Top news from our partner swissinfo

  • Swiss financial sector ‘vulnerable’ to crime

    Tue, 28 Feb 2017 10:00:00 GMT

    Switzerland’s financial centre is a strength but is also a weakness when it comes to money laundering, according to Attorney General Michael Lauber. Speaking at an event in Lugano on organised crime, Lauber described the financial centre as a vulnerability, saying the authorities needed to remain vigilant against organised crime. Indeed, the government itself notes that “since such services are clearly of interest not just to legitimate businesses but also to criminal organisations and individuals, it is important to maintain safeguards against abuses”. In all, the financial sector accounts for 10% of economic output. swissinfo.ch/tvsvizzera.it: Which Swiss sectors are most sensitive to organised crime? M.L.: It’s necessary to stay vigilant, because every liberal system – whether it’s the foundation of a company, a financial centre, real estate – all could be abused by criminals, and especially by criminal organisations that have enormous financial power. We see now ...

  • ‘Switzerland is a rock in turbulent waters’

    Mon, 27 Feb 2017 10:00:00 GMT

    Switzerland is more successful than countries that practise censorship because its citizens can have their say and criticise the government, says Doris Leuthard, who holds the rotating Swiss presidency this year. In an interview with swissinfo.ch, Leuthard adds that governments shouldn’t fear members of the public, but should inform and persuade them. swissinfo.ch: This is your second time as president, having previously held the largely ceremonial role in 2010. Is the world today better or worse than seven years ago? Doris Leuthard: At the moment I have the feeling that there are more issues that have gotten worse. Globally there are more conflicts and more people fleeing than ever before. One thing that’s better is that more people have been lifted out of poverty. swissinfo.ch: What else has gotten worse apart from the refugee situation? D.L.: Our relationship with the European Union is more tense. Europe has problems that are having an impact on our bilateral ...

  • Your thoughts: voting rights for the Swiss abroad

    Mon, 27 Feb 2017 10:48:00 GMT

    It all started with a tweet from a senator's political advisor, who wrote after nationwide votes on February 12 that "Swiss living abroad shouldn't have the right to vote". We wondered what our readers thought.   The tweet from Claudio Kuster, advisor to Senator Thomas Minder, read "Swiss abroad should not have the right to vote, at the very least because they can't easily be reached with information or ad campaigns".  Kuster likely based his statement on the fact that the Swiss abroad voted differently than their Switzerland-based counterparts on the February 12 ballot, especially on the corporate tax issue.  The issue of the Swiss Abroad voting differently and even deciding close votes has come up before, last time during a June 2015 vote on revising the radio and TV law. Florian Schwab, a journalist for the Weltwoche magazine, tweeted at the time that “we can’t accept the fact that Swiss living abroad force a new tax on those living here. We clearly need ...

  • The art of capturing a tragedy

    Sun, 26 Feb 2017 10:00:00 GMT

    A Swiss artist is tasked with telling a story about coal, indigenous tribes and a civil war. But he must do it blindfolded.

  • Behind the scenes of an Oscar-nominated film

    Thu, 23 Feb 2017 10:00:00 GMT

    The Swiss stop motion animation “My Life as a Courgette” involved months of work and painstaking attention to detail. Every second of the Oscar-nominated film was carefully created, and even the puppets had their own costume designer. (RTS, swissinfo.ch, cp) The animated film by French-Swiss director Claude Barras tells the story of a nine-year-old boy who is sent to a children’s home after the unexpected death of his mother. There, he finds a new group of friends he can rely on. The film used 54 puppets and took ten months to complete. It was made using stop motion animation, which involves capturing one frame at time, and editing the images together afterwards. It means that physical objects, such as puppets, have to be moved for each frame, thus creating the illusion of movement when the sequence of captured images is played together at speed. The puppets used for “My Life as a Courgette” are about 25cm high (10 inches) and made by hand from different materials like latex ...

