Top news from our partner swissinfo

  • How the Youth Olympics are a testing ground for other Games

    Fri, 17 Jan 2020 13:00:00 GMT

    Lausanne in western Switzerland – the ‘Olympic capital’ – is currently hosting the 2020 Winter Youth Olympic Games. New sports, futuristic athlete housing and mixed-nation teams are among the concepts being given a trial run at the event. The basics  The 2020 Winter Youth Olympic Games are taking place from January 9-22 in Lausanne and at seven other locations in three Swiss cantons, as well as at Les Tuffes over the border in France. They bring together a record 1,872 athletes aged 15-18 from 79 countries. Eight winter sports and 16 disciplines are featured, such as ice hockey, ice skating and downhill skiing, as well as some new sports (see below).  A ‘laboratory’  Lausanne 2020 is the 3rd edition of the Winter Youth Olympics, after Innsbruck (2012) and Lillehammer (2016). The Youth Olympics were the brainchild of former International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Jacques Rogge and were designed as a way of reinvigorating interest in the Olympics and as a response to ...

  • Can Switzerland clean up the ‘dirty’ gold trade?

    Fri, 17 Jan 2020 16:00:00 GMT

    There are no quick fixes to cleaning up the ‘dirty’ gold trade but the situation in mining communities in Peru reveals that there is still so much we don’t know about the source of the problems. Most of the world’s gold passes through Switzerland but how it gets here has been hard to trace. As investigations in Peru by my colleagues Dominique Soguel and Paula Dupraz-Dobias reveal in a new special report, there has been so much focus on rooting out illegal mining at the very start of the gold trade. But in fact, a lesser-known problem is the criminal networks and illegal traders and buyers that make it difficult for Swiss companies to know if they are importing illegal gold. The investigation showed that traders try to conceal the illegal origins of gold by mixing it with legitimately obtained gold. Colleagues found that violent crackdowns on illegal miners are not enough to eradicate dirty gold from the supply chain. You need an army of accounting experts to go through the invoices.

  • Is the Léman Express on the right track with passengers?

    Fri, 17 Jan 2020 10:00:00 GMT

    One month after the spectacular launch of the Léman Express, swissinfo.ch jumps aboard to gauge public interest in the new cross-border regional rail network between Switzerland and France.            On a sun-drenched platform at Geneva Cornavin, the city’s main train station, Jean-Marc taps away on his phone.  “Today, the Léman Express allowed me to arrive at my business meeting on time,” says the Geneva resident, who claims it cuts 15 minutes off his usual journey. For now, he uses the regional line to get around the city but, in the future, he says he’ll use it to travel to Annemasse, just over the French border, south of the city.  “Before, I used to take the car, but the train is now much more practical,” he adds. A little further down the platform, Monique, a childminder, waits for the next train with a young boy she is looking after.  “This afternoon we’re going for a ride on the train. He loves it,” she explains. Today, they are sticking to the Swiss side, ...

  • When Switzerland recognised the new China

    Fri, 17 Jan 2020 11:20:00 GMT

    Seventy years ago, Switzerland was one of the first Western nations to officially recognise the People’s Republic of China – a gesture that enabled Bern to maintain good relations with the Communist government in Beijing over the following decades. It also meant access to the opening of the Chinese economy at the end of the 1960s. “[The Swiss government] has today de jure recognised the central government of the People’s Republic of China, with whom it will soon establish diplomatic relations stop […]” That was a telegram sent by the Swiss president Max Petitpierre to his Chinese counterpart Mao Zedong on January 17, 1950. On October 1, 1949, a few days after the proclamation establishing the People’s Republic of China, the government in Beijing wrote to Bern with the aim of establishing diplomatic relations. The initial reaction of authorities in the Swiss capital was probably influenced by the tensions that had characterised relations with another major communist country, ...

