Top news from our partner swissinfo

  • Video games addiction recognised as mental health problem

    Mon, 18 Jun 2018 09:16:00 GMT

    Gaming disorder – addiction to playing video games – has been officially listed by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a mental health condition. In Switzerland, there are around 70,000 “problematic” internet users – a stable number for the past five years that includes hardcore gamers.  The Geneva-based UN health agency on Monday released the 11th edition of its International Classification of Diseases (ICD) which now includes the condition gaming disorder. The ICD is used by practitioners worldwide to diagnose health conditions.  The WHO describes gaming disorder as a pattern of behaviour which is so severe that playing video games “takes precedence over other interests and daily activities”.   The health agency says studies suggest that gaming disorder affects only 2-3% of people who engage in digital- or video-gaming activities. But it warns that people who enjoy video games “should be alert to the amount of time they spend on gaming activities, particularly when it is to ...

  • Refugees and locals learn to live together in Swiss town

    Mon, 18 Jun 2018 09:00:00 GMT

    If you check a map, you might think that Bex - pronounced without the X - is just a sleepy Swiss town known mostly for its salt mines. Look a little closer and you will see an African shop in the centre of town and faces of many colours on the street. This small town was one of the first places in the region to have an asylum-seekers’ centre - since 1982 - and some 33% of its 7,731 population are foreign, which is above the national average. So does it hold some lessons for elsewhere in terms of living together? “I have nothing against refugees, but we are a small town and many have been imposed on us when towns along the Lake [Geneva] don’t want them,” says one elderly resident who has lived in Bex all her life and preferred not to be named. “It’s too much. Sometimes when you step out on the streets, you wouldn’t even think you are in Switzerland.  We are at the bottom of the canton, it’s like we are the dustbin.” Coming by train from Lausanne, you reach Bex after glittering ...

  • ‘Fans’ Embassy’ hits the road in Russia

    Sun, 17 Jun 2018 15:00:00 GMT

    Any Swiss football fans who run into difficulties at the World Cup won’t have to deal with the problem on their own. The Swiss embassy in Russia is organising a “mobile consular service” – a minibus – to help them.  The red-and-white minibus, known as a “Fans’ Embassy”, will travel to the three cities – Rostov-On-Don, Kaliningrad and Nizhny Novgorod – in which the Swiss team is playing its three group matches.  The two or three embassy staff and their boss will help Swiss supporters who have lost documents or have questions about their visas or other issues. The exact locations (address and GPS coordinates) of the minibus can be found on the website of the Swiss embassy in Russia. Additional World Cup information is available in German, French and Italian.  These locations have been agreed with the local authorities, whom the consul-general and his staff met as part of their World Cup preparations. The embassy is also in touch with the Swiss Supporters Association, which has ...

  • Ken Loach on wealthy Switzerland and how to film capitalism

    Sun, 17 Jun 2018 15:00:00 GMT

    British film director Ken Loach, known for his bleak social critiques, discusses his informative experiences and whether he's an 'angry old man'.

  • ‘Big differences between the law and reality’

    Sun, 17 Jun 2018 09:00:00 GMT

    How does a Swiss person integrate in Russia? Having Russian friends and an interest in local history, culture and sport can help, says 45-year-old Daniel Rehmann, a businessman representing Swiss expatriates living in Russia. swissinfo.ch: Why did you choose to live in Russia? Was it by chance, or planned? Daniel Rehmann: It was a result of how business was building up here and my academic further education at the University of St Petersburg. It wasn’t planned. I met some people on a trip to St Petersburg who proposed cooperating with me in building up a tourism business. That’s how I got started here. It was also during the economic boom in Russia and there were plenty of business opportunities. So I stayed and built up my own small business while furthering my education at local Russian universities.  swissinfo.ch: How did you imagine Russia before you arrived – what were your expectations? D.R.: I had visited Russia a few times previously and made some contacts here, so I ...

  • Yoga's soul, the pope's visit and a polar summit

    Sun, 17 Jun 2018 10:00:00 GMT

    Here are the stories we'll be following the week of June 18, 2018. Monday Bex is a veritable melting pot of cultures: it was one of the first towns in western Switzerland to have an asylum centre, and a third of its 7,000 residents are foreigners. How does multiculturalism and integration work in practice? swissinfo.ch spoke with citizens new and old to get a sense of lessons learned. Tuesday Starting on Tuesday we’ll be in Davos - not for the annual WEF conference - but for the Polar2018 summit. Since the International Polar Year 2007-2008, it’s the first time that leading Arctic and Antarctic researchers are convening in one place. About 2,000 people are expected, with one main theme being how mountain research can be applied to the poles. Wednesday In preparation for Pope Francis' eagerly-awaited visit to Geneva on June 21 next, we run through what's to be expected – highlights, logistics, and debates – from the first papal visit to Switzerland since 2004.

