Top news from our partner swissinfo

  • Gun lobby misses its target as Swiss voters approve tougher gun control

    Sun, 19 May 2019 11:10:00 GMT

    Voters look set to approve a controversial reform of Swiss gun law to bring it in line with European Union rules.  Polls closed at midday and final results are expected in a few hours. Based on partial results and projections, experts expect approval of the reform with a 2:1 majority. Ownership of semi-automatic weapons will be restricted and become subject to additional administrative rules according to the legal amendment.    Opponents conceded defeat and warned the new regulations would undermine traditional values. "By approving stricter gun control, Switzerland has given in to pressure by the EU," People's Party parliamentarian Lukas Reimann told public radio.  For his part, Daniel Jositsch, Social Democratic Senator, said the decision meant improved security for Switzerland and it helped stabilise relations with Brussels.  Political scientist Urs Bieri of the GfS Bern research institute pointed out the consistent campaign of the supporters of the stricter gun control and ...

  • Reform of Swiss corporate tax system clearly accepted

    Sun, 19 May 2019 12:57:00 GMT

    Switzerland voted yes on Sunday to a reform of the corporate tax system that will scrap preferential treatment for multinational firms. The result also means an annual financial boost for the country's ailing pension system. Two years after voters rejected a similar idea to reform corporate tax rules, the issue – controversially linked to pensions this time – received a clear thumbs-up. Predictions by the GfS Bern research group after polls closed at midday suggested some 66% of Swiss voters said “yes”; none of the 26 cantons voted against the proposal. Final results are expected mid-afternoon. The new legislation will bring Switzerland into line with international rules by cutting out preferential rates offered to multinationals, while lowering baseline corporate tax rates in an effort to prevent them fleeing to more attractive destinations.  And to dispel left-wing fears that these lower overall rates will mean more strain on public services and citizens, the government has ...

  • E-bikes and C-sections

    Sat, 18 May 2019 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 some of the most interesting statistics to appear in the past week’s stories. Monday 380,000 Trade unions in Switzerland have called for restrictions on temporary work and measures to improve labour conditions for the country’s estimated 380,000 employees hired for a limited period.  Tuesday 110,000 Unusually warm and dry weather last year helped sell 110,000 e-bikes – the first time sales have exceeded 100,000 units.   Wednesday 60 The government announced plans to help older people who are out of a job. For example, those over 60 at the end of their unemployment insurance rights will gain limited access to training programmes.  Thursday 6 billion The government wants to spend no more than CHF6 billion on new fighter jets. Voters will have the final say.  Friday 32.3 The percentage of births in Switzerland that are delivered ...

  • Breeding bees in Swiss valleys

    Sat, 18 May 2019 09:00:00 GMT

    Since 1985, the total number of bees in Switzerland has fallen by a quarter. The photographer and beekeeper Marc Latzel has documented a special breed of bee that thrives in Alpine valleys. In the Kiental valley in the Bernese Alps, Peter Linder has set up a Carnica nursery. Here he breeds purebred Carnica queen bees using careful selection and artificial insemination. Carnica bees are a subspecies of the Western honey bee known for their ability to defend themselves against pests. Remote Swiss mountain valleys are ideal places for breeding, as they prevent different bee species from mixing and ensure that pure-bred queen bees can develop properly. Beekeepers travel from far afield to have their queens mated there.  A bee colony consists of worker bees, drones and a single queen. The queen bee is followed by 5,000-40,000 other bees, depending on the season. She differs only slightly from the workers – she's a little bit bigger and longer.  Without the queen bee, nothing happens ...

  • Should Switzerland welcome companies like Jeunesse?

    Fri, 17 May 2019 12:27:00 GMT

    Some 12,000 Chinese tourists are enjoying the sights of Switzerland this month, but the company that sent them on the mass incentive trip has come under attack for its business methods. This begs the question: should Switzerland benefit from this PR exercise? Tourist officials proactively broadcast news of the country’s largest-ever company incentive trip. This in turn promoted Jeunesse as a generous “employer” that could be rewarding to work for. Switzerland Tourism says it did not receive any payments from Jeunesse. “As a national marketing organisation for the holiday and meetings destination Switzerland, we do not judge business models of companies that come to Switzerland for business trips,” Switzerland Tourism said in an emailed statement to swissinfo.ch. “Switzerland Tourism is only responsible for the tourism marketing and does not do any business with companies that carry out their incentive trips in Switzerland. The touristic turnover for all leisure or ...

