Top news from our partner swissinfo

  • How to serve up an initiative that is hard to digest

    Fri, 25 May 2018 09:00:00 GMT

    Some Swiss votes can be extremely technical and the need for independent viewpoints is vital. But experts’ clarifications can sometimes be incomprehensible and not necessarily neutral. Fabio Canetg thinks he has the answer.  Grasping a full understanding of cantonal tax models, national fiscal equalisation and monetary policy – such as the current ‘sovereign money’ initiative – can be tough-going for Swiss voters.  Such initiatives are complex, and the public and media rely heavily on specialists for explanation. But care is needed, as they are not always neutral or crystal clear.  Fabio Canetg, an economics PhD assistant at Bern University, thinks he has the solution. He claims to be a strictly neutral economics specialist with a deep understanding of the sovereign money initiative, on which Switzerland will vote on June 10.  He spends part of his time travelling across Switzerland giving 45-minute presentations on the issue to interested citizens to help them form their own ...

  • Americans overseas: friends don’t let friends not vote

    Fri, 25 May 2018 09:00:00 GMT

    Americans may be happy getting on with their lives overseas but they have a duty to cast a vote to shape politics back home, or so argues Alexandra Dufresne. I recently began teaching American law here in Switzerland. On the first day of class, I asked the students to share questions they had about law and policy in the United States. Three questions were by far the most common: why do you have the death penalty, why do you not regulate guns more strictly, and how could Trump possibly have been elected? “Hmm. Let me get back to you on the last one,” I said. I still don’t know the answer, though I ask myself the question every morning when I read the newspaper. There are so many factors at play. But one factor (of many) may have been voter turnout – or lack thereof. How did this happen? In the 2016 Presidential election, only about 58 to 60% of eligible voters voted, depending on how one calculates the pool of “eligible voters”. This means that only about 26% of the American ...

  • Swiss TV antenna gets demolished with dynamite

    Fri, 25 May 2018 09:13:00 GMT

    The 122-metre-high Swisscom broadcasting tower "La Barillette" in Western Switzerland was blown up on Thursday.  Eight kilograms of explosives were needed to bring down the 60-year-old metal structure installed at an altitude of 1,500m.  "It is rare to be able to dynamite such an object, it is a challenge," said Patrick Berner, CEO of Sagramat SA, the company in charge of the operation.   The 97-ton metal tower fell in the planned direction late Thursday evening. It will dismantled into smaller pieces and recycled. Owned by Swisscom Broadcast, the old mast used to transmit analogue and digital radio programmes. It was replaced last August and the new tower stands only a few metres from the spot.

  • Taking the pulse of democracy around the globe

    Thu, 24 May 2018 09:00:00 GMT

    Bruno Kaufmann, a Swiss-Swedish author, has been on a tour across four continents to explore the state of modern democracy.  On his travels, our Global Democracy Correspondent met activists, independence campaigners, local journalists, Buddhist monks, high-ranking officials, Swiss diplomats and expatriates. Retrace his 200-day voyage by clicking on some of the 20 stops.

  • Guterres ‘deeply concerned’ by cancellation of Trump-Kim summit

    Thu, 24 May 2018 18:00:00 GMT

    United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres has expressed alarm at United States President Donald Trump’s decision to cancel an upcoming summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un. Guterres made his remarks in Geneva as he presented details of his global disarmament initiative.  “I am deeply concerned by the cancellation of the planned meeting in Singapore between the President of the United States and the leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea,” Guterres told an audience at Geneva University on Thursday.  He urged all parties in the nuclear talks to keep “nerves of steel” while continuing dialogue towards “the peaceful and verifiable denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula”. In a formal letter released on Thursday, Trump called off the summit scheduled for June 12, citing hostility on the part of Kim.  "Sadly, based on the tremendous anger and open hostility displayed in your most recent statement, I feel it would be inappropriate, at this time, to have ...

  • Do the police smoke confiscated weed?