  • How Brazil, Spain and Germany missed the World Cup quarterfinals

    Sat, 16 Jun 2018 15:00:00 GMT

    What if the World Cup were decided not by playing football but by the quality of each nation’s direct democracy?  The 32 teams which qualified for the tournament currently underway in Russia did so on very different merits from what counts in the World Cup of Direct Democracy. This tournament is decided by free and fair elections, the rule of law, and comprehensive forms of participatory and direct democracy. Here is how such a contest would play out among the 32 countries, through eight groups and a 16-team playoff.  Group A: The Beauty and the Beasts  Uruguay has been a pioneering and longstanding practitioner of direct democracy since the early 20th century. But who wins second place? The far-from-democratic Russia, with a nod to the well-drafted-if-little-used Soviet referendum tool, noses out the even less democratic countries of Egypt and Saudi Arabia. {1. Uruguay, 2. Russia, 3. Egypt, 4. Saudi Arabia}  Group B: A Regional Contest with a Guest  Three neighbouring ...

  • Stray cats, dates of birth and overseas wealth

    Sat, 16 Jun 2018 15:00:00 GMT

    Almost every article published by swissinfo.ch contains a percentage, an age, an amount of money or some other figure. Here’s a round-up of the most interesting statistics to appear in the past week’s stories. Monday 108 The number of years Basel carnival has been run by a man. The committee for the annual event has now got its first woman chair, Pia Inderbitzin.   Tuesday 300,000 Apparently there are between 100,000 and 300,000 stray cats prowling around Switzerland! Animal welfare groups are calling for owners to castrate their cats so they don’t mate with stray ones and have kittens.  Wednesday 00.00 Swiss passports and ID cards will no longer discriminate against people who do not know their date of birth. Until now, the birthdate section on such documents recorded 00.00, which created problems for holders at border controls and shopping online.  Thursday 52 The percentage of Swiss people who trust the news, up six points on last year.  Friday 2,300,000,000,000 ...

  • Swiss welfare pioneer SUVA turns 100

    Sat, 16 Jun 2018 09:00:00 GMT

    One hundred years ago, the Swiss Accident Insurance Fund (SUVA) was established. While the focus used to be occupational accidents and diseases, leisure accidents have become more common.  In the second half of the 19th century, industrialization led to social problems in Switzerland: poverty was widespread, factory work harsh and dangerous. Those who fell ill or had an accident were not covered.  In 1900, Swiss voters soundly rejected a bill to provide compulsory accident and health insurance. It was not until 1912 that they agreed to obligatory health insurance.  In 1918, the Swiss Accident Insurance Fund (SUVA) began operations. Companies whose employees were exposed to a significant risk of occupational accidents or disease were required to sign up for SUVA’s insurance. Later, SUVA took on risk prevention and accident rehabilitation. The insurance system maintained a distinction between illnesses and accidents, regardless of the cause of an accident. Today, SUVA has ...

  • Large Hadron Collider to get bigger and brighter

    Fri, 15 Jun 2018 13:26:00 GMT

    The world’s largest particle collider at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (Cern) near Geneva is getting a massive upgrade. The goal: to turn it into a more powerful machine by 2026…and hopefully unlock new insights into physics.  Cern’s Large Hadron Collider (LHC) runs around a 27-kilometre (17-mile) circular tunnel deep under the border between Switzerland and France. On Friday, two ceremonies were held – one in each country – to officially mark the start of the work to upgrade the collider to the High-Luminosity LHC (HL-LHC). What is the LHC? Physicists have been smashing particles together at near light-speed in the underground LHC – the world’s most powerful particle accelerator – north of Geneva since 2010. Why? These high-energy collisions of protons are very useful for investigating particle physics, dark matter, antimatter and other secrets of the universe.  It was at Cern that researchers first discovered evidence, in 2012, of the elusive subatomic Higgs ...