  • Oval Office meeting shows Swiss potential amid US-Iran tensions

    Fri, 17 May 2019 12:13:00 GMT

    Swiss President Ueli Maurer’s meeting with US President Donald Trump was a unique bilateral event at a moment of increasing tensions between the United States and Iran. While it’s not clear what exactly was discussed in the Oval Office, the press has focused on the role Switzerland could play in avoiding a highly politicised US-Iranian confrontation.   If the exact nature of the meeting between Maurer and Trump remains unclear, there is also no clear position on the American side regarding Iran. Since the beginning of May, the United States has pinpointed increasing Iranian aggression in the Persian Gulf including aid to militant groups and certain proxy forces in the region. Photographs claim to show Iranian missiles being loaded onto small boats in the Gulf by paramilitary forces. There have even been indications that Iran is preparing to attack American troops and interests. In response, the State Department ordered a partial evacuation of the US Embassy in Baghdad. An ...

  • Many Swiss ‘know little’ about International Geneva 

    Fri, 17 May 2019 09:00:00 GMT

    Switzerland invests millions in its host strategy towards so-called “International Geneva”, yet many people in the majority German-speaking region are unfamiliar with the work carried out there, the head of a think tank claims.   On a sunny May afternoon in Lucerne in central Switzerland, the work of the United Nations and other international organisations in Geneva seems a distant concern as crowds of Chinese tourists and locals cross the Chapel Bridge or take ferries down the lake.    On Thursday evening, however, Geneva took centre stage in the German-speaking city, as Lucerne University hosted the last stop of a tour called “International Geneva – the world in Switzerland”.   The tour, organised by the Swiss foreign policy think tank Foraus, involved a series of conferences in nine cities – mainly in German-speaking regions – to raise awareness about the role and work of International Geneva in Switzerland.    Big gaps   Foraus Director Lukas Hupfer said tour participants ...

  • Will letting foreigners vote revitalise St Moritz?

    Fri, 17 May 2019 09:00:00 GMT

    Christian Jott Jenny promises to breathe new life into the luxury resort of St Moritz in eastern Switzerland. One of his first radical moves as mayor is a referendum on foreigners’ voting rights. Jenny, who took office at the beginning of the year, hops on stage in the ornate concert hall of the Reine Victoria Hotel to present the community’s fully revised constitution.  The first item on the agenda is a surprise: giving voting rights to foreign residents. If accepted, the exclusive mountain resort in the Engadin valley would be one of the few places in the country to grant foreigners political rights. The people of St Moritz are due to vote on this constitutional change in 2020 at the earliest.  This text is part of #DearDemocracy, a platform on direct democracy issues, by swissinfo.ch.  This would be the first political coup for Jenny, who is used to being in the limelight but as an entertainer not as a political figure. After singing with the Zurich boys’ choir as a child, ...

  • Why did the Swiss president go to Washington?

    Thu, 16 May 2019 20:04:00 GMT

    Swiss President Ueli Maurer and US President Donald Trump met at the White House on Thursday. These are some of the top foreign policy and trade issues affecting the US-Swiss relationship. 1. Iran Since it cut ties with Tehran in 1980, the United States has used Switzerland’s good offices to represent its interests in Iran. In recent weeks, tensions have escalated as President Trump tried to force the Iranians back to the negotiating table by threatening to impose more economic sanctions (on the oil and financial sectors), making tougher demands (on their nuclear programme and Iran’s role in Syria, Yemen and Israel), even making overt threats (US aircraft-carrier and bomber deployments to the Gulf).  Yet just last week, Trump indicated a willingness to be “open to discussions”. CNN reported that the White House contacted the Swiss shortly afterwards. According to the US news outlet, the US gave the Swiss a telephone number on which the Iranians could reach Trump. But Iran ...

  • How one Swiss woman defied social norms to tour the world

    Thu, 16 May 2019 15:10:00 GMT

    Lina Bögli was a simple peasant before she left on a round-the-world trip at the end of the 19th century. Her account of the journey, which lasted a decade, became a literary success. As Lina Bögli waited in the Italian port of Trieste in July 1892 for a steamboat that would take her on the first leg of her world tour, the 34-year-old was suddenly seized with terror. It wasn't too late to put her silly ideas away, turn around and return home, she thought. Then she heard a port worker mention the name of the boat she was to embark: Forward. Her fear evaporated. No longer afraid of the sea and no longer intimidated by the foreign crowd, she was filled with a new sense of courage and felt in that instant that God was ordering her onward. "It seems to me that I can no longer fear anything, nor will I hesitate anymore. From this moment, "forward" will be my motto," wrote Bögli. Tough, determined, confident Not only did that word propel her on her trip, but it also became the title ...