    Thu, 24 May 2018 11:53:00 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.  There are a lot of clichés when it comes to the police: they smoke confiscated marijuana, never get fines, are all right-wing and enjoy violence. Bap, a 27-year-old policeman, fills us in first hand on what's true and what's just a myth. (SRF/swissinfo.ch)

  • More parents delay kindergarten start date

    Wed, 23 May 2018 15:00:00 GMT

    Swiss parents are increasingly putting off the start date of kindergarten for their children in a clear push back against efforts to make enrollment mandatory by age four across the nation.   Primary level education in Switzerland covers eight years beginning with two years of kindergarten or what is known as the first learning cycle. The cantons decide when the children start, between age four and five. If a child has reached the required age by a cut-off date (between early April and late July in 24 cantons), they can start at the beginning of the next school year, which is late summer in Switzerland. In only a few German cantons is Kindergarten not compulsory or is only compulsory for one year. According to Harmos – which aims to harmonise school systems across Switzerland – the cut-off date for reaching the kindergarten age of four will be fixed at July 31 for those cantons which have signed up by 2020. This means some cantons have been progressively moving forward their ...

  • Frugal lifestyles on display in Swiss open-air museum

    Wed, 23 May 2018 09:00:00 GMT

    At the Ballenberg open-air museum in the Swiss Alps visitors can experience how the Swiss carved out a meagre existence in earlier centuries. Surrounded by high mountains, around 110 rural buildings are scattered on 66 hectares of undulating forested land. Grand farm houses with shingle facades or straw roofs, chalets, timbered barns, mortar-free stone houses with shingle roofs, a Mediterranean estate, alpine huts as well as a winegrower’s house create the impression that the building traditions of different nations were gathering here. But in fact, all houses are Swiss. They were collected from all over the country and faithfully reconstructed. Ballenberg Open-Air Museum The museum near Brienz is open from April 14 to October 31, 2018. It celebrates its 50th anniversary this year with a series of additional events. A special exhibition is dedicated to the topic of the cow, which played an important role for the Swiss economy. The museum is also a place of research and study.

  • Overseeing the UN’s ‘most complex’ relief operation

    Wed, 23 May 2018 11:42:00 GMT

    Every day, the United Nations food agency (WFP) needs $2 million (CHF1.98 million) to help feed vulnerable people in Syria. The Swiss humanitarian worker Jakob Kern, who has been leading the WFP’s Syria action since December 2015, talks to Swiss public television (SRF) about the challenges of his job.  After 30 months, Kern is leaving the Syrian capital Damascus, where, as WFP Syria Country Director, he has led the UN’s biggest relief operation. During this time, he oversaw 350 staff and nine field offices spread across four countries and regularly accompanied aid convoys in the troubled Middle East country, which has been wracked by over seven years of conflict.  The WFP Syria relief operation is probably the UN’s “most complex” worldwide, he told the WFP Blog in an interview in German. In Syria, WFP supplies essential food aid to elderly and handicapped people, women and children. Monthly food rations are distributed for groups of five people: around 50 kilograms of basic food ...

  • Swiss charitable foundations continue to flourish

    Tue, 22 May 2018 06:00:00 GMT

    Switzerland has one of the highest concentrations of philanthropic foundations in the world - and the sector keeps growing strongly. Last year, over 13,000 grant-making foundations were registered with a combined fortune of almost CHF100 billion ($100 billion) – a 30% increase since 2012 -, a new report shows. In 2017, a new grant-making foundation was created in Switzerland almost every day (364), while at total of 187 shut up shop, taking the overall total to 13,129, according to the SwissFoundations 2017 annual report, published on Tuesday.  The report’s authors say Switzerland has one of the highest concentrations in the world – 15.6 foundations per 10,000 residents - with half of all new institutions created in the past 20 years.  The most important Swiss foundations? SwissFoundations does not rank national foundations by size or influence. Swiss foundations report their annual account information to the relevant surveillance authorities but the details are not public.  ...

  • Palestinian return is a right not a dream

    Tue, 22 May 2018 14:00:00 GMT

    The BADIL Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights writes a letter in response to remarks by Swiss foreign affairs minister Ignazio Cassis that cast United Nations aid work for Palestinian refugees as a stumbling block to peace in the Middle East. Our return is not a dream, it is an internationally recognized right. Ignazio Cassis, Swiss Minister of Foreign Affairs, declared on Thursday 17 May 2018 that the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) is an obstacle to peace in the Middle East as it actively hinders the integration of Palestinian refugees in their host countries. Cassis claimed that the preservation of refugee camps, specifically in Jordan and Lebanon, sustains a “dream of returning home” for Palestinians who reside in them.” He added that the funding of UNRWA by the international community contributes to keeping the conflict alive. He stated, “For a long time UNRWA was the solution to this ...