  • ‘You’re going to school, not out clubbing’

    Fri, 15 Jun 2018 15:00:00 GMT

    Revealing summer clothing has sparked the question of whether Swiss schools need dress codes.  Earlier this month, a high school in a small town north of the capital, Bern, sent an email advising students on how they should dress for lessons. However, only the girls received the email featuring drawings and photos of “no-gos”, like cleavage-baring tops and hot pants. Some girls complained in the local media that they felt discriminated against – especially after discovering that the original no-go graphic had also featured tips for boys on dressing appropriately.  “It’s a topic that comes up every time the temperature rises,” high school headmaster Barbara Kunz told the newspaper Bernerzeitung on Monday, a week after emailing her female students. Kunz said that she had wanted to make the girls aware of the effect that their appearance might have on others. As her note to the girls pointed out, “Remember, you’re going to school, and not out clubbing or to the beach”. It did not ...

  • ‘Neutrality no longer means passivity’

    Fri, 15 Jun 2018 09:00:00 GMT

    Hardly any countries are as well connected as Switzerland. That is why Christa Markwalder believes that an active foreign policy is so important. The 42-year-old politician has just taken over the presidency of the Swiss Society for Foreign Policy. swissinfo.ch: What are the main challenges for Switzerland’s foreign policy? Christa Markwalder: The whole world is changing. After decades of establishing democracy in the countries of the former Eastern bloc, we’re now witnessing new autocratic tendencies. Under Donald Trump, the United States is experiencing a volatile, if not chaotic, presidency. An increasing number of non-state actors are getting involved in today’s conflicts and wars, and proxy wars are being waged. Christa Markwalder Christa Markwalder has represented the centre-right Radical Party in the House of Representatives since 2003.  She is a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, which she presided over in 2010/2011, and advocates for bilateral relations such as ...

  • World Cup: ‘You have to separate sport and politics’

    Fri, 15 Jun 2018 12:48:00 GMT

    As the football World Cup kicks off in Russia, the Swiss finance minister tells swissinfo.ch about the “difficult situation” concerning sanctions between the two countries and why he doesn’t support a boycott of the tournament.  While Alain Berset, who holds the rotating Swiss presidency this year, and Sports Minister Guy Parmelin will both watch the Swiss team in action – Berset is also trying to sit down with Russian President Vladimir Putin – Finance Minister Ueli Maurer says he is still trying to make room in his diary.  swissinfo.ch spoke to Maurer at an official reception at the Russian Embassy in Bern for the opening ceremony of the World Cup on Thursday.  swissinfo.ch: When was the last time you visited Russia?  Ueli Maurer: For the Olympic Games in Sochi four years ago. I haven’t been since.  swissinfo.ch: When you think of Russia, what’s the first thing that springs to mind?  U.M.: Sport, literature and music. I’m a big fan of Russian literature. Tolstoy, for ...

  • Charlie Chaplin goes to China (again)

    Fri, 15 Jun 2018 12:00:00 GMT

    The Chinese public is rekindling its romance with Charlie Chaplin at a new exhibition in Shanghai, made possible thanks to a loan from Switzerland's photography museum, the Musée de L'Elysée. The museum and Swiss national film archive have lent the major retrospective exhibit, running from June 8 to October 7 at Shanghai’s Yuz Museum, film reels and posters.  Russian filmmaker Sergei Eisenstein once said: “"I wish I knew what kind of eyes you had to look at the world to see it as Chaplin saw it." The Musée de l'Elysée in Lausanne has turned that musing into a touching and exhaustive tribute of the comedian,  Charlie Chaplin. A vision. which is being presented by the Yuz Museum in Shanghai. Tatiana Franck, director of L'Elysée, recalls ceiving a visit from Budi Tek, Sino-Indonesian founder of the Yuz Museum, which was created in 2014. “He discovered the Chaplin Archives in our possession. Astounded by the richness of of our photographic collection, he asked us to set up an ...

  • Swiss firms lack ‘unified approach’ on business and human rights

    Thu, 14 Jun 2018 15:44:00 GMT

    Companies in Switzerland are quite active when it comes to corporate social responsibility, but a common approach is lacking and many large firms are unfamiliar with their international human rights obligations, says business ethics campaigner Chantal Peyer.  Peyer, head of business and human rights at the Swiss non-governmental organisation Bread for All, was in Geneva on Thursday for the Second Swiss Global Compact Dialogue, a conference on “Sustainable production and consumption: a challenge and chance for Swiss business”. The Swiss initiative, comprising 56 members including ABB, Nestlé and Vale, is part of the United Nations Global Compact, the world’s largest voluntary corporate sustainability initiative. The Swiss branch has just announced a four-year campaign to promote responsible business among firms in the small alpine country.  Bread for All is part of a coalition of 105 NGOs, church groups, unions and campaigners behind the Responsible Business Initiative, ...