  • Indian miniature paintings get a Pakistani makeover in Switzerland

    Thu, 16 May 2019 09:00:00 GMT

    Centuries-old Indian paintings have been given a contemporary twist thanks to a Swiss project involving Pakistani artists.    “While the size of the paintings has grown in many cases, the head of figures are mostly still no larger than a thumbnail,” explains Caroline Widmer, curator of Indian paintings at Museum Rietberg in Zurich.   The Swiss museum, which has an extensive collection of Asian art and artefacts, is putting a new face on these old works of art. It offered art students from Pakistan the opportunity to create contemporary miniatures inspired by Indian paintings from its collection that date as far back as the 15th century. Traditionally used to depict royal or mythological figures having a good time, the contemporary versions tackle life in modern Pakistan.   “They did not just reproduce old subjects and techniques but transformed them with new ideas. It is art like we understand it to be today,” says Widmer.   Modern-day miniatures  In the old days, ...

  • Non-EU graduates struggle with Swiss job access

    Wed, 15 May 2019 09:00:00 GMT

    Swiss companies would be happy to employ foreign specialists with a Swiss degree, but complicated rules and immigration laws present obstacles for both companies and graduates who come from countries outside the EU or EFTA. A change in the law aims to simplify the situation. Anyone who wants to study in Switzerland but lives in a country outside the EU/EFTA region needs a substantial amount of time and money. In addition to confirmation of acceptance from the relevant educational institution, the person must acquire a visa and a residence permit from the canton. Students who manage to overcome these hurdles benefit from the excellent reputation of Swiss universities, which regularly score top international rankings. Graduates, especially in the so-called MINT subjects (mathematics, information technology, natural sciences, technology), could also be in high demand in Switzerland. But only 10-15% of students from countries outside the EU and EFTA get a job in Switzerland after ...

  • Small-town Swiss vote provides a lesson in flood prevention

    Wed, 15 May 2019 15:00:00 GMT

    When I removed the white leaflet from the voting envelope, my first impulse was to discard it right away.   The dispatch, which appeared punctually a few weeks before this Sunday's vote, outlined a budgetary issue that would boggle the mind of even the savviest of CFOs.  Yet it’s up to me and my fellow citizens in this small Alpine community to take a momentous decision on how millions of francs are allocated. I have enough difficulty keeping my own household spending in check.  This time around, we aren’t being asked to approve a credit to renovate a local schoolhouse or for other essential upgrades, which I usually agree should be done as a matter of course to maintain quality of life.  This time we will be granting approval for measures to deal with the consequences of climate change, given the overwhelming scientific evidence that global warming is responsible for an increase in extreme weather events.  Specifically, my town’s executives are asking me to approve the ...

  • Voters to decide fate of giant Basel aquarium

    Wed, 15 May 2019 14:13:00 GMT

    The people of Basel are set to vote on a project for a giant aquarium complex. Supporters believe the “Ozeanium” will contribute to environmental education and nature conservation. But opponents say the project is unsustainable.  After the local authorities gave the project the green light and approved the building of the city centre aquarium, opponents collected enough signatures to force a referendum that could overturn the decision. It takes place on May 19.  Big plans  Zoo Basel has been planning the Ozeanium for about ten years. The Boltshauser architects from Zurich came up with plans to house several thousand animals from all climates in about 40 aquariums, including one eight-metre-high single aquarium. This will be home to sharks, rays, penguins, corals and deep-sea dwellers, living in tidal zones. Domestic species such as eels and salmon could also swim along.  Construction on the aquarium is planned for 2021 and the opening for 2024. Some 700,000 visitors a year are ...

  • Record-breaking Chinese tourist party descends on Switzerland

    Tue, 14 May 2019 07:35:00 GMT

    The first groups of some 12,000 Chinese tourists have arrived in Switzerland to enjoy the benefits of the largest-scale work incentive trip ever sent to the Alpine country.   Swiss tourism officials are pulling out all the stops for the trip, which has been sponsored by Jeunesse Global, an American health and beauty products sales company.   The tourists, who surpassed the company’s sale targets for its products in China, were said to be rewarded with a tour of iconic sights including the Rheinfall, Europe’s largest waterfall, the Titlis mountain and shopping in the cities of Lucerne, Basel and Zurich.  The group is so large that it had to be split into three separate batches of 4,000 tourists each to get everyone through the six-day tour by the end of May. Even so, tourism officials in Lucerne have coordinated with the police and local authorities to cope with these high numbers of people, including measures to manage traffic flows through the city.  The sheer numbers appeared ...