  • Iran: ‘Without Switzerland the situation could be worse’

    Fri, 17 Jan 2020 10:08:00 GMT

    Without Switzerland’s good offices, the situation in the Persian Gulf could deteriorate, says the Iranian ambassador in Bern, Mohammad Reza Haji Karim Jabbari, in an interview with Swiss public television, SRF.  He also says Swiss diplomats help defuse tensions in the region and that Switzerland proposes plans and initiatives "that can be very helpful".  SRF: One of these initiatives is the humanitarian trade channel that Switzerland would like to establish. With the agreement of the US, humanitarian goods and medicines could be imported into Iran. How important would that be for you?  M.R.H.K.J.: We appreciate Switzerland’s role here. Swiss companies are investing in Iran, and over the past 20 months the Swiss government has tried to work towards a humanitarian trade channel for pharmaceutical goods.  To achieve this goal, it has conducted extensive negotiations with the US government. However, the US is playing a hypocritical role, so unfortunately this has not yet ...

  • On impeachment, US senators are bound by oath to ‘do impartial justice’

    Thu, 16 Jan 2020 13:00:00 GMT

    Senators hearing US President Donald Trump’s upcoming impeachment trial should be guided by their oath of impartiality, not public opinion polls, argues Alexandra Dufresne, an American lawyer based in Zurich. A lot has been written about the impeachment proceedings against US President Donald Trump, including in Swiss media. In general, the reporting and commentary has been thoughtful. However, there is an important Constitutional issue frequently overlooked or underemphasized: the special oath that each senator must take before participating in the impeachment trial in the Senate. This oath goes to the heart of American Constitutional structure and the rule of law. The primacy of the oath In the United States, members of the House of Representatives and the Senate take an oath of office, pursuant to Article VI of the US Constitution. In this oath, they swear (or affirm) to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic. . . .

  • Putin risks ‘political fossilisation’, say Swiss papers

    Thu, 16 Jan 2020 10:28:00 GMT

    A day after Russian President Vladimir Putin proposed constitutional changes to extend his grip on power, Swiss newspapers reckon that whatever role Putin ends up taking, Russians on the street are unlikely to enjoy more democracy.  “On the surface, the constitutional change could be a step towards more democracy. However, it’s unlikely,” wrote the Tages-Anzeiger in Zurich. “Democratic mechanisms have been systematically dismantled under Putin’s rule: society, political parties or political institutions are not geared towards pluralism. The fact that the Kremlin leader now divides his absolute power among several instances could be due to the influence of the various power cliques, whose interests he has so far always skilfully balanced.”  On Wednesday Putin, 67, proposed constitutional changes that would give him scope to extend his grip on power after leaving the presidency. He also picked a new prime minister – Mikhail Mishustin, the head of the Federal Tax Service with ...

  • ‘No to an initiative that is dictatorial, costly and not focused on real needs’

    Thu, 16 Jan 2020 10:00:00 GMT

    The initiative on more social housing is not in keeping with real economic or environmental needs, says Fabio Regazzi. In the view of the Christian Democratic parliamentarian, it would mean burdensome costs for the middle class. On February 9 we will be called upon to vote on the people’s initiative "More affordable housing". Though its intentions are good, the solutions this initiative proposes are too rigid, and it is likely to have a boomerang effect on the housing market. The first question we have to ask is if we in Switzerland need to set the quota for social housing at 10% of all housing built - an increase of three times what it is now. A country based on a federalist structure like ours, which has to make room for varying situations, approaches and customs, has always had a hard time with quotas, percentages, maximum or minimum limits, imposed from above and made uniform for the whole country. This 10% quota would inevitably mean government intervention on a large ...

  • ‘Yes to an initiative promoting moderately-priced housing’

    Thu, 16 Jan 2020 10:00:00 GMT

    The free market in Switzerland has built housing units that remain empty because they are too expensive, or in out-of-the-way places, says Marina Carobbio Guscetti. The Social Democrat senator believes that the initiative "More affordable housing" will fix these problems. It will help the middle class and the less well-off. Apart from health insurance premiums, rent is the biggest item in many family budgets. Since 2005, in spite of lower interest rates and a high vacancy rate, rents have gone up 18.8% according to the available statistics. On February 9, Swiss voters will have an opportunity to change this situation. Following parliament’s rejection of the people’s initiative from the Swiss Tenants’ Association for "More affordable housing" without any counter-proposal, there will now be a nationwide ballot on the need to promote the building of social housing and free the rental market from the grip of speculation. In the wrong place, or too highly priced There is more ...