  • Bikers blessed on mountain pass

    Tue, 22 May 2018 13:20:00 GMT

    On Whit Monday, some 200 bikers were blessed on the "Col des Mosses" pass in western Switzerland. The pass was the scene of another fatal motorcycle accident just last month. The Whit Monday ceremony pays tribute to the bikers who have died in road accidents and to raise awareness of the inherent dangers. The goal of the event, organised by the biker group "Les Têtes Brûlées" (The Burnt Heads), is to comfort and support people who have lost a loved one.   The "Têtes brûlées" group was founded in the late 1970s and was disbanded after the tragic death of one of its members. The group was reborn a few years ago.

  • Sri Lankans in Switzerland demand justice

    Mon, 21 May 2018 15:00:00 GMT

    Eleven thousand children from Sri Lanka were adopted by Western couples in the 1980s, some with fake identities. Hundreds of children who came to Switzerland are now trying to discover whether they were illegally smuggled into the country. According to the Rundschau current affairs programme on Swiss Public Television, SRF, small children were stolen in Sri Lanka, then sold or adopted. The scandal was reported at the time, but details reemerged after a recent Dutch TV report, causing  an international stir. Joëlle Schickel-Küng, head of the Central Agency for International Adoptions at the Federal Office of Justice has confirmed that the government has launched its own investigations into what seem to have been illegal practices, but as it was so long ago, the enquiry could take a long time. Baby farms Many of the adopted children have sought information about their origins in Sri Lanka. Romy Walcher was lucky enough to find her birth mother, who explained that she became ...

  • Young carers face many obstacles

    Mon, 21 May 2018 09:00:00 GMT

    When a parent or relative becomes ill, children might take on a caring role. Switzerland’s first ever figures show that almost 8% of children aged 10-15 are young carers – far more than previously thought. Having a parent, sibling or grandparent who is ill with cancer or suffering from depression can be life-changing for some children. They might take on extra care, household and childcare duties; they might even have to administer medicines and drips. Young carers often remain silent about their situation, says Agnes Leu, head of the Young Carers research programme at Careum Research, the institute of the Department of Health Science at the Kalaidos University of Applied Sciences in Zurich. “For me it’s like a hidden topic: either young people are hiding it because they don’t want everyone to know or their parents or the person they are caring for don’t want them to talk about it,” Leu told swissinfo.ch. For the first time, Leu and her team were able to shed light on the ...

  • Air Zermatt: 50 years of Alpine air rescue

    Sun, 20 May 2018 15:00:00 GMT

    One of Switzerland’s best known air rescue services, Air Zermatt, is marking a half century of service this year. Although Air Zermatt – with one of its bases in the popular mountain resort of the same name - is most well-known for rescuing people injured or stranded on mountains, or in hard-to-reach crevasses in the Alps, it also operates sightseeing flights for tourists, taking in views of Switzerland’s iconic Matterhorn mountain or the Aletsch glacier. Material transport accounts for 60% of its flight time: moving construction materials up to sites in the mountains for Alpine huts, mountain railways or avalanche barriers. The company’s reach extends beyond their corner of Switzerland. In 2011, Air Zermatt and the Zermatt rescue station built a rescue centre in the Himalayas. The project was planned to be educational, and create an opportunity for knowledge transfer between mountain guides and air rescue pilots in Switzerland and Nepal. Peaks and troughs In the same year, ...

  • Manuela Rocker: "We’re a very sporty family"

    Sun, 20 May 2018 09:00:00 GMT

    Manuela Rocker had a tough start when she arrived in Australia 22 years ago. But the 52-year-old Swiss expat has settled into life down under, and even has a place where she can buy Swiss cheese. Originally from Lugano, she lives on the coast just outside of Sydney. swissinfo.ch: Why did you leave Switzerland? Manuela Rocker: I left Switzerland in 1995 to follow my heart. swissinfo.ch: How were the first few months abroad? M.R.: The first few months were all about exploring and finding out about beautiful Sydney. The language wasn't a big issue as I already had a basic knowledge of English. But driving on the other side of the road was a little challenging at times! The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of swissinfo.ch. swissinfo.ch: Was it a one-way journey, or did you plan to return to Switzerland at some point? M.R.: It was a one-way journey even though I had a bit of a re-think and spent 11 months in ...