  • Kiwi pension tension heads for showdown

    Tue, 14 May 2019 09:00:00 GMT

    No one in New Zealand is allowed to receive two pensions. As a result, Swiss living in the South Pacific country receive considerably less pension income. This is felt to be unfair, and many of the people involved have found a way around it.  “In the past five years I’ve been trying every approach I know to find a solution for this problem faced by our Swiss pensioners,” says David Vogelsanger, Swiss ambassador to New Zealand.  “Although the problem is well-known to the parties in power and was even an issue in the last elections, the necessary reforms have been postponed indefinitely.” Vogelsanger, whom swissinfo.ch meets at the Swiss embassy in windy Wellington, sounds glum.  From his 12th-floor office he has a magnificent view of the bay and the port where generations of newcomers immigrating to New Zealand have come ashore. Among those immigrants have been numerous Swiss. At present there are about 7,000 of them, and of those, some 1,200 have reached pensionable age.  ...

  • How serious is Switzerland's measles situation?

    Tue, 14 May 2019 12:00:00 GMT

    In 2019, Switzerland has already seen more measles cases than in all of last year. But compared to a decade ago, it's still relatively low. From the beginning of 2019 until May 6, some 166 measles cases have been reported in Switzerland. That’s more than three times the number for all of 2018, while in the same period last year, just 21 cases were reported.   This represents an increase in the incidence rate from 2.5 (2018) to 19.5 (2019) cases per million inhabitants.   So far in 2019, some 62% of cases were endemic to Switzerland, 14% were imported, 8% were related to imported measles, and 16% could not be classified, according to the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH).  But despite the high number of cases compared to the last five years, the situation is not yet alarming. The number of measles cases in 2019 is still far below the number in 2009 and 2011.   Just over a week ago, the FOPH announced that there had been two reported deaths from measles. The first was ...

  • Tunnelling through a glacier keeps villages from flooding

    Tue, 14 May 2019 12:52:00 GMT

    A glacial lake in Switzerland has been filling with meltwater, endangering the residents of the valley. To try to stop the risk of flooding, a trench is being dug through the glacier. On the Plaine-Morte glacier between cantons Bern and Valais, several glacial lakes fill with meltwater which in midsummer threatens to rush down into the valley. To prevent this, structural emergency measures are being implemented to prevent one of the lakes from causing another critical flood situation in the Simmental valley. Last summer a campsite and restaurant were evacuated and around 100 people had to spend a night in shelters. As a preventive measure, a trench is being dug through the middle of the glacier ice so that the water will drain off automatically once it reaches a certain height. The measures are intended to reactivate the drainage system through a combination of trenching and micro-tunnelling. The water should pass through the ice barrier and be discharged into the existing ...

  • Your employer might be watching you. Should you care?

    Mon, 13 May 2019 08:00:00 GMT

    Imagine if your employer recorded your every click, step, conversation, and bathroom break to determine your mood, how well you collaborate with people of the same sex, and if you are likely to quit your job next month. This new wave of workforce data analytics, catching on in many industries globally, is raising tough questions in Switzerland with its strong culture of trust and privacy. Recently, an employee at the University of Applied Sciences in Lucerne found an infrared sensor under his desk. The university says it informed employees ahead of time about the installation and that it only intends to monitor occupancy rates for building planning purposes. However, some employees told the newspaper 20 Minutes that it couldn’t brush off the unsettling feeling that they were being watched. Artificial intelligence, machine learning and Big Data are making possible what human resource managers could only imagine a decade ago. But the technologies are not without controversy. The ...

  • Lionel Aeschlimann on art and seeing the world differently

    Mon, 13 May 2019 13:03:00 GMT

    The Mirabaud partner talks of his faith in active management and the private bank’s bicentenary. Lionel Aeschlimann’s enthusiasm for contemporary art almost rivals his devotion to finance. Aeschlimann is head of the CHF6.6 billion ($6.54 billion) asset management arm of Mirabaud, the Swiss private bank that celebrates its 200th anniversary this year. To mark the bicentenary, the bank has provided free entry to the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Geneva for the whole of 2019. Mirabaud itself owns an extensive modern art collection including works by Bruce Nauman, Christian Marclay and Marina Abramovic, along with newer artists such as Omar Ba and Antoine Roegiers. “Contemporary art obliges us to open our eyes and to see things differently. It provokes another way to look at the world we inhabit. You should go,” says Mr Aeschlimann. Founded in 1819, Mirabaud has remained a family-owned business for seven generations, a rarity. Few family businesses survive beyond a ...