  • A carnival bridging two towns

    Sat, 25 Feb 2017 10:00:00 GMT

    Once a year the Swiss and German sister towns of Laufenburg are connected with a carnival. Napoleon split the town in two back in the 1800s and they have been separated by the River Rhine ever since. It is dark and cold at five o'clock in the morning. From a distance you hear the rhythmic, monotonous and metallic clanking of the "Tschättermusik". The eerie music gets louder until you reach the middle of the procession in which the revellers use saw blades on old pans and other metal objects. It's Thursday, the so-called "3 Faissen", the day the carnival officially opens. The madcap cross-border procession has for centuries connected the twin German and the Swiss towns of Laufenburg. It's a unique occasion. As part of the pre-Lent Swabian Alemannic Carnival celebrating folklore in Switzerland, southern Germany, Alsace and Vorarlberg, the carnival was included in UNESCO’s intangible cultural heritage list in 2014. Today it is one of the oldest carnivals in southern German region ...

  • Dicing with debt: a guide to government overspending

    Fri, 24 Feb 2017 16:00:00 GMT

    No country can function without debt. But with countries such as Greece and Italy continuing to give economists and politicians sleepless nights, swissinfo.ch explains the causes and potential consequences of being seriously in the red. Tax income alone is not enough to build roads, hospitals and schools, so nations issue bonds to borrow money from the financial markets. However, some economists fear the world is growing dependent on a growing mountain of debt – and it could end badly. The European Union considers the safe limit of state debt to be no more than 60% of a country’s annual economic output. But many countries have gone way over that limit. In fact non-EU Switzerland is one of few European countries under it, according to estimates by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). As shown below, the most-indebted countries are largely “rich” economies. As in real life, the more money you have, the more you can borrow. Also, rich countries are mostly ...

  • One person, one vote? – not in Switzerland

    Fri, 24 Feb 2017 10:00:00 GMT

    Thanks to federalism, Donald Trump is the American president, although Hillary Clinton got more votes. In Switzerland, votes also have varying weights depending on the canton. After the election, the news that Clinton had received about 2.9 million more votes than Trump was a sensation. Switzerland also has such mechanisms. Here are two elements that give the small cantons more weight than their populations would yield: Senate: This 46-seat chamber of parliament has two representatives from each canton and one representative from each half-canton, regardless of population. The House of Representatives, on the other hand, is population-based and has 200 seats. Both chambers have equal power. Majority of cantons: Amendments to the constitution must be supported not only by a majority of the voters, but also by a majority of the cantons. Sometimes, a popular majority agrees to a proposal, but not the majority of cantons – which takes the matter off the table.

  • The Swiss love things that go bump in the night

    Fri, 24 Feb 2017 10:00:00 GMT

    It’s not only the famous Basel Fasnacht that is an eerie sight, with its gruesome costumes to scare away the spirits of winter. That’s just a small taste of Switzerland’s passion for the macabre. There are many examples of this lust for gruesomeness. The Moulage Museum, part of University Hospital Zurich, exhibits wax replicas of people who have died from horrible diseases. They would not be out of place in the bars opened by sci-fi artist H.R.Giger, who was responsible for the spine-chilling sets in the Alien, Poltergeist and Prometheus movies. In Chur and Gruyère, you can enjoy an earthly drink surrounded by his out-of-this world creations. A completely different world also presents itself down in the dark and clammy caves of the “Höllgrotten”. Their name, “Hell Grottoes”, is just about right for the limestone caves full of shadows lurking behind stalactites and stalagmites. Appenzell hosts a very strange festival to herald the New Year. The ritual known as "Silvesterklaus” ...

  • The pastor of the homeless turns 90

    Fri, 24 Feb 2017 10:11:00 GMT

    Switzerland’s best-known pastor, Ernst Sieber, is celebrating his 90th birthday. For decades he has worked tirelessly for the poor and those on the edges of society, driven by a vision for a fairer world with greater solidarity. At the beginning of the 1960s Sieber converted a bunker into a shelter for the homeless. In the 1980s he launched a crusade against drugs in Zurich that paved the way for him to become a member of the House of Representatives for the Protestant Party from 1991 to 1995. At the peak of his activities, Sieber’s social programme included shelters, homes and meeting places in four cantons with 215 workers. Rocked by a financial scandal, his social work foundation risked bankruptcy at the end of 2004 but was saved by intervention from the state and church and by donations. Sieber was forced to resign as head of the foundation but he stayed on as honorary chairman. Ernst Sieber lives in canton Zurich with his wife and their eight children, four of whom are ...

