat Tamil wedding

    Thu, 27 Apr 2017 15:00:00 GMT

    Tama Vakeesan was born in Switzerland – to Tamil parents from Sri Lanka. Tama and her best friends, who are Kurdish and Bosnian, are all single. They say their perfect man would be Swiss born but must speak their language, practice their religion, share their food preferences and like their music. It's a lot to ask for. Find out from Tama what it’s like to be caught between two worlds. (SRF Kulturplatz/swissinfo.ch)

  • Zurich cemetery tempts bookworms with special benches

    Thu, 27 Apr 2017 10:01:00 GMT

    The city of Zurich has installed five special reading benches in its Sihlfeld cemetery, each equipped with a metal box full of books for people to dip into. “Cemeteries are not just places for mourning and for saying goodbye to loved ones,” the city authorities said in a statement. “Many Zurich people use them as quiet places for a stroll or where they can take pause in their daily life. And reading is an activity that fits well into this environment.” The wide selection of books in each metal weatherproof box can be read in the cemetery, borrowed or taken away. The initiative, co-organised by the city funerals’ office and the Pestalozzi library, was launched on World Book Day on April 23. It is due to run until October.

  • Chaplin’s biggest fan keeps his memory alive in India

    Thu, 27 Apr 2017 05:00:00 GMT

    Could 67-year-old Indian Ashok Aswani be Charlie Chaplin’s biggest fan? A look at the annual parade he organises in The Tramp’s honour, as well as his visit to Chaplin’s Swiss home.  In 1966, Ashok Sukhumal Aswani was on his way to work when saw a poster of Chaplin’s film Gold Rush. He bought a ticket and enjoyed the movie so much he saw it again, forgetting all about his job. He was eventually fired.  Seven years later, he decided to mark Chaplin’s birthday on April 16 with a birthday cake and a small celebration with his close family. Over the years, this has transformed into a full-blown tribute parade to the actor in Adipur with around a hundred participants.  “Most people didn’t even know who he was back then, they would think his name is Charlie Champion,” says Aswani. It has helped put the non-descript town in the western Indian state of Gujarat on the map. Every year the festivities attracts media attention. ...

  • Nestlé and Novartis rethink role in Turkey ad campaign

    Thu, 27 Apr 2017 06:55:00 GMT

    Several big multinational companies are reconsidering their involvement in an official campaign promoting Turkey as a business location that was conceived before President Recep Tayyip Erdogan recently tightened his grip on power. Switzerland's Nestlé has indicated it could pull out of the international initiative, led by Turkey's economy ministry, to restore investor confidence in the country. "Our participation in the campaign is currently on hold and we will consider next steps in the near future," Nestlé told the Financial Times.  Swiss pharmaceuticals group Novartis also hinted its participation was under review. Joe Jimenez, chief executive, this week told journalists that the campaign's timing was "probably unfortunate". The Basel-based group said Novartis was "still currently involved" but "we continue to watch events closely". The campaign, involving 17 global companies, was thought up by Nihat Zeybekci, Turkey's economy minister, who has led ...

  • Religious recognition in Switzerland—a cantonal affair

    Wed, 26 Apr 2017 09:00:00 GMT

    A multicultural society is often a multi-religious one. How can Switzerland best manage its growing diversity and the frictions which can arise? We speak with a legal specialist about religious recognition. Religious diversity is on the rise in Switzerland, presenting society and the state with considerable challenges—both legal and social. swissinfo.ch spoke to Stefanie Kurt, who holds a PhD in law and is currently a postdoctoral researcher with the “On the move” project of the National Centres of Competence in Research in Neuchâtel, a project dedicated to exploring questions of migration and mobility. For Kurt, “it is vital that religious communities are included in current debates, and that legal foundations take stock of the new reality”. Yet she laments the tendency to rather use the instruments of direct democracy to ban religious practices and symbols—a tendency which merely “stokes conflict and prevents the calming of passions”.   ...

  • A new kind of school science fair

    Wed, 26 Apr 2017 09:00:00 GMT

    In the mountains of eastern Switzerland, students at an international boarding school are learning about science by doing it themselves...for real.