  • This Swiss woman and her horses belong to Canada’s open spaces

    Sun, 12 May 2019 09:00:00 GMT

    Nicole lives in the wild with her horses in Canada. It's a life surrounded by nature which also has its dangers, as she has discovered.  Only the munching of horses and the barking of dogs disturb the silence. It is fifteen degrees below freezing and the sky is clear blue. There has been snow on the ground everywhere for months. Hidden in their dens in the forest, the bears are hibernating. Nicole Ulrich chose to come to this remote, wild place and for 11 years it has been her home. Swiss Abroad Swiss journalist Joëlle Weil lives in Israel. In this series, she paints the portrait of Swiss women and men living abroad whom she has met through expatriate groups on Facebook. Nicole left Switzerland to build a new life in Canada, moving with her partner to Quesnel, in the western province of British Columbia. "In Switzerland if you have animals you quickly run short of space," she says. But in Quesnel she has 65 hectares of land for herself and her 20 or so horses. They are not ...

  • Swiss 5G debate heats up with protest in Bern

    Fri, 10 May 2019 19:48:00 GMT

    Simmering opposition to the rollout of 5G technology in Switzerland climbed a notch on Friday as a 1,000-strong protest was held in the capital, Bern. Organised by the Stop5G citizen group, the gathering on Bern’s Waisenhausplatz square – a couple of stone’s throws away from the federal parliament – was the first significant national expression of resistance to plans for a 5G Switzerland. Scientists, doctors, engineers, environmentalists, left-wing politicians, and even a tech-sceptic musician took to the stage to highlight the key demand outlined by event organiser Tamlin Schibler Ulmann: “a national moratorium on 5G development”. Widely-distributed flyers outlined their reasons: health concerns (they fear that diseases from cancer to depression to chronic fatigue may be caused by  electromagnetic waves); the damage to sustainable development of the infrastructure and energy usage of 5G; and the security threat to our private lives that universal connectivity implies. ...

  • Counting birds and surprise snowfall

    Sat, 11 May 2019 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 some of the most interesting statistics to appear in the past week’s stories. 19 Record snowfall for the month of May turned lower-lying regions of Switzerland into a winter landscape last weekend. Nineteen centimetres of snow were recorded in the eastern city of St Gallen. 42.3 The proportion of young women in higher education has risen to 42.3% from 9.8% over the past two decades according to the Federal Statistics Office. They now dominate higher education diplomas. 68,975 This is the number of birds spotted in Swiss parks and gardens by volunteers over one hour last weekend. The most widespread species are the sparrows, the magpies and the blackbirds.  65 Nearly two-thirds of respondents to an opinion poll said they were in favour of tightening Swiss gun laws - an issue that will be put to a nationwide vote on May 19. 3,315 ...

  • Playing cats and ladders in Switzerland

    Sat, 11 May 2019 09:00:00 GMT

    One in three Swiss households has a cat. So it's no surprise that the Alpine nation's cat lovers go to extremes to make the lives of their feline best friends more enjoyable. One photographer has documented a peculiar widespread effort to help cats get out and about, no matter how high up they live: cat ladders. These private gangways for cats are usually attached to building façades or drain pipes, allowing cats to traverse the often dizzying heights of Swiss apartment blocks. This allows them both access to the outdoors and the comfort of food and lodgings. Some ladders are more elaborate than others, as we can see in this selection of pictures taken from the book, ‘Swiss Cat Ladders’. While the apparatus exists in other European countries, cat ladders seem to have a high concentration in Swiss cities and villages; they’re not just popular as household pets, farmers also use them to catch mice and other rodents. A cat’s right to roam Fabian Gloor, responsible for tenancy law ...

  • Swiss start-ups hope to slow climate change with cow burps

    Fri, 10 May 2019 07:00:00 GMT

    Could changing what cows eat help keep the planet from warming? Several Swiss companies have created feed additives that they claim reduce methane emissions, but the science hasn’t convinced everyone yet.  Cattle farms represent the idyllic image of Swiss life: green meadows dotted with wildflowers and grazing cattle with bells around their necks, all set against dramatic Alpine scenery. But every year, millions of litres of methane emanate from these pastures. It’s a greenhouse gas whose 100-year impact on the atmosphere is about 28 times that of carbon dioxide, making it a significant contributor to climate change. “If you took all the cows on Earth...they would be the third-largest [greenhouse gas] emitters in the world, behind China and the US,” says Michael Mathres, head of strategic projects for Mootral, an agritech company headquartered near Geneva. He says the agriculture and food industries have been “greatly under-addressed” when it comes to tackling climate change.  ...