  • New gold rush, self-driving buses and real-people jobs

    Sat, 19 May 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 100 Swiss miners said the new 'gold rush' would take them to Sweden. The cryptocurrency specialist, Alpine Mining, announced it wanted to set up a crypto mining farm in the Scandinavian nation to build its capacity for creating tokens to a 100-megawatt operation. Tuesday 26 million The canton of Geneva is set to test a system of self-driving public buses as part of an international project. It's being financed to the tune of CHF26 million, the lion's share from the European Union's Horizon 2020 funding programme. Wednesday 5 million That’s how many francs the government is contributing to fight radicalisation. The authorities want to raise awareness and provide counselling. It’s part of a three-pronged approach to combating violent extremism. Since 2001, ...

  • Taking a cool dip in the archives

    Sat, 19 May 2018 09:00:00 GMT

    Taking a dip in outdoor pools has a tradition in Switzerland going back 200 years. It's a custom that begins anew every May. In the 19th century, the authorities in Swiss towns began to regulate their citizens' love of stripping off and swimming in the local lakes and rivers. They began erecting wooden structures on the water's edge to separate the sexes. In Zurich, a bathhouse for women was built on the Limmat River in 1837. This "Frauenbad" still exists.  A men's bathing area was built along the old city walls in 1864, and continues to be in operation and reserved for men only. One of the first outdoor swimming baths for both men and women, Weggis-Lido, was built in 1919.  In the 1930s, numerous public baths were built, and in some cases as a way to create jobs during the economic downturn of the decade. In our series #swisshistorypics we look back on some of the earliest bathing bathing establishments in Switzerland. (Photos: Archive of Building History, ETHZ library, ...

  • How to marry like a Swiss commoner

    Sat, 19 May 2018 06:00:00 GMT

    How does a typical Swiss couple get married? We’ve created a handy guide on how to tie the knot in Switzerland, with the help of a study by the association of Independent Swiss Wedding Planners. Some 40,000 weddings took place in Switzerland in 2017. To marry just like a regular Swiss couple, there are a few simple rules to follow:  1. Splash out On average, Swiss couples spend CHF30,000 to CHF40,000 ($30,000 – $40,000) on their wedding – not including the cost of the dress and suits, rings or the honeymoon. “That’s probably quite a lot compared to Switzerland’s neighbouring countries,” says Simone Glarner of the Association of Independent Swiss Wedding Planners (VUSH). “Renting the wedding location is particularly expensive here and the standard of living in Switzerland is high,” Glarner explains. Just how much a wedding costs depends primarily on the number of guests and on how long the festivities go on for. “In India, people sometimes celebrate for several days or weeks – ...

  • Anja Wyden Guelpa: taking democracy to today’s youth

    Fri, 18 May 2018 09:00:00 GMT

    Anja Wyden Guelpa is considered one of the most active and innovative players when it comes to promoting democracy in Switzerland.  She has made it her mission over the past 11 years in her senior government post to interest the young generation in politics and show them what impact political decisions have on them. Who is the 45-year old? swissinfo.ch paid her a visit.  She served for served for two full terms, until the end of April 2018, as the first woman Chancellor of Geneva. Born in the German-speaking mountain region of the Rhone valley, she might not seem to fit the stereotypical idea of a government administrator in a French-speaking canton. When she ran for the post at 36, she wanted to talk to people as equals, face to face, without patronising them. Young people and children are especially close to her heart. Her ambition was to show them how political decisions shape the neighbourhoods, the city, the canton and the country where they live. Pitching in The ...

  • Will Facebook influence the 2019 Swiss elections?

    Thu, 17 May 2018 13:05:00 GMT

    Online social network Facebook is allegedly planning to deploy its controversial “I’m a voter” button in Switzerland ahead of parliamentary elections next year. The Swiss authorities have not been officially informed by the US company, according to Swiss media reports.  Republik, a Swiss online news magazine, on Wednesday quoted a report in the Schweiz am Wochenende newspaper last month that Anika Geisel, manager of Facebook’s politics and government outreach team in Berlin, had met 20 politicians from all parties in Zurich on April 11.  “The topic of the meeting was how candidates could benefit from Facebook’s campaign tools. It was intended as a promotional event for the technology company,” Republik.ch wrote. “One participant asked a question that had nothing to do with the marketing tools. Would Facebook be deploying its well-known ‘I'm a voter’ button in Switzerland? Yes, Geisel answered, the company was working on it.”  According to Republik, the election button is to be ...