  • From refugee to neurobiologist

    Tue, 25 Apr 2017 15:00:00 GMT

    Abdurahman Mohamad Mah arrived in Switzerland as a refugee at the age of six. Now he is a neurobiologist. This is his story. Abdu’s father was the Interior Minister of Somalia when there was a military coup and he was forced to flee with his wife and ten children. (Abdu is the eighth child). His mother sold jewellery along the way to pay for food and petrol. They crossed into neighbouring Kenya and stayed in a refugee camp. There was a huge fire and the family was forced to flee again. Abdu’s mother sold all their belongings to buy a shop, which generated an income for the family. His father was suffering from a detached retina and glaucoma, and they received help from an NGO to travel to Neuchâtel in Switzerland so that he could have an operation on his eyes. They settled in La Chaux-de-Fonds. After school Abdu became a watchmaker, but after four years of this he became bored and returned to school to study for university entrance exams. He has just completed a master’s ...

  • Life – not death – begins at retirement for some Swiss cows

    Tue, 25 Apr 2017 09:00:00 GMT

    Not all unproductive dairy cattle in Switzerland are sent to the slaughterhouse. swissinfo.ch visits a chosen few living out their lives in comfortable retirement. Bella is small but beautifully formed and has eyelashes to die for. The 14-year-old Hinterwald rare breed cow is one of 18 retired bovine residents at Werner and Erika Horber’s farm in the village of Blasenberg in the northeastern Swiss canton of Thurgau.  The farm is part of a project called Viva La Vacca (long live the cow) that aims to provide a comfortable retirement for unproductive but loved animals. It is one of four places where cows like Bella can live out their lives in a stress-free environment. Here, a mixed herd of Swiss, Holstein, Jersey, Highland and Hinterwald specimens –both cows and bulls - spend their days chewing the cud, and not much else.  “In the beginning people thought what we were doing was strange and one of my friends refused to talk to me for a while as he thought ...

  • ‘We look on as people starve to death, and we do nothing’

    Mon, 24 Apr 2017 15:02:00 GMT

    Despite the catastrophic situation in Yemen, political scientist Elham Manea still believes the situation is not hopeless in her country. She calls on Switzerland to act as an intermediary at the donor conference in Geneva on Tuesday.  Manea, who has Yemeni and Swiss citizenship, says negotiations need to take place at a local and regional level.  swissinfo.ch: What’s the situation for the population in Yemen?  Elham Manea: Every ten minutes a child dies from malnutrition. We look on as people starve to death, and we do nothing. Everyone is suffering there, but as usual it’s women and children who are affected the worst. Women suffer in particular from rape, which is used as a weapon of war.  The UN and the EU agree that it’s one of the worst humanitarian catastrophes ever. The situation is catastrophic – the international community is now aware of that.  swissinfo.ch: Have you got no hope for peace?  E.M.: The situation is not completely hopeless. But to find a ...

  • Lafarge chief's departure leaves vacuum at top

    Tue, 25 Apr 2017 08:59:00 GMT

    A decade ago, Eric Olsen, a Lafarge veteran then responsible for human resources, led the integration into the French construction group of Orascom, an Egyptian cement company with operations across the Middle East, including in Syria.  On Monday, Olsen paid the price for Lafarge's subsequent decision to keep its Syrian cement plan operating as the country descended into chaos and civil war.  His resignation with effect from July as chief executive of LafargeHolcim - a post he assumed after Lafarge's merger with Switzerland's Holcim in 2015 - was the culmination of a growing controversy over dealings via intermediaries with armed groups and the safety of local staff. Human rights organisations have accused Lafarge of financing terrorism through certain transactions in Syria.  Olsen said he hoped his decision would help in "bringing back serenity" to the company. Lafarge has announced steps to tighten controls to prevent a repeat of the "unacceptable" ...

  • Is Zurich’s traditional festival too stressful for horses?

    Mon, 24 Apr 2017 16:16:00 GMT

    The Sechseläuten spring parade in Zurich – with its explosive finale – is certainly not for those with faint hearts or sensitive ears. But what about the hundreds of horses that take part? Could being made to ride through crowds and around a bonfire constitute animal cruelty? Monday marks the culmination of the annual event, in which the Böögg, a snowman effigy whose head is packed with explosives, is placed on top of a giant bonfire. Tradition has it that the faster the Böögg explodes, the hotter the summer will be. Around 550 horses take part in the parade of the city’s guilds, which makes it way through the city streets, before finishing with a gallop around the Böögg on Zurich’s Sechseläuten square. Animal welfare groups have long complained that the event is too stressful for the horses. Criticism was particularly strong after a horse died on parade in 2015 – although the death was later attributed to natural causes. A Master’s thesis by the ...