  • Swiss firms pushed to put Tehran dreams on hold

    Thu, 14 Jun 2018 09:00:00 GMT

    Euphoria at the prospect of big business in Iran was short-lived. As a result of the new sanctions imposed by the United States on the Islamic Republic, Swiss companies are beating a retreat. China stands ready to step in and fill the void. In early March, the Swiss Embassy in Tehran and the Iranian press agency IRNA proudly announced a deal worth billions for the Swiss company Stadler Rail to deliver almost 1,000 underground train carriages to Iran. Was this rejoicing premature and pointless? According to a report in Blick newspaper, the deal is about to be cancelled. Since US President Donald Trump scrapped the Iran nuclear agreement, business with Iran is once again a risk for companies which rely on the goodwill of the United States. These companies stand between two enemy fronts in world politics. Stadler Rail’s head of sales, Peter Jenelten, was quoted in Blick as saying “the Iranians can’t wait forever. The underground train order will probably be snapped up by the ...

  • Switzerland’s biggest airport turns 70

    Thu, 14 Jun 2018 11:59:00 GMT

    It’s exactly 70 years since the first flight took off from the brand new tarmac of Zurich Airport. We take a look back at the development of what has since become the biggest airport in Switzerland. On June 14, 1948, a ceremony took place at Zurich-Kloten airport, with speeches made on the tarmac in front of a "Swiss Air Lines"-branded plane. The reason? The official opening of the airport’s first runway, a 1,900-metre long track that had taken two years to build. And though it was a modestly sized airport at the time of construction, Zurich was progressively expanded over the next decades. Now it is the biggest in the country, far outstripping nearest rival Geneva. The figures speak for themselves: last month, 2.71 million passengers passed through the airport (about two million who were landing or taking off from Zurich, the rest in transit). In the same month, the airport registered 24,463 flights and processed over 40,000 tonnes of merchandise.

  • Art Basel 2018: fast and furious

    Thu, 14 Jun 2018 07:58:00 GMT

    The number of living artists who have seen their work fetch $20 million (CHF19.7 million) is very, very small. A highly significant addition to that super-select band is the Chicago-based African-American Kerry James Marshall, whose 1997 work “Past Times” smashed a whole set of records when it was sold a month ago to rap mogul P Diddy for $21.1 million (with fees). Word has it that Diddy even outbid Marshall’s own dealer, David Zwirner, who was buying for a US museum. So the appearance of two works by Marshall, one brand new, at Art Basel this week was bound to be of intense interest – and it’s hardly surprising that both found buyers in an early-hours slam dunk. While Zwirner sold “Vignette #12” (2008) to one private collector in the US, Jack Shainman gallery placed this year’s “Vignette (The Kiss)” with another. Neither gallery wishes to release information on the prices. Art Basel is known as a “front-loaded” event, with a furious pace of selling in the first few hours of ...

  • Swiss shooting event draws fewer gun enthusiasts

    Thu, 14 Jun 2018 14:19:52 GMT

    Shooting in Switzerland is no longer as popular as it once was. There were 20,000 fewer participants at the recent Swiss field shooting competition than there were ten years ago. Nationwide, around 130,000 shooters took part in shooting competitions last weekend during what is considered the world’s largest shooting festival. Weapons are closely linked to Swiss traditions and the country’s sense of identity. Tens of thousands of members of the army keep their weapons tucked away in closets at home after the end of their compulsory military service. Underaged participants can also handle assault rifles at the shooting range as members of shooting clubs. But the Swiss Shooting association is experiencing a gradual decline in membership. In addition to a fall in the number of participants, clubs are struggling to recruit younger members. Shooting has an image problem among a certain segment of the Swiss population. The association also points out that there are so many new sports ...

  • ‘Our children have two mothers who love each other’

    Thu, 14 Jun 2018 15:00:00 GMT

    "True Talk" puts people in front of the camera who are fighting prejudice or discrimination. They answer questions that nobody would normally dare to ask directly.  Meet Luana: she's 43, self-employed as a driving instructor and is in a same-sex relationship. She and her partner have four children between them. Luana carries her (new) sexual orientation with pride. "Sure, I was surprised at first when I fell in love with a woman. And at the beginning, of course, it was hard to think how we would cope with that, having four children." The outing was well accepted by everyone around her. She thinks that in Switzerland some improvements could still be brought in at the political level: "It would be nice if lesbian couples adopted children - and were also allowed to marry in a church.