  • No symbolic pardon for anti-fascist protestors in Geneva

    Fri, 10 May 2019 15:00:00 GMT

    Parliament has refused to clear the name of seven people found guilty of rioting nearly 90 years ago. The Swiss militia army opened fire on civilians protesting against a meeting of fascists in the city of Geneva in 1932.  “One shot, aim low, fire!” was the order given by first lieutenant Raymond Burnat to his troops, called in to stop a demonstration by militant left-wing protestors rallying in the Plainpalais neighbourhood of Geneva. The shooting lasted all but 12 seconds (see video below) and left 13 people dead and 65 others injured on November 9, 1932.  The bloody incident occurred when left-wing demonstrators, led by the leader of the local Social Democratic Party, Léon Nicole, took to the streets to protest against a rally of supporters of the far-right politician, Georges Oltramare.  Concerned about a wave of public unrest, the government of canton Geneva asked for support from the Swiss army, to maintain public order.  Historians say the subsequent tragic events were ...

  • Why hikers want the wild taken out of wilderness

    Thu, 9 May 2019 12:39:00 GMT

    A new effort to promote hiking in the Alps will strike a chord with northern Europeans – it illustrates how they can enjoy the outdoors without having to give up any creature comforts. The campaign, titled “Nature wants you back”, is the brainchild of the national tourist board, Switzerland Tourism, designed to win over Europeans, specifically Germans, French, Dutch and British, who bring the greatest potential for boosting tourism numbers. They are low-hanging fruit due to their relative proximity to Switzerland, cultural similarities, and track record of spending a few days, rather than just a few hours, in the country.  For Switzerland Tourism’s campaign to be a success – and we’ll only know once summer is over – the agency had to understand, in today’s digital, performance-driven societies, how much value these groups place on being in the great outdoors. Thanks to the results of a survey carried out in the targeted countries, the answer is ‘a lot’, but there are interesting ...

  • Switzerland's political middle is gaining ground

    Thu, 9 May 2019 09:00:00 GMT

    Switzerland's Liberal Green Party is on a roll. Its rising popularity shows potential for centrist parties in tipping the political balance between the left and the right. The Worry Barometer survey shows which institutions the Swiss have confidence in, and which they don’t. In a 2018 poll, Swiss citizens said they strongly trusted the Federal Court, the police force, the army and the National Bank. Confidence in the government and parliament (the Senate and the House of Representatives) was limited in comparison, although the level of trust remained stable. Political parties have suffered the biggest losses. At the beginning of the current four-year parliamentary term, more than half of the Swiss voters still had trust in them; this figure has now plummeted to less than 40%. For further details see chart below. The reason why political parties fare so badly is because they refuse to cooperate! This has been a long-standing issue between the Social Democrats and the Swiss ...

  • Do tightened gun laws lead to greater security?

    Wed, 8 May 2019 13:00:00 GMT

    The Swiss government has a clear message for voters: Approve the new gun law reform and citizens will be protected from the misuse of dangerous weapons. The electorate will decide on May 19 whether to adopt changes made to European Union firearms regulations in the wake of terror attacks in some member states.  The proposed legislation would ban high-capacity semi-automatic weapons (with certain exceptions), improve tracking of weapons, and provide for improved information exchange between Schengen countries, plus other measures to fight the trade in illicit firearms. (Switzerland, while not a member of the EU, is part of the Schengen agreement governing the free movement of people across a large portion of Europe). The government says that these changes close loopholes in the current law and adopting them is a matter of protecting the public.  Those who oppose the gun law changes have dismissed the government’s security argument and insist that tightening the existing ...

  • All aboard with a new Alpine railway invention

    Thu, 2 May 2019 15:18:00 GMT

    Passengers will soon be able to travel non-stop from Lake Geneva to Interlaken, thanks to an innovation allowing trains to ride on different types of tracks in one journey. Tourist trains through the Alps are very popular, but it's less than convenient if passengers have to change too many times. With lots of luggage in tow, there's potential for confusion. At the moment, passengers on the GoldenPass train from Montreux to Interlaken, have to change in Zweisimmen. The narrow-gauge MOB trains (from Montreux to Zweisimmen) cannot continue on the standard gauge tracks of the BLS company, which operates from Zweisimmen to Interlaken Ost.  Technical solution: a world premier It has taken the train companies decades to find a technical solution to allow trains to switch gauges mid-journey, and almost imperceptibly. It's the first device of its kind in the world. Engineers have installed two gauge changers across four tracks at Zweisimmen railway station. These force the gauge ...