  • Is the Léman Express on the right track with passengers?

    Fri, 17 Jan 2020 10:00:00 GMT

    One month after the spectacular launch of the Léman Express, swissinfo.ch jumps aboard to gauge public interest in the new cross-border regional rail network between Switzerland and France.            On a sun-drenched platform at Geneva Cornavin, the city’s main train station, Jean-Marc taps away on his phone.  “Today, the Léman Express allowed me to arrive at my business meeting on time,” says the Geneva resident, who claims it cuts 15 minutes off his usual journey. For now, he uses the regional line to get around the city but, in the future, he says he’ll use it to travel to Annemasse, just over the French border, south of the city.  “Before, I used to take the car, but the train is now much more practical,” he adds. A little further down the platform, Monique, a childminder, waits for the next train with a young boy she is looking after.  “This afternoon we’re going for a ride on the train. He loves it,” she explains. Today, they are sticking to the Swiss side, ...

  • What Switzerland should consider when tracking cyber incidents

    Fri, 17 Jan 2020 13:00:00 GMT

    As rapid technological developments and digitalisation of infrastructure raise the stakes for cybersecurity, Swiss attorney and technology law expert Florian Roth offers perspective on questions the Swiss legislator still needs to answer in connection with the tracking of and response to cyber incidents.   There is currently no general requirement for companies to report cybersecurity breaches in Switzerland. In December, the Federal government signalled that it is considering the introduction of such a duty for providers of critical infrastructure, raising a host of questions about what such a reporting duty could look like in practice. Many countries in the EU including Germany and Austria have introduced obligations for certain companies to report cybersecurity incidents, recognising the vital role network and IT systems play in the modern economy and society. In fact, one of the corner stones of the EU’s cybersecurity framework is a duty of operators of so-called ...

  • Why most Swiss buildings are environmentally inefficient

    Wed, 15 Jan 2020 09:36:00 GMT

    Buildings account for about a quarter of annual carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in Switzerland. But progress on making them more efficient has been slow, despite state subsidies.  “At first I only planned to replace the doors and windows of the house,” explains Luca Berini, the owner of a detached house near Lugano in southern Switzerland.  “But when I learned that I’m eligible for state subsidies I decided on a complete refurbishment. It is important to be environmentally friendly.”  Thick layers of rock wool insulation, triple glazing, an automatic ventilation system and the replacement of the gas heating with a thermal pump have transformed the 55-year-old building into a modern home. The renovation increased the value of the property by 30-40%, says Berini, who is surprised to learn that he is a rare exception in Switzerland.  Buildings use about 40% of the energy consumed in Switzerland every year, and account for over 25% of all CO2 emissions. They produce more ...

  • Should the Swiss National Bank invest in fossil fuels?

    Wed, 15 Jan 2020 15:50:00 GMT

    In Lausanne this week, climate activists won a first battle against financial institutions investing in fossil fuels. The environmentalists’ targets include not only private banks like Credit Suisse, but also the Swiss National Bank (SNB).  The SNB has accumulated foreign exchange reserves of more than CHF800 billion ($830 billion) and is now one of the world’s leading institutional investors. It contributes to the prosperity of the Alpine nation and its inhabitants not only through its monetary policy, but also through its billion-dollar profits, part of which are paid out each year to federal and cantonal authorities.  However, not everyone agrees with how the central bank generates profits.  For example, more than 100,000 people have signed a people’s initiative that wants to ban the SNB and pension funds from investing in companies that produce war materiel.  For climate activists, however, the bank’s participation in the fossil fuel market is most problematic. According ...