  • Responsible Business debate could cause ripple effects globally

    Thu, 14 Jun 2018 11:56:00 GMT

    A decision by the Swiss parliament this week on an initiative to hold companies accountable for their impacts on human rights and the environment could send a message on how far governments are willing to go. Set for Thursday in the House of Representatives, the debate will centre on a counter proposal to the Responsible Business Initiative. If adopted, it will put Switzerland at the forefront of a rapidly growing trend to embed corporate responsibility into national laws. The initiative has already been the subject of heated debate. Originally rejected by the Federal Council (executive body), a counter proposal has kept alive core tenets of the popular initiative, which was put forward in 2016 by the Swiss Coalition for Corporate Justice, a group of more than 80 civil society organizations. If approved by the House, it will move to the Senate for a vote. If both chambers agree to adopt the counter proposal, it’s likely the initiative will be withdrawn. House approval June 14:

  • Art in Basel is much more than Art Basel

    Wed, 13 Jun 2018 09:00:00 GMT

    ​​​​​​​ Art Basel, which opens on Thursday, and its circus is mainly about the arts market: a perfect setting for packaged artworks, buyers and sellers, whereas artists are just supporting actors, at best. It hasn’t always been like this. When it started, back in 1970, Art Basel was an ingenious idea of a group of gallerists to bring together most of the different layers of actors and agents in the then expanding arts world (and market). Success was immediate. Already in 1976, the number of galleries granted the privilege of a stand at the fair reached its limit, kept until today, of around 300 – this year there are 291. In 2017 it received 95,000 visitors who roam, cruise and browse throughout its 27,500 square meters of exhibition space. But as Art Basel became more and more of a fixture on the commercial arts circuit, parallel initiatives began to bloom around the main show, offering fresher perspectives on younger artists, performers and galleries. LISTE, created in 1995 by ...

  • Chicago artist displays his ‘engaged practice’ with Black Madonnas

    Wed, 13 Jun 2018 09:00:00 GMT

    ​​​​​​ As a counterpoint to Art Basel - one of the most important arts fairs in the world - the fine arts museum of Basel is opening a large exhibition of US artist, activist, urban planner Theaster Gates: "Black Madonna".  For the Kunstmuseum, Gates explores the cult of the "Black Madonna",   showcasing new works made especially for the occasion of the exhibition as well as interactions with works from the collection of the Kunstmuseum Basel curated by the artist. Together with local and international partners, the artist will engage viewers in a series of live performances planned to last until the end of the show on October 21.   A few days before the opening, and at the request of swissinfo.ch, Damian Christinger, an independent curator and author based in Zurich, visited Gates in the middle of the exhibition’s montage.  The conversation I enter the Kunstmuseum Basel Gegenwart by the backdoor. It is Monday, so the museum is closed, and the artist is busy assembling ...

  • Will Switzerland win the football World Cup?

    Wed, 13 Jun 2018 06:00:00 GMT

    Highly unlikely, agree all analysts. But can the boys in red and white reach the quarterfinals for the first time since 1954? swissinfo.ch, which accepts no liability for any daft bets, assesses the probabilities provided by bookmakers, bankers and academics.  Let’s start with the bad news. Switzerland have a 1.8% chance of lifting the trophy in Moscow on July 15, according to an analysis by Swiss bank UBS that used econometric forecasting tools. This puts Vladimir Petkovic’s side in ninth position when it comes to winning the FIFA World Cup 2018, which kicks off in Moscow on Thursday.  The UBS predictions were based on a statistical model using the results from the previous five tournaments and adjusting for factors such as team strength and success in the qualification phase.  It calculated that Switzerland were most likely (39.6% probability) to come second in their qualifying group and then lose in the knockout Round of 16 (see box for an explanation of the World Cup format).

  • ‘And the winner is … Kim Jong-un’

    Wed, 13 Jun 2018 08:40:00 GMT

    The Swiss media have reacted with caution to the meeting in Singapore between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and US President Donald Trump – the first time a sitting US president and North Korean leader had met face to face.  “Smile in a friendly manner, shake hands, pat him on the shoulder – Kim Jong-un came across as experienced and wasn’t intimidated by the most powerful man in the world,” said Swiss public television, SRF, in an editorial headlined “And the winner is … Kim Jong-un”.  Trump and Kim pledged on Tuesday to work toward complete denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula while Washington committed to provide security guarantees for its old enemy. The joint statement signed at the end of their historic summit gave few details on how either goal would be achieved.  “It was only at the signing that Kim appeared somewhat overwhelmed, when Trump answered journalists’ questions. This was because the meeting was new ground for Kim – the North Korean leader’s first trip ...