  • How the Swiss show their ‘great love of shooting’

    Wed, 8 May 2019 09:00:00 GMT

    To say that the Swiss are a nation of sharpshooters would be an exaggeration. But sport shooting is popular, both in rural and urban regions. swissinfo.ch visited two shooting clubs in Geneva as the nation gets ready to vote on legislation that will regulate guns more strictly. Arriving at the modern building that houses Switzerland’s largest underground shooting range, we have to look around to find the entrance. We can see signs advertising a fitness centre and a bicycle shop, before we find a modest name-plate saying ‘Swiss Gun Center’ on one of the doors. Swiss voters have the final say on a reform of Swiss gun laws, notably restricting the use of semi-automatic firearms, in a nationwide referendum on May 19.  A broad alliance of gun clubs, hunters, gunsmiths and arms collectors, supported by the rightwing Swiss People's Party collected enough signatures to challenge a parliamentary decision to bring Swiss law in line with European Union regulations. We are hardly inside ...

  • From Zurich to the skies: the daily work of the world's airports

    Thu, 9 May 2019 09:00:00 GMT

    Experience the sights and sounds of the tightly-planned operations that move passengers at Zurich Airport and other hubs around the world. It’s a bright and sunny morning in Zurich. The air is filled with the grinding and whirring of machinery and the roar of planes cutting through the sky. Between landings and take-offs, the ground crew are in action, preparing for a Swiss International Air Lines arrival. A so-called ‘Foreign Object Debris’ (FOD) check is carried out by the onsite ramp team. As the plane comes to a halt on the apron – the aircraft parking area - chocks are placed in front of the aircraft wheels and power is connected from the main building. The team, all wearing safety clothing, waits until the engines are switched off and the aircraft is then secured and marked with cones. Only when the supervisor has authorised all the relevant arrival checks can the passengers leave the plane – luggage of first-class passengers, is placed near the cargo doors so that it ...

  • Pressure builds on mining industry over supply chains

    Wed, 8 May 2019 06:41:00 GMT

    Extracting commodities from the ground is a necessarily dirty business, but an outcry over the use of child labour in the Democratic Republic of Congo has subjected the industry to ever more scrutiny of how metals from cobalt to copper are produced. It is a challenge for a metals and mining sector where issues of corruption, environmental damage and wider social impact have rarely taken centre stage in negotiations between producers and buyers. Concerns over mining practices in Congo have simmered since 2015 and largely focused on informal, or artisanal, small scale mining (ASM) where cobalt — a key component in the batteries used in smartphones and electric vehicles — is mined by hand, in often dangerous conditions and sometimes by children. Last month’s announcement from the London Metal Exchange that by 2022 only metals compliant with OECD guidelines on responsible supply chains will be allowed to trade on the 142-year old venue is a sign of how the Congo controversy has ...

  • Corporate tax: slowing down the race to the bottom

    Tue, 7 May 2019 08:12:00 GMT

    Swiss voters go to the polls on May 19 to vote on a complex revision of corporate taxation. How does this fit into international efforts to crack down on tax avoidance? They say that the only certainties in life are death and taxes, but big multinational companies are pretty good at minimising the latter. National exchequers around the world are losing out on some $100-240 billion (CHF102-245 billion) in revenues each year, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD); other estimates put the figure even higher. The Financial Times reported last year that multinationals now pay less tax than before the 2008 financial crisis.  The May 19 vote to reform corporate tax  in Switzerland is an example of what countries are doing to try to change companies’ practices amid a complex international landscape. Harmonising practices Much of the impetus for reform comes from the OECD. In 2013, the Paris-based group began the Base Erosion and Profit Shifting ...

  • An uncertain future for Swiss soldiers guarding the Pope

    Tue, 7 May 2019 12:02:00 GMT

    Every May, a new batch of young Swiss Roman Catholic soldiers swears allegiance to the Pope. But in recent years their numbers have been dwindling. What does the future hold for the Swiss Guards?  For over half a millennium (they were founded in 1506), the special unit has acted as personal protectors of God’s representative on earth.  This week, 23 more young soldiers were sworn in on May 6, a symbolic date that commemorates the 1527 sack of Rome.   But much has changed over the past 500 years, both in Switzerland and the Vatican. Here’s what it takes to become a guard, and why recruiting them has become difficult.  1. What do the Swiss guards actually do?  The soldiers are mostly known for their ceremonial role during official receptions and visits, where they can be seen decked out in impressively coloured uniforms, carrying swords and halberds, and sporting modern 3D-printed helmets.  However, over the past century, the guards have also increasingly taken on more and ...