  • Cartoon of the week

    Fri, 30 Dec 2016 07:27:00 GMT

    Each week cartoonist Marina Lutz takes a look at an issue in the news in Switzerland. She has worked with different Swiss media as a caricaturist, including the Nebelspalter satirical magazine. Lutz has won several awards for her work, notably during the Fumetto international cartoon festival.  Click through to see the different images.

  • ‘Erdogan wants to set an example in Switzerland too’

    Thu, 23 Feb 2017 16:00:00 GMT

    Turkey has called on Switzerland to arrest, and sentence if necessary, critics suspected of defaming President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Swiss journalist Fabian Eberhard explains what is behind Ankara’s requests for legal assistance. The autocratic regime of Erdogan keeps tightening the screw, cracking down on its opponents. In one of the latest moves on February 8, the government sacked nearly 4,500 civil servants, most of them working in education. Following the failed coup against Erdogan last August, the regime has also been trying to extend its reach to Switzerland. The Swiss justice authorities have received several requests for legal assistance from Ankara, as the SonntagsZeitung newspaper revealed last month. A spokesman for the Federal Justice Office confirmed to Eberhard, a specialist on Turkey, that “half a dozen” requests were filed by Ankara. It is not clear how Switzerland will respond. During a visit to Bern last November, the Turkish ...

  • Are the Swiss too strict about the Dublin accords?

    Wed, 22 Feb 2017 10:00:00 GMT

    Switzerland sends most asylum seekers back to neighbouring Italy, though they never registered there. A data analysis by swissinfo.ch shows Switzerland’s strict application of the Dublin accords. The regulations establish asylum procedures among 32 European states. "The smugglers told me, 'If you don’t get fingerprinted in Italy, you can continue to the north.' I wanted to go to Switzerland because my brother lives there with his family," says Semere*, a refugee from Eritrea who is 20 years old. "So I ran off as soon as I landed in Sicily. I took the train to Chiasso and applied for asylum. I thought I had done ‘everything right'. Instead, the authorities told me a few months later that I had to return to Italy." Eurodac allows EU and EFTA countries to identify asylum seekers. The migration authorities can use fingerprints to determine whether a foreign person has already applied for asylum in another member country of the Dublin accords or has illegally entered one of these ...

  • Switzerland and Russia go back a long way

    Wed, 22 Feb 2017 12:34:00 GMT

    When it comes to Russian history, Switzerland might be most remembered as the place where Lenin took refuge before returning home to lead a revolution. But the two nations share a surprisingly rich history. Here’s a round-up of ties linking them. 1. First contact in the 17th century Already in 1667, the Republic of Geneva and Moscow’s foreign ministry were doing official business together. Thanks to its academic reputation, Geneva was a hotspot for Russia’s high society. Zurich-based Russian author Mikhail Shishkin cites “the strict customs in Calvin’s city, the deep knowledge of its professors and the easy-to-understand local language” as key attractions for the Russian aristocracy. 2. Czar Alexander I gave Switzerland 100,000 roubles According to Thurgau historian Rolf Soland, in 1817 Czar Alexander I sent 100,000 roubles to badly-hit eastern Switzerland when he heard about the Swiss famine. He gave Canton Glarus 66,000 roubles to improve the soil and help the ...

  • ‘Don’t come to Switzerland’ – the anti-tourism campaign

    Tue, 21 Feb 2017 16:00:00 GMT

    Debunking the myth of “Paradise Switzerland” and informing African migrants about the risks of travelling to Europe is the goal of a Swiss-funded television series set in Nigeria. The images are very far from the traditional tourist campaigns featuring sun, mountains, lakes and outdoor cafés. Living in Switzerland is not always easy – as Joshua’s story shows. The young Nigerian, denied asylum by the Swiss authorities and now living in Switzerland illegally, is the protagonist of “The Missing Steps”, a Swiss-Nigerian co-production made as part of the migration partnership signed by the two countries in 2011. The 13-episode series has a clear aim: to deter Nigerian migrants from searching for a better future in Switzerland. “We want to provide objective information on migration, showing that the crossing [of the Mediterranean] is dangerous and that the chances of Nigerians being granted asylum are low. We also intend to explain that life for illegal ...