  • Martina Fuchs: a cultural diplomat at Chinese state TV

    Mon, 24 Apr 2017 09:00:00 GMT

    Polyglot business journalist Martina Fuchs works for Chinese state television. But she says that China’s strict media censorship doesn’t affect her much. Fuchs misses concerts and live music the most. This year, the 34-year-old will be moving to London. swissinfo.ch: Why did you leave Switzerland? Martina Fuchs: I made my first real independent step abroad when I was 16. I was on holiday in Portugal with my friend and decided to travel on to Morocco. I called my parents from Tangiers and told them: ‘Mum, Dad, I’m in Africa.’ They were completely astounded. My ‘nomad life’ really started after that. When I was 18, I did work experience in Tanzania during the school holidays, where I learned Swahili. I did an extra year during my television journalism studies, which I spent at the American University in Cairo, and I took courses in Arabic and studied in Yemen and Syria. My first job was at Reuters in London. Then I worked for four years in Dubai for ...

  • Credit Suisse braced for shareholder revolt over executive pay

    Mon, 24 Apr 2017 08:08:00 GMT

    Credit Suisse is braced for a shareholder revolt this week over compensation for its top managers, despite the Swiss bank’s executive board agreeing a voluntary 40% cut in its bonuses. The Swiss bank, which is the midst of a sweeping restructuring, faces criticism for not taking into account a $5.3 billion (CHF5.28 billion) settlement last year in the US over the past sale of toxic mortgage securities when deciding on bumper awards for current managers. Urs Rohner, chairman, told the Financial Times he had underestimated the sensitivity over pay in Switzerland and elsewhere. “It was more than I expected, and particularly among UK and professional or institutional investors and proxy advisers,” he told the Financial Times. But Rohner described as “reasonable” the compensation package which will be voted on at Friday’s annual meeting. “I don't think I have to defend it – I have to explain what we did and we are confident that our shareholders understand ...

  • Time is money: why the Swiss switched calendars

    Sun, 23 Apr 2017 09:00:00 GMT

    Catholics and Protestants in Switzerland fought, literally, for more than 200 years over the “correct” calendar, with the last municipality finally adopting the Gregorian calendar in 1812. In 1796 or 1797, adherents of the new calendar in Ilanz, canton Graubünden, forced their way into the village church, ripped out the kneelers on which people prayed and turned them into firewood. Ilanz was a microcosm of Switzerland, following the decree by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582 for a major reform of the calendar. The Julian calendar, introduced by Julius Caesar in 46BC, was a significant achievement but it had, as scholars soon realised, a significant disadvantage: it was 11 minutes and 14 seconds longer than the solar year. These minutes added up over the centuries to entire days and threw the church’s festival calendar into confusion. Easter, for example, moved further and further away from the first full moon in spring. Pope Gregory (1502-1585) wanted to fix this, so, ...

  • Geneva marches again – this time for science

    Sat, 22 Apr 2017 11:50:00 GMT

    Some 600 science enthusiasts took to the streets of Geneva on Saturday – Earth Day – to march in support of scientific inquiry and empiricism as part of an international March for Science event. The event was one of more than 600 “satellite marches” that took place all over the globe, in parallel with a March for Science event in Washington, DC. Organisers aimed to use the event as a platform to advocate for accessible science and affirm science as a democratic value, as well as to celebrate “the Swiss commitment to science as an example to communities worldwide.” Climate change was a major theme, as was participation of scientists in research communication, and public support of science. “I am very happy to see all of you here, because the fact that you are here is reliable evidence that I am not crazy. This is good, because I feel like I’m going crazy when in hear someone suggest that robust funding of basic scientific research is an optional budget item, like an ...