  • 'Explosive' Swiss artist Roman Signer turns 80

    Fri, 18 May 2018 11:58:00 GMT

    Roman Signer is best known for his exploding landscape performance pieces. His art is playful, full of humour and of brutal (yet quiet) poetry. Now the trailblazing Swiss performance artist turns 80. (SRF, swissinfo.ch) Signer grew up in Appenzell. After an apprenticeship as a draftsman, he became a sculptor and finally continued his artistic education in Warsaw in the early 1970s. He gained international recognition for his performances in public spaces. Today, Signer lives in St Gallen. His performance art gave him a name as a demolition expert. But this reputation does not do justice to Signer’s work. He is not interested in the blast, but in the transformation of things that is triggered by it: not the destruction, but the many possibilities that can result from an explosion. Roman Signer is not a physicist – as he’s stated in the past, he doesn’t seek to explain the laws of nature. He tries to make his work intuitive. What does he like? As he told Swiss Public Television, ...

  • Research questions the fabric of our universe

    Thu, 17 May 2018 09:00:00 GMT

    Experts at two different Swiss institutions have recently published research that challenges the standard model of the cosmos and its properties. What does this mean for space…and for science? For over a decade, André Maeder has been retired from his position as a professor in the University of Geneva’s Department of Astronomy, where his research focused on the physics of stars. But that hasn’t slowed his pursuit of cosmological conundrums. In fact, he now has more time than ever to devote to the questions that have been bothering him since the very beginning of his career: questions like, “do we really need dark matter to help explain the universe?” “I worked on this for a few years when I was a young assistant. But at that time, it wasn't in the research line of the [Geneva] Observatory,” Maeder says.  He spoke recently with swissinfo.ch at the same Observatory, located in the bucolic Swiss plateau several kilometres outside the bustling city of Geneva. Forty years ...

  • Cut-throat cobalt drama will leave Congolese people the losers

    Thu, 17 May 2018 07:05:00 GMT

    Gertler, Gécamines and Glencore sound like the founding fathers of a crusty old law firm. In fact, they are among the principal actors in a cut-throat drama that will help determine not only the price of cobalt and electric car batteries, but also the political future of the not-so-Democratic Republic of Congo. Who are they? Dan Gertler is an Israeli billionaire who, over two decades, has made himself the gatekeeper of Congo’s mineral wealth thanks to his close relations with the president. Often under a cloud of suspicion, Mr Gertler was put on a sanctions list last year by the US Treasury, which said he had “amassed his fortune through hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of opaque and corrupt mining and oil deals”. Mr Gertler has always denied any wrongdoing, saying he deserves the Nobel Prize — presumably for peace, not fiction — for bringing billions of dollars to the Congolese people. Gécamines is Congo’s state-owned mining company, without whose say-so few mining ...

  • Fifty years of fitness in the forest

    Fri, 18 May 2018 06:00:00 GMT

    On May 18, 1968 the world’s first outdoor fitness trail, better known by its Swiss moniker Vita Parcours, opened in Zurich. The idea for a trail came when a men’s gymnastics club decided to start training in the forest using natural obstacles, such as tree stumps and logs. But forest workers would clear the paths and the men would return to find their trail dismantled. So they approached the community with a proposal to create a permanent fitness trail, or parcourse. The idea was accepted and the trail found a sponsor, an insurance company by the name of Vita (now Zurich Insurance). Today there are 499 Vita Parcours in Switzerland. The average trail extends for about two kilometres and has 15 stations equipped with various exercise equipment. The exercises suggested at each stop promote strength, endurance and agility. These have been simplified over the trails’ 50-year history to allow families and non-athletic types to also enjoy the trails. In 1993 the "Vita Parcours" ...

  • Why Andrea avoids animal products

    Thu, 17 May 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.  Some people say the hardest thing about being vegan, a person who does not eat or use animal products, is dealing with the antagonism and harassment they face. This includes interrogation-style conversations, sarcastic comments, put-downs and not-so-funny jokes.  Andrea Monica Hug says that she's typically told that vegans are all "malnourished" and that they're "always tired and weak." In fact, she says, since becoming a vegan, she feels much fitter. In this interview, she lets off steam over how poorly informed people are about veganism. (SRF/swissinfo.ch)    

  • AI has ‘enormous’ potential to transform health sector

    Wed, 16 May 2018 14:42:00 GMT

    Big data and artificial intelligence (AI) are a “force for good” which could transform the health sector, say experts gathered in Geneva at the 2nd AI for Good Global Summit. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the World Health Organization (WHO), is convinced the technology can help advance the issue of universal health coverage.  “Artificial intelligence can greatly improve our response to disease outbreaks through enhanced early warning, forecasting epidemics, improved decision-making for outbreak response and simulation tools,” he told delegates at the opening of the conference in Geneva. “There are clear opportunities to use AI to make health services both more accessible and more effective. By making data collection and triage more efficient, AI can reduce the costs of care, making services more affordable for patients,” he added. Marcel Salathé, the head of the Digital Epidemiology Laboratory at Lausanne’s Federal Institute of Technology (EPFL), is leading ...