  • Pensions – what women need to know

    Tue, 21 Feb 2017 10:00:00 GMT

    Many women in Switzerland work part time or not at all, often resulting in a small pension that is not enough to live on. Marianne de Mestral is one example. De Mestral is 80 years old and spent part of her early working life in the United States. She also worked part-time while her sons were young. The result: a modest pension. “When I was a young married woman, the place of women in society was different to today. We didn’t have the right to vote, a woman stayed home with the children and if she worked it was for pleasure,” she told swissinfo.ch. “The understanding that I was responsible for myself grew as I got older.” She became politically active after women received the right to vote in 1971. But she did not consider her pension or old age, as she was concerned with women’s rights and childcare, said de Mestral, who remains politically active, as co-president of the leftwing Social Democratic seniors wing, SP60+. Fortunately, women’s role in society has ...

  • Hunting wolves in the laboratory

    Mon, 20 Feb 2017 10:00:00 GMT

    Wolves returned to Switzerland more than 20 years ago, but the debate about their presence doesn’t show the slightest sign of abating among politicians or the media. While talking about these animals is easy, it’s much harder working out their movements and exact numbers. Observing wolves is difficult, capturing them almost impossible. The study of how their populations evolve is based on the genetic analysis of the traces they leave behind, for example hair, excrement and saliva. This is the far-from-simple task that Luca Fumagalli, director of the Laboratory for Conservation Biology at the University of Lausanne, has been carrying out for the past 15 years on behalf of the Federal Office for the Environment. Every week, KORA, an organisation for carnivore ecology and wildlife management based in canton Bern, sends samples it has collected to the university laboratory. The first question Fumagalli and his assistants ask themselves is: Does the DNA in ...

  • Spreading Odebrecht corruption claims put Latin American leaders on notice

    Tue, 21 Feb 2017 09:37:00 GMT

    When Peru’s President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski held a call with US President Donald Trump last week, one of his tasks was to ask whether his former boss could be extradited. Alejandro Toledo, president from 2001 to 2006, is wanted on suspicion that he received $20m in illicit funds from Brazilian group Odebrecht. Mr Toledo, believed to be in California, has rejected the claims. Two other former Peruvian presidents are also facing scrutiny for links with Odebrecht, while Mr Kuczynski is facing an investigation for agreeing a law that smoothed the granting of road contracts when he was Mr Toledo’s prime minister. But Peru is just one country rattled by the shockwaves from the admission by Latin America’s biggest construction company that it paid $788m in bribes in 12 countries in the region. Interpol has issued wanted notices for two sons of Ricardo Martinelli, former president of Panama. The case has already led to the Brazilian group agreeing a plea ...

  • How to solve the crisis of science

    Sun, 19 Feb 2017 10:00:00 GMT

    Cutthroat competition, isolation, obsession: a leading public health expert tells swissinfo.ch how modern science can be put back on track for the greater good of society. There are few people better qualified to speak on the subject of the status of science in Switzerland than Marcel Tanner. Currently the president of the Swiss Academy of Natural Sciences (SCNAT) and an emeritus professor and chair of epidemiology and medical parasitology at the University of Basel, Tanner led the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute from 1997 until 2015, and has spent nearly 40 years doing research and implementing public health initiatives in resource-poor nations. But he's concerned about fundamental problems with how science is done today, and he doesn’t beat around the bush when talking about how to solve them. Tanner sat down with swissinfo.ch at the SCNAT headquarters in Bern following a national congress on the theme “We Scientists Shape Science”, hosted by the ...