  • Swiss farmer leads cows to water – and onto a boat

    Sat, 22 Apr 2017 09:00:00 GMT

    For 29 years, Josef Häcki has been bringing his cows from the “mainland” in Pfäffikon, canton Schwyz, to Ufenau, an island in Lake Zurich, at the beginning of April. They stay on the 11-acre island – the largest in Switzerland that can be reached only by boat – until the end of May. On Ufenau the cattle eat on the meadow, so the farmer doesn’t have to do any mowing. It’s paradise for the animals: they eat fresh grass, buttercups and dandelions and they can roam around to their heart’s content. Häcki rents the island, which is owned by Einsiedeln Abbey. He is responsible for the forest, meadows and the reeds. The only animals allowed on Ufenau are heifers – female cows that are at least a year old and have not had a calf – so there is no daily milking. At the end of May, Häcki gathers his livestock and heads back up the mountain in Graubünden. That’s where they spend the summer, before sailing back to Ufenau in autumn. This reportage won photographer Stephan Rappo the Swiss ...

  • Fake news spotting tool gets better

    Fri, 21 Apr 2017 12:00:00 GMT

    An EU-funded project to develop a tool to spot false information online has made “a lot of progress”, but the technology still has a way to go. swissinfo.ch is a partner in the project, which has just come to an end.  Many fake news stories that are compelling to click on and have a ring of truth about them soar on the social web, for instance on Twitter, where links are given the same weighting regardless of source. The Pheme project brings together IT experts and universities to devise technologies that could help journalists find and verify online claims. Models are being programmed to spot the opinions of users about a claim, and based on that, pick out how likely something is to be true or false. The project leader is Kalina Bontcheva, a professor at the University of Sheffield in the UK. “It’s hard for machines to detect satire and irony, half-truths and propaganda, but machine performance is improving continuously,” she told swissinfo.ch. Fake news was one of the ...

  • Readers react to ‘outrageous’ burka ban article

    Fri, 21 Apr 2017 16:40:00 GMT

    swissinfo.ch readers have been holding a lively debate over whether direct democracy leads to a majority of society tyrannising religious minorities. An article published by swissinfo.ch on Wednesday, which reflected the points of view of political scientist Adrian Vatter, has triggered an outpouring of comments on social media pages. Most readers who reacted in English were critical of both his ideas and the article. “This article is outrageous. Why does swissinfo only promote this ridiculous point of view so destructive to the core ideals of Switzerland?” wondered a reader who signed on as Rafael.ti. By contrast, an Arabic commentator, Imad al-Dakhil, praised the article as “good and constructive” and questioned whether direct democracy could lead to a “right decision”. Vatter, a professor at the University of Bern, recently published a book called “Vom Schächt- zum Minarettverbot” (From bans on religious slaughter rituals to minarets). It argues that religious ...

  • Wealth seldom a result of hard work and innovation

    Fri, 21 Apr 2017 09:00:00 GMT

    Switzerland has the highest density of millionaires in the world. This is not something to be proud of, says one Swiss sociologist.  Professor Ueli Mäder has devoted almost his entire career to the study of wealth. Not because he wants to become a millionaire or billionaire but to understand the reasons for social inequality. According to the Wealth Report produced by the real-estate specialists Knight Frank, 7,000 people in Switzerland have a personal net worth of at least $30 million.  “No billionaire has earned his fortune through sheer hard work,” says Mäder. swissinfo.ch: The figures show that there is an enormous amount of wealth in Switzerland. What makes the country so attractive to multimillionaires?  Ueli Mäder: Political stability and a comfortable tax environment – particularly for assets and inheritances – have attracted a lot of money from abroad. There is plenty of expert advice for investment. And in some areas of the economy, wages are ...

  • Turkish obstruction keeps Armenian memorial in public eye

    Fri, 21 Apr 2017 08:21:00 GMT

    It is ironic that by blocking the construction of a memorial in Geneva to the Armenian genocide for years, Turkey has made this monument more alive than if it had been built.  Austrian writer and philosopher Robert Musil talked in one of his works about the paradox of building monuments. Although they are erected in the public space to be seen, they tend to disappear from conscious view and condemned to the ocean of forgetfulness. “Nothing in the world is less visible than monuments,” he wrote. “There is no doubt they are erected to be seen and draw attention. But they are at the same time `waterproofed` and people’s attention to them is like water off a duck’s back.”  Will it be the same for Melik Ohanian’s proposed work entitled “Streetlights of Memory”? Once it is constructed, will it continue to evoke passions, or will it gradually fade into the background, becoming just another part of the urban scenery? We might know soon, since a recent judicial ...