  • High-achieving pupils still attracted to teaching

    Tue, 12 Jun 2018 15:13:00 GMT

    The teaching profession remains an attractive choice for talented young people in Switzerland, an Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development report has found. The rate is higher than the OECD average. In all, 6% of all 15-year-olds answered “teacher” to the question “what kind of job do you expect to have when you are 30 years old”, according to the Effective Teacher Policies: Insights from PISA report that was released on Monday. This was more than the 4.2% average across OECD countries and more than the share of teachers in the labour force (2.4% OECD average). The rate was also higher than in some other top-performing PISA countries such as Finland (4.6%) and Singapore (4.4%). Like in other OECD countries, more girls in Switzerland opted for teaching (9%) than boys (3%). Best students And the students wanting to teach were among the best students. “…perhaps a reflection of the fact that the teaching profession in Switzerland is relatively well-paid, is ...

  • Are you a Swiss expat? What kind of expo would you like?

    Tue, 12 Jun 2018 15:00:00 GMT

    In Switzerland, ideas for the next national exhibition are percolating. What role should the Swiss abroad play? Join the discussion! At the moment there are three concepts in development: Svizra 27 In northwestern Switzerland, several business associations want to initiate a show on the subject of the "working world". When? In 2027 Nexpo The ten largest cities in Switzerland have put forward an idea for a decentralized expo on "Living Together in the Switzerland of the 21st Century". When? In 10 to 15 years X-27 Personalities from the fields of communication, architecture and culture want to launch a process-oriented future laboratory at Dübendorf airfield near Zurich. When? In 2027 The community of the Swiss abroad often has a special role in these concepts. That's why we're launching this survey to initiate a debate with expats. Dear Swiss abroad: What kind of expo would you like? Write down your ideas, wishes and visions in the comments section below, or send an email ...

  • The enigma explorations of Bruce Nauman at Schaulager

    Tue, 12 Jun 2018 09:00:00 GMT

    Dedicated to the American Bruce Nauman, the 2018 exhibition at Schaulager Basel celebrates the creativity of an elusive artist who for 50 years has explored art as an experiment. For five months, the ambitious Disappearing Acts retrospective runs alongside Art Basel and showcases works that trouble, amuse, shock and delight. Since 2002, Schaulager Basel has staged some of the most enigmatic and powerful artists of our times and this year’s edition is no exception. Bruce Nauman is the Houdini of the art world and arguably one of America’s most respected contemporary artists. The aptly named Disappearing Acts retrospective in Basel does him justice as it seizes his constant state of flux.  Nauman has the tireless mind of a scientist who explores answers to questions that have not yet been asked, and proposes art works as both answers and new questions. It comes as no surprise that he first studied mathematics and physics, before turning his explorations into an artistic process. ...

  • How direct democracy has grown over the decades

    Tue, 12 Jun 2018 08:12:00 GMT

    Just like neutrality and federalism, direct democracy is part of the Swiss identity. The number of issues put to vote has increased considerably since the 1970s, as shown in these graphics, which present more than 600 nationwide votes since 1848. World champions of the polls, Swiss citizens can participate directly in political decision-making by expressing themselves up to four times per year on diverse and varied themes. The graphics below present the three main tools of Swiss direct democracy, and the evolution of their use over time. Note: The interactive graphics are optimised to be viewed on a computer or tablet. Select an area on the graph, or pinch to zoom. Move your cursor over a square to learn more about a vote. People’s initiatives allow citizens to propose changes to the constitution by introducing new provisions, or by amending or repealing existing provisions. For an initiative to be submitted for a verdict at the polls, its proponents must gather at least 100,000 ...

  • ‘Patriotic fans are a very tough group to control’

    Tue, 12 Jun 2018 07:00:00 GMT

    Who are the Russians? How much do they care about football? And is it all going to kick off at the FIFA World Cup, which begins in Moscow on Thursday? Ulrich Schmid, professor of Russian society and culture at the University of St Gallen, gives his opinion.  This is a shortened version of an interview Schmid originally gave to the St Galler Tagblatt newspaper.  Is there still such a thing as a Russian soul?  Ulrich Schmid: The Russian soul is an invention of the West. People have always liked to romanticise the spiritual people in Russia, whose soul reflected the expanse of the landscape. But Russia is an old European ‘Kulturnation’ [a community of people who feel connected by language, culture, traditions and religion] which has been significantly influenced by various artistic periods, such as the avant-garde and modernism.  In the current tense political situation, there is of course a deviating strategy of nationalistic self-portrayal. The Kremlin claims Russia is a ...