  • The universe of cows

    Sat, 18 Feb 2017 10:00:00 GMT

    Deity, icon or just cattle? Cows are seen differently across cultures. With its exhibition "KUhLToUR - Kuh, Kunst und Kuriose aus Ost und West" in Zurich, the Ernst Hoh cultural foundation examines the role of cows in art and society. The image of the cow is omnipresent in our everyday life, whether in political campaigns or advertising or pictures of nature and one's homeland. In Switzerland, it is a symbol both of Swiss tradition and country life, while in China it represents prosperity. In the Hindu parts of India, the cow is sacred. It is venerated as an emblem of providence and longevity. The exhibition not only shows cows but also bulls, oxen and Asian buffalo and yaks in all their facets.

  • Paedophile priest and his victim talk openly

    Fri, 17 Feb 2017 15:26:00 GMT

    Daniel Pittet was sexually abused by a Catholic priest when he was a child. A book now tells his story, and the preface was written by Pope Francis. (SRF/swissinfo.ch) Daniel Pittet was nine years old when he was sexually abused by a Catholic priest over a four-year period. Now he has written about his experiences in his book "Mon Père, je vous pardonne" ("Father, I forgive you"). In the book's preface, Pope Francis wrote that such assaults were abominable and a terrible crime. Pittet hopes that the papal preface will give hope to other victims like him. The now 57-year-old victim says he's forgiven his tormentor. In January, a commission was put together by order of Swiss bishops to evaluate requests for financial compensation for victims of sexual abuse inside the Catholic church.

  • The Swiss politicians who have mastered Twitter

    Fri, 17 Feb 2017 10:00:00 GMT

    Everyone seems to be talking about Twitter right now, partly thanks to United States President Donald Trump and his constant stream of tweets. Swiss politicians are also communicating using 140 characters, but very often in one direction. Who are the politicians actually interacting with their Twitter followers? swissinfo.ch investigates. For Swiss politicians Twitter profiles are no longer a novelty. Many parliamentarians in the House of Representatives tweet important announcements or post pictures of themselves campaigning on the social media platform. Tweets fly in all directions during the four annual sessions of parliament, using the popular hashtag #parlCH to link to ongoing political business. Parliamentarians are particularly vocal if votes in the lower chamber do not go in their favour. They use their phones to capture unexpected behind-the-scenes action or to catch their opponents off guard. This tweet by leftwing Social Democrat parliamentarian ...

  • Let's discuss

    Fri, 17 Feb 2017 09:22:00 GMT

    The hundreds of thousands of Swiss citizens living abroad have voting rights, but should they? There’s been a lively Twitter debate (in German) on this issue this week after Claudio Kuster, an assistant to Senator Thomas Minder, questioned their rights. “The Swiss abroad should not have the right to vote – if only because they are difficult to reach with information or campaigns.” The grounds for his tweet was an article by swissinfo.ch about how the Swiss abroad had voted on Sunday on three issues, including a controversial reform of corporate tax law and easing citizenship requirements for the grandchildren of immigrants. Not everyone was in agreement with Kuster’s position. Below is an extract from the discussion: “They could inform themselves. But do they?” asked Sandro Lüscher. "I think the problem is rather that the (issues voted on) do not affect them, as opposed to foreign nationals living in Switzerland,” replied Min Li Marti. Daniel C.

  • What is being done about forced marriages?

    Thu, 16 Feb 2017 10:00:00 GMT

    When Jasmin D, a young woman of Tamil origin faced a forced marriage, she found support from the Bern city authorities. With requests for advice from underage victims in particular on the rise, the Bern approach could serve as a model. The then 17-year-old refused to marry a man in India, and had a boyfriend, another Tamil, but he was from another caste. Her father threatened her, so she decided to leave the family, getting support from the Bern city authorities. His need to control her started after puberty. “It was a terror campaign without end. I didn’t know anymore who he was.” Jasmin’s case is not unique in Switzerland. The Centre of Competence against Forced Marriage in Switzerland, a Swiss organisation working across the country to eliminate forced marriages, dealt with 1,702 forced marriages cases between 2005, when it began working, and the end of 2016. Of particular concern is that 51 children under the age of 16 sought its advice last year. This compares ...