  • Writer, economic migrant and orchid

    Thu, 20 Apr 2017 09:00:00 GMT

    A nomadic life has shaped the world view of author Jason Donald. In this first in a series of profiles of English-language writers in Switzerland, Donald tells Clare O’Dea about the ‘undeserved privilege’ that has inspired both his novels. On one of the first warm days of the year, I take three trains and a bus to travel 75 kilometres to meet Scottish writer Jason Donald in the prestigious Swiss resort of Gstaad. The bus driver directs me up a side road to the Alpine Lodge Hotel. This is a high income, high altitude setting, the kind of place people who’ve never been to Switzerland wrongly imagine the whole country to be like – all chalets, upscale boutiques and snow. Everyone in Gstaad is either rich or catering for the needs of the rich. Donald falls into the latter category, or used to at least. Now he is in a category of his own. I arrive at the hotel to find him chatting with his former colleagues. With easy charm, he leads me to a seat outside in the sun. ...

  • Privacy concerns raised over e-patient reports

    Thu, 20 Apr 2017 12:35:00 GMT

    Fitness watches, navigation apps and discount cards are well-known means of tracking and monitoring specific user data. The Swiss government now wants patient information to also be compiled electronically and centralised, but concerns remain about data protection issues. From the middle of next year, the government would like the first Swiss patients to have the option of opening an e-patient dossier. Fans of such electronic records say patients in Switzerland would then no longer have to hand over their personal data every time they move between different hospitals and health centres. Their e-patient medical records would contain everything that doctors, nurses and healthcare staff need to know in order to make decisions about healthcare and treatments. "But the challenge will be to build a system that is as secure as possible so that the patient can decide who can access his data, and so unauthorized persons cannot use it," Beat Rudin, the Data Protection Officer ...

  • Thomas Jordan: five years fighting a strong franc

    Thu, 20 Apr 2017 12:25:00 GMT

    Since becoming the president of the Swiss National Bank (SNB) in 2012, Thomas Jordan has faced a daunting challenge - how to shelter the Swiss economy from the turmoil of the eurozone. Success has not come without criticism. “Everybody likes Thomas Jordan,” wrote the Tages-Anzeiger in 2012, following the Swiss economist’s nomination to the helm of the SNB. Indeed, for politicians and economic leaders at the time, worried about how to navigate a tricky financial situation, Jordan (SNB vice-president at the time) had all the necessary qualities to lead the bank. His qualifications and competence were beyond doubt: back in 1994 he had even predicted the euro crisis in his doctoral thesis. And after subsequently joining the SNB, in 1997, he climbed steadily through the ranks until reaching the top. He was seen as somebody serious, dependable, with integrity - essential qualities, especially in light of the controversial resignation of his predecessor. In 2012, Philipp ...

  • Is the Swiss burka ban a tyranny of the majority?

    Wed, 19 Apr 2017 09:00:00 GMT

    Swiss voters have banned the construction of new minarets, burkas and the ritual slaughter of animals for food, which some say amounts to the discrimination of religious minorities under Switzerland’s direct democracy. #Dear Democracy This text is part of #DearDemocracy, a platform on direct democracy issues, by swissinfo.ch. Since July 2016, people in the southern Swiss canton of Ticino have not been allowed to wear clothing that covers their face in public. The measure came about through a 2013 cantonal vote calling for a ban on such clothing typically worn by Muslim women. A committee is now collecting signatures for a similar nationwide ban.  Seven years earlier, voters decided to ban the construction of new minarets in Switzerland. And slaughtering animals for kosher and halal meat, which involves slitting the animal's throat so that it bleeds dry without stunning it first, has been forbidden in Switzerland since 1893 following a national vote. Such decisions ...

  • Spectre of tax evasion haunts Swiss banks

    Wed, 19 Apr 2017 08:19:00 GMT

    Swiss private banks have spent much of the past decade trying to rid themselves of lucrative accounts used to avoid taxes. But news of an international tax probe at Credit Suisse last month showed more work is needed to mend Switzerland’s image as a tax haven. Banks have written to tens of thousands of clients ordering them to “regularise” their affairs in recent years, either by proving they are tax compliant or taking their money elsewhere. Customers have withdrawn billions of francs as a result – often some of the banks’ highest-margin business. And yet the banks are still not in the clear. In 2017, they expected challenges in exotic destinations. Switzerland has signed up to an ever-expanding list of countries whose tax authorities would automatically get information on Swiss banks’ clients. Countries such as Indonesia have worked through tax amnesties incentivising individuals to declare untaxed income. But the problem has resurfaced on their ...