  • ‘Foreign judges’ initiative: fact checking the parliamentary debates

    Mon, 11 Jun 2018 08:13:00 GMT

    As the Swiss parliament gets set for a final debate on an initiative aimed at giving domestic law precedence over international law, swissinfo.ch checks the accuracy of some of the statements heard so far in both chambers.  The initiative "Swiss law instead of foreign judges", backed by the conservative right Swiss People’s Party, proposes making the Swiss constitution the country's primary legal source. The initiative would prevent Switzerland from entering into international obligations that contradict the constitution. Where such conflicts exist, the country would have to change or terminate agreements, although treaties that have been subject to a national referendum would continue to be applied by the courts. “We are not under the thumb of international law. We can terminate a treaty that we entered into at any time […] Switzerland can cancel any contract at any time. If we wanted to, we could even terminate the European Human Rights Convention tomorrow. We just need to ...

  • Globalists vs Tribalists: The false debate over ‘Switzerland First’

    Mon, 11 Jun 2018 08:23:00 GMT

    Parliamentarians have been battling over the question of whether national law or international law should have primacy in Swiss affairs. Can the recognition that we now live in a globalized world be reconciled with tribal, patriotic emotions? “Who should have the last word concerning laws within our country? Swiss citizens and the cantons or international organizations and foreign judges?” asked Roger Köppel of the conservative right People’s Party during a recent heated debate in the Swiss parliament. “One puts the law of the European Union above our constitution!” exclaimed a scandalized Hans-Ueli Vogt of the same party. “Why so much hatred?” responded a left-wing politician.  “Five thousand commercial treaties were not submitted to the people for votes,” added a colleague. He argued that a People’s Party initiative seeking to establish the priority of national law over international law would cause enormous insecurity and call into question Swiss trustworthiness. The ...

  • Scent of success for Contexa’s liquid dosing robots

    Mon, 11 Jun 2018 09:00:00 GMT

    Home to two of the world’s largest manufacturers of flavours and fragrances, Geneva has also developed a vibrant ecosystem of innovative SME servicing them: one such company is Contexa, world leader in automated liquid dosage machines. Located in Lignons, in the shadow of Europe’s longest row of buildings at more than a kilometre in length, is the Contexa headquarters: a small, faded pale pink two-story building. Here in a maze of offices, some thirty employees work on research, quality control and after-sales service. The warehouse where the company’s high-tech machines are assembled, however, is practically deserted.  “We have just delivered our last three dosing robots to clients in Europe and Asia,” comments Daniel Schupbach, founder and head of Contexa since 1999.  Despite their high price – between CHF500,000 and CHF3 million each – the machines made by the Geneva business, which are named after animals such as Cobra, Fox and Colibri, are increasingly in demand from ...

  • Massive defeat for ‘sovereign money’ initiative

    Sat, 9 Jun 2018 12:00:00 GMT

    Voters refused to buy the 'sovereign money' initiative by an overwhelming margin. More than three quarters of votes went against a radical overhaul of the Swiss financial system. The initiative called on the central bank to take total control of money supply, which would have imposed much tighter controls on commercial bank lending. The margin of defeat was much higher than opinion polls had earlier predicted. These had suggested that a third of voters would support the plan, but this was highly optimistic. Only 34% of voters turned out on Sunday, showing a general lack of interest in the main votes. Swiss Finance Minister Ueli Maurer said voters had rejected risk to the financial system. He told reporters that despite several measures already taken to reduce volatility from the banking sector, the authorities would remain vigilant. The Swiss Business Federation economiesuisse hailed the rejection of a "risky experiment". "This may also be interpreted as a sign of confidence in ...

  • Voters give clear thumbs up for reform of Swiss gambling law

    Sun, 10 Jun 2018 14:45:00 GMT

    Offshore casinos will be banned from offering online gambling in Switzerland. Voters on Sunday endorsed an overhaul of the country’s gambling law that also includes measures against addiction. Final results show a 73% majority approving the law amid low voter turnout. "Voters prefer to continue the current policy, only allowing gambling under restrictions," Justice Minister Simonetta Sommaruga told a news conference. However, the amended law, to come into force at the beginning of next year, will not set a precedent for blocking other websites, she added, in response to concerns that it would lead to internet censorship. Approval of the law is a "pragmatic decision by Swiss voters who want to continue funding civil society projects with revenue of the casinos and lotteries," according to Karl Vogler. The Christian Democrats led a parliamentary committee campaigning in favour of the law. Opponents who had collected enough signatures to challenge the regulations approved by ...