  • Helping the disabled find employment

    Thu, 16 Feb 2017 16:09:00 GMT

    After finishing school, handicapped youngsters should get help with finding a way into the job market instead of having to live on social benefits from an early age. That’s one of the Swiss government’s goals for its revision of disability benefits. (SRF/swissinfo.ch) Cutting costs is not the main issue for this revision, since the disability insurance is relatively well financed. Between 2003 and 2015 the numbers of new pensions WERE halved. According to the latest figures, nearly half a million people are supported by the disability insurance, among them many children and youngsters. (Kai Reusser, swissinfo.ch)

  • Six things to know about Switzerland's middle class

    Wed, 15 Feb 2017 19:30:00 GMT

    There’s renewed focus on Switzerland’s middle class after its rejection of tax reforms in a nationwide vote. Nearly two-thirds of Swiss society is defined as middle class, but what does the term really mean today? In Sunday's vote, 59% of voters felt proposals to change the country’s corporate tax landscape were too generous to companies at the expense of ordinary taxpayers. A large-scale study carried out by the Federal Statistical Office in 2013 gives some insights into the makeup of the modern  middle class. 1. They earn between 70% and 150% of median income Wages are the main criteria for deciding whether someone is part of the middle class or not. How the household is made up is also a determining factor. So people living in a household with a gross income of between 70 and 150% of the median income are classified as belonging to the middle class. Median income is the amount that divides income distribution into two equal groups, half having income above ...

  • Shops for the poor, a 25-year ‘scandal’

    Wed, 15 Feb 2017 10:00:00 GMT

    How did a charitable one-stop-shop become an indispensable support for thousands of poor people in rich Switzerland? Christoph Bossart, co-founder of the first “scandalous” Caritas store, explains why it divided public opinion. “Look! Something’s remained!” Bossart is pointing at a sign on a wall of a building. It shows the name of Switzerland’s first food shop aimed at poor people, opened in 1992. “In the beginning it was called Carisatt, after the union Caritas and the German word ‘satt’ which means ‘sated’. But not everyone got the wordplay and today we simply say Caritas,” he tells swissinfo.ch. We’re in Kleinbasel, part of Basel’s old town next to the River Rhine. This working-class area, with a large foreign presence, is one of the most lively in the city, with all sorts of restaurants, bars and shops. One inconspicuous shop has prices which are half that of retail businesses. It’s the Caritas shop, which has changed a fair bit since it opened 25 ...

  • Higher rates remove need for cash comfort blanket

    Wed, 15 Feb 2017 10:41:00 GMT

    A striking feature of global financial markets since the crises of 2007 and 2008 has been the propensity of many wealthy private investors to sit out the turmoil, holding cash in bank accounts rather than in riskier assets. Might that be about to change? The word among bankers in conservative Switzerland - the world’s largest centre for cross-border private wealth management - is that it quite possibly might. Bank results season has been punctuated by optimistic comments to the effect that US economic growth under President Donald Trump, market euphoria, the return of inflation and central bank moves towards raising official interest rates will finally persuade clients to put their money to work. “Nobody wants to be sitting on tons of cash. There would be a huge opportunity cost,” says Boris Collardi, chief executive of Julius Baer. UBS, meanwhile, has reported “more questions on how to redeploy cash”, says Mark Haefele, chief investment officer. “We’re getting ...

  • Defending the interests of tax dodgers

    Tue, 14 Feb 2017 10:00:00 GMT

    A Swiss lawyer has posted YouTube adverts, giving tips on how to “save your black money in Switzerland” with “bonanza tax loopholes”. It raises the question of how far intermediaries, like lawyers, can go in defending their clients’ assets in an age of increased transparency and litigation. In his videos, Enzo Caputo informs potential clients of “100% legal” loopholes in the global automatic exchange of tax information system. He advises on how to “fly under the radar” by investing outside of the banking system in gold, real estate trusts, classic cars or artifacts, such as original signatures of Einstein. Offering to connect clients with dealers, or accompany them to auctions, Caputo signs off one video by saying: “Be rich, and remain rich.” Enzo Caputo strongly denies that his Zurich-based Caputo & Partners practice assists tax evaders. His videos are part educational and part “pure marketing instrument with the goal of shaking up clients emotionally and to bring ...