  • Counting on Swiss energy

    Wed, 19 Apr 2017 09:00:00 GMT

    Switzerland will produce more secure, cleaner and cheaper energy as a result of the Energy Strategy 2050. The investments being made in the Swiss energy system will create jobs and help the country grow and prosper. On 21 May, we will be voting on the first set of measures for the Energy Strategy 2050, marking the end of a five-year debate. Opponents of the government’s energy policy are out in force, claiming that our power supply would be recklessly jeopardised as a result and we would incur huge costs. Both arguments are false and misinterpret the realities of the situation. Much of the economy, including organisations like the Association of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises, the Association for the Swiss Electricity Industry and the interest group Swiss Retail support the Energy Strategy and see it as a logical way forward into a reliable and affordable energy future. The government, a majority of parliament, cantons, towns and cities are also in favour of this ...

  • Let’s not jeopardise our liberal, secure and inexpensive energy supply!

    Wed, 19 Apr 2017 09:00:00 GMT

    The new energy law costs a fortune, sets unattainable targets and would deprive citizens of their decision-making powers on an unprecedented scale. Instead of does not solving the current power supply problems, it will actually make them even worse. Our country currently has an excellent supply of energy. The new energy law, also known as Energy Strategy 2050, would turn this upside down, with serious consequences. Cost: CHF200,000,000,000! Energy spending would increase dramatically. Government subsidies for solar and wind power currently cost CHF800 million ($795 million) a year. Adopting the energy law would push these up to CHF1.2 billion. Consumers will be shelling out for the costs through their electricity bills. If the Energy law is adopted, politicians will then be able to increase this spending to achieve the exorbitant expansion targets for renewable energies that the act stipulates. For instance, 1,000 wind turbines each 200 metres high are set to be ...

  • Why do we never talk of an ‘illegal expat’?

    Tue, 18 Apr 2017 09:00:00 GMT

    Who is an expat? It’s a simple question, but it’s far from easy coming up with a succinct and satisfactory answer. With globalised travel and work habits increasingly in the headlines, swissinfo.ch enters the semantic jungle of expats, immigrants, refugees and economic migrants. “I know it when I see it,” was the famous comment by a US Supreme Court judge struggling to define obscenity. Many people have the same attitude towards expats: “I know one when I see one.” In its most literal sense, an expat – short for expatriate (not necessarily an ex-patriot!) – is someone who lives abroad. That’s how most dictionaries define it. For the HSBC Expat Explorer survey, an expatriate is “someone over 18 years old who is currently living away from their home country”. But for me that definition is too broad. It could also apply to students, refugees and asylum seekers, who – I would guess for most people – are not expats. So how can we improve on the “adult abroad” definition?

  • Anti-frost candles save Swiss produce

    Wed, 19 Apr 2017 08:47:00 GMT

    The weather in April can be a challenge for Swiss farmers, winemakers and stone fruit growers. Two hundred anti-frost candles per hectare are necessary to raise the temperature by two to three degrees and protect the fruit from the cold. 

  • Episode 1: Swiss or Tamil? Caught in the middle.

    Tue, 18 Apr 2017 09:00:00 GMT

    Tama Vakeesan was born in Switzerland – to Tamil parents from Sri Lanka. Sometimes she doesn’t know where she belongs. But then she also feels like this makes her more open-minded. In her quirky, fun and thoughtful video series, we meet Tama’s family and friends – and find out what it’s like to be caught between two worlds. Join the journey! (SRF Kulturplatz/swissinfo.ch)

  • ‘This is about Western perceptions...our relationship to this art’

    Mon, 17 Apr 2017 09:00:00 GMT

    Bern and Switzerland have more connections to the Russian Revolution than we might at first imagine. The Bern Museum of Fine Arts and the Paul Klee Centre are looking back 100 years to the October Revolution of 1917 and chronicling the history of revolutionary art with an unusual exhibition called “The Revolution is dead. Long live the Revolution!” The impact of the two art movements which arose from this aesthetic and political revolution is still reverberating in the art world today. swissinfo.ch spoke to the curator of the Bern Museum of Fine Arts, Kathleen Bühler, about the one-sided perspective of the West, propaganda and kitsch, and the political significance of the arts. Larissa M. Bieler: Kathleen Bühler, the October Revolution in Russia in 1917 shook up the whole of Russian society. A tsarist regime that had survived for centuries collapsed and ended. Why is that a subject for a Swiss art museum? Kathleen Bühler: It didn’t just shake up Russian society. It ...