  • Swiss project gets water flowing to massive refugee camp

    Mon, 6 May 2019 09:00:00 GMT

    In a refugee camp, one of the first challenges is getting enough water – at least 20 litres a day per person for drinking, cooking, washing and cleaning. A methodology developed in Switzerland has quadrupled a Ugandan camp’s water supply. How does it work, and can it be applied elsewhere?  “It’s not magic,” laughs Ellen Milnes, a hydro-geologist who works part-time for Switzerland’s University of Neuchâtel and part-time for the United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR. The methodology, called “Rapid Groundwater Potential Mapping”, involves using existing sources and information freely available online to overlay maps and chart the best places to drill for water. The map allows hydro-geologists to zoom in to those areas and conduct further tests before drilling. After only a year, the results at northern Uganda’s Bidi Bidi refugee camp have been spectacular. “It’s made a big, big difference,” says David Njoroge, the UN Water, Health and Sanitation officer in the camp. “You can ...

  • Amid shortages, can Switzerland stay Europe’s ‘water tower’?

    Mon, 6 May 2019 10:26:00 GMT

    A village in western Switzerland has banned the construction of new houses because there is not enough drinking water to go around. A water supply expert calls this an “intelligent” decision that other communities should follow. With its 1,500 lakes, 890 square kilometres of glaciers and countless rivers and streams, Switzerland should have no water supply problems. But in some places, inhabitants and farmers are regularly confronted with water shortages. This phenomenon will increase as a result of climate change and the predicted reduction in summer rainfall, researchers say. A lack of drinking water has forced the small municipality of Enges in canton Neuchâtel, with its 270 inhabitants, to take precautions. In mid-April, the authorities decided to block a housing project for 140 people and to ban the construction of new houses for at least two years. Enges is a few kilometres away from Lake Neuchâtel, Switzerland’s largest inland lake, as well as Lake Biel. But the ...

  • These are the rules of Swiss cow fighting

    Mon, 6 May 2019 12:47:00 GMT

    The fiery Hérens cow breed is a symbol for the Swiss canton of Valais, where bovine fights have become a traditional spring attraction. (SRF, swissinfo.ch) The Hérens cow, found in the Swiss canton of Valais and in Italy's Aosta valley, is known for its ability to move on difficult terrain, its speed, and its combative temperament. The Hérens' natural fighting instinct has led to the organisation of official ring cow fights that attract numerous breeders and spectators. Divided into age and weight categories, the cows are freed into a ring where they choose their opponent. The rules are simple: the ones who run away or lose three consecutive fights are out of the competition.  The animals’ welfare is a priority as they are overseen by five referees, veterinarians, and the animal owners.  The highlight of the Valais ring cow fight season is the national championship, held each May in the town of Aproz. There, the winner of the first four categories is crowned "Queen of Queens". ...

  • A 2000-year-old guest from Pakistan comes to Switzerland

    Sun, 5 May 2019 09:00:00 GMT

    Convincing Pakistan to lend an ancient Gandhara Buddha statue to a Swiss museum was the easy part. Transporting the 1.5-ton sculpture from Peshawar to Zurich posed the real challenge. Subscribe to our podcast on iTunes to ensure that you don’t miss the next one.

  • May Day, prisoners and food waste

    Sat, 4 May 2019 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 some of the most interesting statistics to appear in the past week’s stories. 3,203 The number of shipments of illegally imported medicines seized in 2018 by Swiss customs authorities  – three times more than the previous year. Erectile stimulants remained at the top of the list, followed by sleeping, diet and hair growth pills. 16,000 Police said 16,000 people turned out for May Day events in Zurich, which were marred by extremists lighting flares and damaging buildings and vehicles.  Big rallies and marches also took place in other major cities, with calls for higher salaries and increased efforts to achieve equal pay for men and women. 2 The number of proposals launched in Geneva aimed at removing embattled local minister Pierre Maudet from power. Maudet is under investigation for the alleged accepting of benefits.   7,000 The ...

  • Switzerland, a nation of gun lovers

    Sat, 4 May 2019 09:00:00 GMT

    Shooting is a favourite leisure sport in Switzerland. Its roots date back to the late Middle Ages, but especially the 19th century when shooting became an important part of national identity. But gun lovers fear a new weapons law could spoil their fun. Swiss shooters and hunters fear that the European weapons directive being put to the vote on May 19 could jeopardise their hobby, even though Bern has managed to negotiate some concessions from Brussels, particularly on army weapons. Widespread passion If you have been for a walk in Switzerland you may well have passed near a shooting range or found a civilian with a rifle hanging over his shoulder. Many Swiss are passionate shooters, and some 130,000 people are registered in the shooting clubs alone. They regard the sporting use of firearms as part of national tradition. Legend has it that the national hero William Tell freed the Swiss from the tyrant Gessler by shooting at a target. In fact, marksmanship has a close ...

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