  • Haïti at the St Moritz ski championships

    Tue, 14 Feb 2017 15:16:00 GMT

    Meet Céline Marti : the police officer from Geneva who is representing Haïti in the world ski championship in St Moritz. (RTS/swissinfo.ch) She snagged 61st place out of 74 in the qualifications for the giant slalom on Monday. Marti, who gave her impressive performance after just three full months of intensive training, proudly wore the colours of Haïti – her country of origin – to compete against some of the world’s best skiers. It’s the very first world championship for the 37-year-old, who also works as a ski instructor in her spare time. The giant slalom championship event will be held Thursday, February 16 in St Moritz. 

  • Simplified citizenship passes, after five tries

    Tue, 14 Feb 2017 12:33:00 GMT

    It took five times for a facilitated naturalisation process for immigrants to pass at the ballot box. So how has public opinion changed since the first round of voting in 1983? On Sunday the move to make it easier for the grandchildren of immigrants to gain nationality was approved by 60.4% of voters and a majority of cantons.  Previously, voters rejected every attempt at simplified naturalisation for foreigners, even when it was backed by the main political parties including the right-wing Swiss People’s Party.  Although some communes stuck to their guns on the issue over the past 30 years, others flip-flopped.  In 2004 a very heated and emotional debate ended with Swiss voters rejecting two proposals for facilitated naturalisation. The first, about second generation foreigners, was turned down by 56.8% of voters. The second, on automatic citizenship for third generation immigrants, was narrowly rejected by 51.6%.  The issue divided the country in ...

  • Swiss corporate tax – what happens now?

    Mon, 13 Feb 2017 14:47:00 GMT

    Switzerland has to go back to the drawing board after voters rejected plans to radically overhaul the country’s corporate tax landscape. Here, swissinfo.ch explains why this is such a big deal, not only for Switzerland, but also for neighbouring countries and multinational firms. On Sunday, February 12, Swiss voters overwhelmingly rejected a referendum seeking to change the way companies are taxed in Switzerland. Some 59% of voters felt the proposals were too generous to companies at the expense of ordinary taxpayers. Why is corporate tax such a big deal in Switzerland? There are two reasons. First, Switzerland competes with many other countries to be a magnet for the overseas headquarters of foreign firms. At least 6,500 companies such as Google, Unilever, Vitol and IBM have operations in various cantons. The firms most affected by the debate contribute CHF5 billion ($5 billion) in taxes every year and employ around 150,000 workers. The Swiss SME ...

  • Avalanche – a bold new show of public art in Gstaad

    Mon, 13 Feb 2017 10:45:00 GMT

    Nestled within the valleys of the Swiss Alps, Gstaad's underlying identity is that of a farming village – cows in their sheds and hay bales still dapple the mountainside – even though its picturesque wooden chalets host a super-wealthy elite of winter sports fans and socialites. However, the changing environmental conditions of the town, and of similarly ritzy Swiss ski resorts, are forcing them to explore new ways of drawing crowds. "The fact is, there is no snow here anymore at the start of the winter," says Swiss collector Maja Hoffmann, "so the valley has to reinvent itself.” It was in this context that the New York-based curators Neville Wakefield and Olympia Scarry selected Gstaad for a series of outdoor exhibitions, "Elevation 1049" – Gstaad's elevation in meters – which they initiated in 2014 in collaboration with Hoffmann's Luma Foundation. Wakefield, who is British, was a curator of Frieze Projects at London's Frieze Art Fair. The Swiss-born Scarry is an ...

  • How the Swiss mark Valentine’s Day

    Tue, 14 Feb 2017 15:33:00 GMT

    Flowers, underwear or chocolates... What you receive on Valentine's Day could depend on where you live in Switzerland. A survey broke it down by language divide and the results may back up some old stereotypes.   What do you give your partner on Valentine's Day? Tell us in the comments section below. 