  • Motor racing returns to Switzerland via Formula E

    Fri, 8 Jun 2018 16:00:00 GMT

    Zurich is hosting its first ever Formula E electric championship race on Sunday. This is the first time for 63 years that motor racing has been allowed on Swiss soil since it was banned. Swiss driver Sébastien Buemi is one of the favourites among the 20 drivers from ten teams taking part in Zurich in one of the final races of 2017-2018 Formula E season. One of the unusual characteristics of the ABB FIA Formula E Championship – the world’s first fully electric international single-seater street racing series – is that the races all take place in city centres. With this race, Zurich joins the big leagues. The other races of the season will be held in in Hong Kong, Marrakech, Santiago, Mexico City, Punta del Este, Rome, Paris, Berlin and New York. It’s an important event for the city. No fewer than 100,000 people are expected to attend the race on Sunday.  Swiss champion  The idea of a Formula E championship was born in 2002, on the initiative of the International Automobile ...

  • Gorillas, GDP, and a guaranteed basic income

    Sat, 9 Jun 2018 15:00:00 GMT

    Almost every article published by swissinfo.ch contains a percentage, an age, an amount of money or some other figure. Here’s a round-up of the most interesting statistics to appear in the past week’s stories.   2.4 The current unemployment rate in Switzerland, expressed as a percentage. The figure, announced Thursday by the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO), represents the lowest jobless rate Switzerland has seen since the 2008 financial crisis hit. 58 The age of Goma the gorilla, who died of natural causes on Friday at the Basel Zoo. In 1959, Goma became the first gorilla to be born in a European zoo, and the second to be born in any zoo worldwide. 130 The number of people who had to be evacuated on Wednesday by helicopter from the Titlis, a popular mountain top in the Swiss Alps, due to a technical problem with the cable car system.   1,913 The average gross domestic product (GDP) per capita, in euros, that Switzerland has gained annually thanks to ...

  • Mousetrap: the Swiss whodunnit

    Sat, 9 Jun 2018 09:00:00 GMT

    She already has 90,000 dead to her credit and is hunting more. Kathrin Hirsbrunner is Switzerland's only professional mouse trapper. Hirsbrunner's target: voles that destroy farmers' crops. But her lethal skills are also in demand at airports. A sculptor by trade employed as a social worker, she wanted a change of scenery and to work outdoors. In 2003 she was inspired by a documentary she saw about Switzerland's last mouse catcher. Self taught, she revived the trade and started offering her services and lives modestly from the income. Hirsbrunner says that natural enemies of mice are not enough to regulate the population. A female can produce up to 20 offspring a year. Hirsbrunner's traps set in farmers' meadows catch and kill up to 200 mice a day. A further 50 are caught in orchards. Mice can also indirectly cause problems for planes, which is why her services are in demand at airports. The rodents attract birds of prey which can be a threat to aircraft during take off and ...

  • Asian nations want industry and youth to embrace vocational training

    Fri, 8 Jun 2018 16:39:00 GMT

    With a median population under the age of 30 and high unemployment rates, Asian countries are looking to vocational education to prevent their demographic dividend from becoming a curse.  It is 10am and the entrance area at the Winterthur Theatre is abuzz with people. They are not here to watch a play but to take part in the 3rd International Conference on Vocational and Professional Education and Training (VPET) hosted by Switzerland. Coming from countries as far away as Indonesia and Tanzania, they are keen to see how the Swiss apprenticeship model can be adapted to their countries.  “We apply the dual education system that was brought by Jesuits from Switzerland in 1968,” explains Wahyo Nursanto, the operational director at vocational institute ATMI-APII Indonesia.  “The core focus is industrial activities with two-thirds in the form practical workshop training and the remaining third in the classroom,” adds the Indonesian native who stood out from the dark suited crowd with ...

  • ‘I prefer dealers to a deserted street’

    Fri, 8 Jun 2018 13:46:00 GMT

    Can drug dealers and locals coexist peacefully? A study by Geneva University has analysed the phenomenon in parts of the city centre. The research was published as a drug-dealing controversy rages in neighbouring Lausanne.  “The dealers look pretty harmless a priori,” explains Marie, a 30-year-old who lives and works in Geneva. “I find that a neighbourhood where there are always people at any time of the day and night is more reassuring than a neighbourhood that’s deserted at night when you come home late.”  Marie was one of dozens of Geneva residents, shop and business owners, and West African street dealers interviewed in the central Pâquis and Jonction neighbourhoods for a study into urban co-existence by Geneva University sociologists Maxime Felder and Loïc Pignolo. Their research was published in the May edition of the Sociologie journal.  According to their study, certain inhabitants resented dealers standing around “on their own or in groups waiting for their customers, ...

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