The Sion 2026 Olympic bid is withdrawn
Switzerland will not bid for the Winter Olympics in 2026 after all. This is despite the Federal Council approving almost a billion Swiss francs for the Sion 2026 bid in April. Its aim was to use existing sports facilities in the four cantons of Valais, Fribourg, Berne and Grisons. But on 10 June, the people of Valais voted against a 100-million-franc cantonal contribution to the Games at the ballot box (also see the editorial on page 3). The bid has been withdrawn as a result. Financial and environmental concerns were key factors in the proposal’s rejection.
Exchange of newspapers between Tamedia and Blocher
The upheaval in the Swiss media scene is continuing with major restructuring measures. In April 2018, the former Federal Councillor Christoph Blocher sold the “Basler Zeitung” – which he had acquired six years earlier – to Tamedia, the Zurich-based media group. In return, the company handed over the “Tagblatt der Stadt Zürich”, which is distributed to all households, and other local newspapers to the SVP politician. This deal sees Tamedia further strengthen its dominant position in the Swiss media landscape. In contrast, Blocher is focusing on free local newspapers. In 2017, he acquired the Zehnder-Verlag, which has 38 titles.
The papal Swiss Guard is expanding
The Swiss Guard, the small armed force which serves the Vatican, is expanding. Christoph Graf, Commander of the Guard, says that growing security requirements make the increase in numbers – from 110 men at present to 135 – necessary. The Swiss Guard, founded in 1506, is responsible for guard and ceremonial duties at the Vatican, but also for the personal protection of the Pope. The number of guards last rose in 2000 from 100 to 110 men.
Swiss development aid fell in 2017
CHF 3.05 billion – which equates to 0.46 % of gross national income (GNI) – was the amount earmarked for Swiss state development aid in 2017. That is almost half a billion Swiss francs less than in the previous year. The federal authorities indicate that it is the “lowest amount since 2013”. They believe the decline has to be put into perspective because expenditure on asylum seekers fell sharply. These costs are included in development aid. Alliance Sud, the umbrella development organisation, has voiced criticism of the reduction. It argues that Switzerland has once again missed its self-imposed target of increasing the proportion of development aid to 0.5 % of GNI and is a long way off the international goal of 0.7 %.