  • Swiss ease citizenship rules for young immigrants

    Sun, 12 Feb 2017 16:51:00 GMT

    Voters have endorsed a proposal to simplify the citizenship procedure for immigrants whose grandparents came to Switzerland. Final results show just over 60% of voters and a majority of cantons approving the reform on Sunday. Three previous and more ambitious projects were rejected at the ballot box over the past three decades. The latest proposal was opposed by the Swiss People’s Party, known for its staunch anti-immigration policy, but all other major parties, as well as the government recommended approval. Parliament last September also agreed the constitutional amendment. Encouragement Justice Minister Simonetta Sommaruga welcomed the result, saying she was happy for the potential beneficiaries as well as their parents and grandparents. "These young people are well integrated and they belong here," she told a news conference. Sommaruga encouraged them to make use of the facilitated citizenship procedure and take part in Switzerland's ...

  • Newspapers back the people on tax reform vote

    Mon, 13 Feb 2017 07:43:00 GMT

    An uprising, a slap in the face, an earthquake, and a first-class burial – that is how Swiss media outlets are describing the way voters shot down the government bid for corporate tax reform. They attribute it to an anti-establishment mood among the people.  On Sunday, 59.1% of voters rejected a comprehensive overhaul of taxation for companies – siding with opponents who said that ordinary Swiss taxpayers would suffer if it were approved. It seems nobody was expecting such a slam-dunk verdict. Here’s a round-up of newspaper commentary from around the country. Basler Zeitung described the rejection as a “first-class burial” in its headline, noting that the political left had shown “a much better understanding of the people while Bern was presenting hard-to-understand documents”. It also slammed the Swiss Business Federation, known as economiesuisse, by criticising its campaign as “aseptic, hygienic and vegetarian”, and adding, “economiesuisse has no idea ...

  • Corporate tax reform blown away at polls

    Sun, 12 Feb 2017 16:00:00 GMT

    Voters delivered a crushing blow to the Swiss business and political establishment by rejecting a comprehensive overhaul of taxation for companies on Sunday. The decision will leave the authorities scrambling to find an alternative, creating further business uncertainty for foreign multinationals like Caterpillar and Unilever. Four years in the making, the aim of the corporate tax reform was to level tax rates for domestic and foreign firms while offering deductions for innovation and the nominal interest on surplus equity. But 59.1% of voters agreed with opponents who argued the plan gave away too much to companies at the expense of ordinary Swiss tax payers. Initiators of the initiative against the reform said the tax overhaul would leave a gaping CHF3 billion ($3 billion) annual hole in federal and cantonal income. Proponents of the new plan, including the cabinet and a majority in parliament, unsuccessfully argued that the shortfall would initially ...

  • Bigger budget to break roads’ bottleneck

    Sun, 12 Feb 2017 15:30:00 GMT

    A large majority of voters have approved a new multibillion franc fund to maintain Switzerland’s road network. The government had warned of a severe cash shortfall if it were rejected at the ballot box.   The number of vehicles on Swiss roads has increased by more than half since 1990. The total number of vehicles registered in Switzerland in 2015 was 5.9 million, in a country with a population of 8.4 million. Since 1990, the number of motor vehicles on Swiss roads has increased by about 55%, according to the Federal Roads Office. Cars account for three-quarters of all motor vehicles. This has put a strain on the country’s dense road network and prompted the government, with parliament’s backing, to propose the creation of a new CHF3 billion ($3 billion) annual fund to meet the growing operational and maintenance costs. Sixty-two per cent of voters approved the government plan. The opponents, the Green Party and environmental groups, had argued during the campaign ...

  • The copper who became a renowned photographer

    Sat, 11 Feb 2017 10:00:00 GMT

    Ex-policeman Arnold Odermatt became an overnight sensation at the age of 76 when curator Harold Szeemann discovered his photographs and showed them at the Venice Biennale. The photos are now on show in Zurich. Born in 1925 in Stans, Switzerland, Odermatt worked as a policeman in canton Nidwalden. Over the years he photographed vehicles involved in accidents, transforming these metal wrecks into works of art. At the start his pictures were intended for use as evidence in court.  At the start of the 1990s his film-maker son Urs stumbled across thousands of his father's photographs in the attic, and recognising their artistic merit, organised a first exhibition that gained public and artistic acclaim.  After his works went on show at the Biennale, other exhibitions went on tour around the world. They were also published in the book "Karambolage". Odermatt's son, a theatre and film director, remained in charge of the 60,000-strong collection.

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