  • When a saliva sample changes your life

    Wed, 16 May 2018 09:00:00 GMT

    A Swiss couple undertook DNA testing as a matter of fun but ended up solving a rather serious, trans-Atlantic family mystery. As more people turn to genetic analysis to unlock the Pandora box of the past, Switzerland is sharpening its laws to cut through some of the thornier legal and ethical issues. "I have been waiting for this information for a long time! At last I have some answers to an enigma that I have carried around with me all my life." When Damien (pseudonym) read the e-mail message above, he was thunderstruck. He would never have imagined that what started as a game would affect his entire existence. "I have discovered a family secret," the Swiss computer security specialist tells us. Damien, who requested to remain anonymous to protect his privacy, says it all started as a bet with his wife. "We wanted to know which one of us was the most closely related to the Neanderthal," he recalls. "Whoever lost had to treat the other to a good steak." The Lausanne couple ...

  • Switzerland needs to acknowledge colonial past to be real friends

    Wed, 16 May 2018 06:00:00 GMT

    "There was a colonial history behind the India-Switzerland Friendship Treaty that the Swiss public is not aware or doesn't want to talk about."  70th anniversary Newly independent India and Switzerland entered into a Friendship Treaty on August 14, 1948 that was signed by the country’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru and the Swiss ambassador to India Armin Daeniker.   Besides promising “perpetual peace and unalterable friendship” the treaty also granted Swiss citizens and businesses the right to ply their trade in India at an uncertain time. Today, the Treaty has become a talisman of historically good ties between the two nations. Opinion is divided over whether it is a gesture of friendship or made to appear as one to serve the needs of diplomats, politicians and businesses.   For me the Friendship Treaty from 1948 and the celebration of it in 2008 and now in 2018 has been a platform for different political and economic actors to serve their interests. In 1948, the ...

  • India and Switzerland: We do matter together

    Wed, 16 May 2018 06:00:00 GMT

    "The connections of democracy, lively voice of the people and leveraging the best of cultural and human diversity is what makes the India and Switzerland old and good friends." 70th anniversary Newly independent India and Switzerland entered into a Friendship Treaty on August 14, 1948 that was signed by the country’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru and the Swiss ambassador to India Armin Daeniker.  Besides promising “perpetual peace and unalterable friendship” the treaty also granted Swiss citizens and businesses the right to ply their trade in India at an uncertain time. Today, the Treaty has become a talisman of historically good ties between the two nations. Opinion is divided over whether it is a gesture of friendship or made to appear as one to serve the needs of diplomats, politicians and businesses. When India was born, its leaders were drawn to the ideals of peace and neutrality– two words that are entrenched within the Swiss heartbeat. This led to the ...

  • Switzerland’s delicate stances on Israel

    Tue, 15 May 2018 09:26:00 GMT

    Switzerland, one of the first countries to recognize the state of Israel, is alarmed by the level of violence in Gaza Strip. The Swiss Federal Council on Tuesday condemned the “use of force by Israel, which at this stage has caused the death of dozens of people, including children, and injured thousands.” Gaza on Monday witnessed the deadliest day since the 2014 conflict between Israel and Islamist group Hamas, which runs the coastal enclave. Israeli forces opened fire against demonstrators amassed along the Gaza border. The Gaza Health Ministry, cited by The Associated Press, said 59 Palestinians were killed and more than 2,700 injured.  The spike in casualties has revived international condemnation of Israel’s use of lethal force against unarmed protesters and amplified concerns for the prospects of Middle East peace. The violence coincided with the inauguration ceremony of the new American embassy in disputed Jerusalem, held on the 70th anniversary of Israel’s declaration of ...

  • Why is the pope visiting the Geneva-based World Council of Churches?