  • Switzerland’s controversial Islamic leaders

    Sun, 16 Apr 2017 09:00:00 GMT

    The recent expulsion of Swiss Imam Hani Ramadan from France is a reminder that Switzerland is home to several controversial Muslims – some with a reach far beyond Swiss borders. Following are four examples. Hani Ramadan Scholar, teacher and Imam born in Geneva, Hani Ramadan, 58, is one of six children. His family fled from Egypt to Switzerland following the assassination of their maternal grandfather, Hassan Al-Banna, founder of the Muslim Brotherhood. Ramadan has been director of the controversial Islamic Centre of Geneva since 1995, and leads canton Geneva’s Union of Muslim Organisations. Ramadan came to attention on September 10, 2002, when French daily newspaper Le Monde published a column he penned titled “The misunderstood Sharia”, in which he defended the stoning of adulterers, saying it was not as cruel as one might think. He also suggested that HIV was a divine punishment. The controversy that arose from the column’s publication let to Ramadan’s immediate ...

  • How a couple of sausages triggered the Swiss Reformation

    Sun, 16 Apr 2017 09:00:00 GMT

    The time: March 9, 1522, the first Sunday of Lent. The crime scene: a printer’s workshop in Grabengasse, just a stone’s throw from Zurich’s city walls. The first in a series of swissinfo.ch articles marking 500 years of the Reformation is a sizzling thriller. It’s late afternoon and a dozen men have gathered between printing blocks and type boxes to challenge the Catholic church and the city dignitaries. The owner of the building, Christoph Froschauer, is there. His workshop carries out all the printing for the Zurich government. Also present are two priests. One is 38-year-old Huldrych Zwingli from Toggenburg in canton St Gallen. After studying in Vienna and Basel, he was a priest in Glarus and the place of pilgrimage, Einsiedeln. He was then called to the Grossmünster church in Zurich, where he quickly gained a reputation as a talented but unconventional preacher. The other is Leo Jud from Alsace, who in 1519 became Zwingli’s successor in Einsiedeln.

  • Easter in Switzerland: more than just eggs

    Sat, 15 Apr 2017 09:00:00 GMT

    The Alpine nation retains a number of long-held Easter traditions, despite the commercialisation of the religious festival. For a country where chocolate is almost a dietary staple, finely decorated chocolate eggs and bunnies are a sight to be seen (and tasted) in Switzerland. However, the country has much more than just the giving of delicious treats to mark the Christian holiday. Wine, bread, hard-boiled eggs – all can be shared or have played a part in games or customs across the country. There are processions with fire, parades of cloaked people, acrobatics even and of course, Easter egg hunts. Some of these Swiss Easter traditions are now being revived, changed or invented from scratch, while others have died out completely. There are inherited customs and traditions that have been passed down over generations, and still remain. For some the time of year is also a moment to mark the changing of seasons from winter to spring.

  • The raptor with the unjustified bad rap

    Sat, 15 Apr 2017 10:00:00 GMT

    The golden eagle once had a bad – and undeserved – reputation as a child and sheep killer. Poisoning, along with systematic nest plundering brought, the golden eagle to the brink of extinction in Switzerland. In 1953, the government introduced measures to protect the species. To call attention to the remarkable bird with the difficult history, Swiss environment protection group Pro Natura chose the golden eagle as its animal of the year in 2001. At the time, there were 300 pairs. Today there are about 350.  “The golden eagle is the only large predator in Switzerland to have survived the days of ruthless persecution during which the bearded vulture, the lynx, the wolf and the brown bear were exterminated,” says the species profile by the Swiss Ornithological Institute.  The golden eagle population has recovered, but there is room for improvement in terms of the bird’s love life.  “Due to the large number of unpaired single golden eagles, territorial pairs are ...

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