    Tue, 15 May 2018 15:58:00 GMT

    Pope Francis is making a rare one-day visit to Geneva on June 21, where he is set to meet the Swiss president and hold a mass at the airport. But before that he’s going to the World Council of Churches (WCC) for talks. Why is he visiting this little-known religious body?  The last papal visit to Switzerland was in 2004, when Pope John Paul II came to Bern a year before he died. John Paul II had previously visited various international organisations in Geneva – aka the Protestant Rome - in 1984, including the WCC. Paul VI also went there in 1969.  Pope fever is mounting at the Geneva-based organisation, which is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year. Next month’s papal trip, which goes under the motto ‘Walking, praying and working together’, is the result of five years’ efforts by WCC officials following Pope Francis’ appointment in 2013. “The visit of his Holiness Pope Francis on this ecumenical pilgrimage to the WCC on our 70th anniversary is a historical milestone in the ...

  • Manuela Rocker: "We’re a very sporty family"

    Sun, 20 May 2018 09:00:00 GMT

    Manuela Rocker had a tough start when she arrived in Australia 22 years ago. But the 52-year-old Swiss expat has settled into life down under, and even has a place where she can buy Swiss cheese. Originally from Lugano, she lives on the coast just outside of Sydney. swissinfo.ch: Why did you leave Switzerland? Manuela Rocker: I left Switzerland in 1995 to follow my heart. swissinfo.ch: How were the first few months abroad? M.R.: The first few months were all about exploring and finding out about beautiful Sydney. The language wasn't a big issue as I already had a basic knowledge of English. But driving on the other side of the road was a little challenging at times! The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of swissinfo.ch. swissinfo.ch: Was it a one-way journey, or did you plan to return to Switzerland at some point? M.R.: It was a one-way journey even though I had a bit of a re-think and spent 11 months in ...

  • How to reconcile direct democracy and international law

    Tue, 15 May 2018 09:00:00 GMT

    The question of primacy between national and international law has been simmering for years in Switzerland. Here we give a run-down of some other options that could settle the wrangling over legal hierarchy. In recent years, several contentious popular initiatives in Switzerland – banning the building of Islamic minarets, for example, or expelling foreigners convicted of serious crimes – have raised the tricky question of how to reconcile domestic and international law. The issue is an emotive and fundamental one, touching on key ingredients of Swiss identity – direct democracy, strong sovereignty and a certain standoffishness from internationalist trends (Switzerland only joined the United Nations in 2002). On a purely judicial level, if the question itself is simple, there is no easy answer. At a recent panel event in Geneva, journalist and lawyer Denis Masmejan outlined for swissinfo.ch six of the most commonly cited paths out of the paradox. 1. “Here, it’s us who ...

  • Do Swiss universities offer the best value for money?

    Tue, 15 May 2018 08:16:00 GMT

    Here is a meta-analysis by swissinfo.ch that combines the most popular university rankings to find out which ones are best. We also show which university offers the best value for the money. Spoiler: Switzerland, for once, is a good deal. The public, the media and the universities themselves have all embraced university rankings. They have been remarkably influential even though what they measure is often obscure.  We created a hybrid ranking of the "best" 500 universities by averaging the three longest established and most influential global rankings: QS World University ranking, Times Higher Education (THE) and the Shanghai ranking (AEWU). The map under shows the location of these 500 best universities. Little Switzerland punches above its weight with eight universities in the global top 500. The Alpine nation becomes even more competitive when comparing university ranking against tuition fees, as shown in the chart under.  The majority of our consensus top 50 ...

  • Bern from a homeless perspective

    Mon, 14 May 2018 15:00:00 GMT

    The Surprise association, which publishes a magazine to help the homeless, is celebrating its 20th year. To mark the event, it has launched “socially aware” tours of the city of Bern, with guides who have personally experienced homelessness. (SRF/swissinfo.ch) Roger Meier tells his tour groups about his life and provides an insight into the institutions that helped him survive on the streets, visiting soup kitchens, shelters and charity shops. Guided tours of this kind already exist in Zurich, with the goal of fighting against prejudice. A team from Swiss Public Television, SRF, took a guided tour with Roger, who has been homeless most of his life since running away from an abusive foster father. Thanks to his job as a guide, he now has a roof over his head for the first time. But he says he has never been afraid of the streets, "It's the only place where nothing can happen to me. The only place where I know my way around." Surprise also recently received a social prize of ...

  • A day in the life of a woman in the Swiss Army

    Mon, 14 May 2018 09:00:00 GMT

    Zoé Frei deems it unfair that Swiss men are liable for mandatory military service while women are not. She joined the army voluntarily and swissinfo.ch spent a day with Frei, one of the few female soldiers in the Swiss military. Taking large strides, Zoé Frei marches past pretty timbered houses, dozing horses and pristine looking vegetable beds in a farming village near Bern. She wears her uniform and does not seem to be cold even though it’s still a bit chilly at 5:45am on this early April morning. The young woman is walking from her hotel to join her unit. Military regulations stipulate that men and women have to stay in separate accommodation.  “Apart from emergency situations, showers and bedrooms always have to be separate,” Frei explains. She is the only woman in her unit. When in February this year they had to spend a night outdoors, she had to sleep in a tent which left her freezing cold. “The others were able to snuggle up,” she says laughing. “The officers in charge ...

  • Woman puts words near actors’ mouths

    Sun, 13 May 2018 09:00:00 GMT

    How do you make theatre understandable for people who don’t know the language? A Zurich woman has spent the past 20 years perfecting the art of surtitles for the stage.  Dòra Kapusta pedals up to the Schauspielhaus theatre in a short black dress and high heels, her large handbag wedged into the bike basket.  She hurries inside into a world of plush red velvet: banister covers, curtains, upholstery, and the fat seat cushion that she grabs in passing.  We stop at a wooden door with a brass handle and the number “5” on it. This will be Kapusta’s domain for the next few hours: a private box overlooking the stage, furnished with a desk, chair and small lamp. She plugs in her laptop and removes her peach suede pumps.  “The annoying thing is that I still get nervous, at least for the first five to ten minutes,” confesses Kapusta. But not about the hundreds of slides that she’s prepared – which will distill what the actors say in German into easy-to-read English snippets. These will ...

  • Battle of Gallipoli re-enactment raises eyebrows in Switzerland

    Sat, 12 May 2018 15:00:00 GMT

    A student re-enactment of Turkey’s 1915 Battle of Gallipoli staged in Switzerland has raised concerns over the use of Swiss schools for Turkish propaganda. The performance, held in the village of Uttwil in front of Turkish dignitaries and the diaspora, was first flagged this weekend by Swiss paper SonnstagsBlick. The scene at the heart of the controversy is one of school children exchanging fire with mock bayonets on a stage dominated by a giant portrait of the founder of the Turkish Republic, Kemal Ataturk, flanked by the Swiss and Turkish flags. The re-enactment in Switzerland was perceived as an effort to promote nationalist Turkish propaganda among the expat community. The Gallipoli Campaign of 1915-16, also known Dardanelles Campaign, was an unsuccessful attempt by the Allied Powers to control the sea route from Europe to Russia during the First World War. Untested troops from Australia and New Zealand, former British colonies, met fierce resistance from Turks fighting to ...

  • Confiscated heroin and a buried hatchet

    Sat, 12 May 2018 12:00:00 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 14 Swiss police seized 14 kilograms of heroin worth over CHF2 million during a cross-border investigation carried out with the German authorities. Tuesday 41 For the first time, Switzerland’s Federal Tax Administration (FTA) sent details on advance tax rulings to its partners in the spontaneous exchange of information deal. The FTA said it had transmitted a first batch of reports to 41 countries. Wednesday 20 The number of gigabytes stolen during a cyberattack on the Ruag technology company in 2016. The defence ministry was criticised for its response to the theft. Thursday 104 The 104-year-old Australian scientist David Goodall ended his life at a Swiss clinic. He had drawn international attention to his right-to-die campaign. Friday 3,220,000,000 ...

  • The Swiss artisans behind the Palme d’Or

    Sat, 12 May 2018 09:00:00 GMT

    In a Geneva workshop, eight skilled craftspeople labour to transform a very big block of crystal and some ethically sourced gold into one of the world’s most sought-after cinematic awards. The Palme d’Or, a golden palm tree branch on a crystal base, is the top prize at the Cannes Film Festival, which wraps up on May 19, and has been made by the same jewellers, Chopard, for the past 21 years. A blue wax Palme is created and buried in plaster. It is heated in a furnace overnight to melt the wax away and leave a hollow plaster mould. The 2018 edition is made from 118 grams (4.16 oz) of 18-carat yellow gold. The molten metal is poured into the mould, which is then dipped in cold water to break the plaster and leave behind a golden Palme. Extensive sanding, cleaning and polishing take place before the Palme is deemed fit to sit on the crystal base created by stonemasons. Two trophies are made in case there are two top prize-winners. Five smaller ones have also been commissioned ...

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