  • Swiss franc climbs after US adds it to ‘manipulation’ watchlist

    Wed, 15 Jan 2020 12:57:00 GMT

    The US Treasury has called on the Swiss government to cut taxes and spend more public money, after it added the country to a watchlist of those it accuses of currency manipulation. The Swiss franc nudged up to a near three-year high against the euro on Tuesday as markets anticipated the move would limit the Swiss National Bank’s appetite for aggressive action to try to hold down its currency in future. “The report is a warning shot to the SNB,” said George Saravelos, global co-head of currency research at Deutsche Bank, adding that the franc is likely to push higher from here. It now trades around CHF1.08 against the euro. The US called on Bern on Monday to “more forcefully support domestic economic activity” by spending money and reducing the country’s already low tax burden, in what was an unusual swipe at a sovereign nation’s financial affairs. “Despite borrowing costs for the Swiss government being among the lowest in the world, fiscal policy remains underutilised, even ...

  • A tale of passports, profiteers and escaping Nazi persecution

    Tue, 14 Jan 2020 13:00:00 GMT

    An exhibit in Basel is shining light on a little-known moment during the Second World War when an underground network in Switzerland secured Latin American passports for European Jews trying to escape persecution. After Adolf Hitler came to power in Germany, thousands of Jews fled abroad, with many heading to the United States, Palestine and Latin America. Starting in 1938, as most countries were closing their borders to Jewish refugees, it became critical for those still seeking an escape to secure certain passports and visas. The exhibit ‘Passports, profiteers, police: A Swiss war secret’ is taking place at the Jewish Museum of Switzerland in Basel, in collaboration with the Contemporary History Archives Service of the federal technology institute ETH Zurich.  “When the Nazi persecution began in Germany in 1938, my office was literally flooded by Jews who hoped to save their loved ones by getting a visa for the Republic of Paraguay,” Rudolf Hügli, a notary in Bern and ...

  • Finding biological parents abroad is an uphill struggle for adoptees

    Tue, 14 Jan 2020 10:00:00 GMT

    International adoptees in Switzerland face legal hurdles, slow-moving bureaucracy and cultural resistance when trying to trace their origins in faraway lands.    Beena Makhijani doesn’t look forward to birthdays. The youthful-looking 41-year-old, who lives near Zurich, is not scared of growing old.    “I feel strange on my birthday as it is the day I was given away as a baby,” she told swissinfo.ch.    Her Indian mother gave her up for adoption the day she was born. Five months later she was handed over by the adoption agency to her adoptive parents – an Indian man married to a Swiss woman – who were living in India at the time. The family moved back to Switzerland shortly after and two years later Makhijani was formally adopted in her new country. She always knew she was adopted.    “When I was very little I saw a pregnant woman and asked my mother to explain why she looked so different. She told me the woman had a baby in her belly. I asked her if I was like that too and she ...

  • Swiss schools stand by their ski camps

    Mon, 13 Jan 2020 10:00:00 GMT

    It’s been a tradition that children in Switzerland spend at least one week of their schooling years in the snow. Despite some recent pushback, schools appear set to continue the tradition for as long as there is enough snow. “Today we no longer talk about ‛ski’ camps but ‛snow-sports camps’, Tobias Fankhauser of the Swiss Federal Office of Sports (FOSPO) explains. During most of these school trips to the mountains, the children can also try snowboarding, cross-country skiing or even ski jumping. But the principle remains the same: for five days, teachers and pupils have a chance to get to know each other in a different light, away from the formality and structure of the classroom. In the Federal Office’s view, the camps “provide young people with a positive experience that boosts their social skills and their development.” The children generally come away with happy memories of their time at camp: of bonding with their classmates, hanging out in the dormitories and spending fun ...

  • Why Vitol boss will ‘kick butts’ to boost performance

    Tue, 14 Jan 2020 09:24:00 GMT

    If Vitol chief executive Russell Hardy’s sole focus were the company’s profit and loss account, he would have little to worry about: the world’s biggest independent oil trader is on course to post another bumper set of results that promise windfall bonuses for its top staff. But, as Hardy completes his first full financial year in charge of the London-headquartered group, which trades almost as much oil as Saudi Arabia exports each day, the 54-year-old engineer is wrestling with two challenges that could define his tenure beyond his ability to keep the Vitol money machine humming. First, the privately owned company has been implicated in a long-running bribery scandal in Brazil, alongside a host of other oil traders and shippers, at a time when the once-secretive world of commodity trading is already coming under increasing regulatory scrutiny. Then, in the background, slowly chipping away at confidence across the entire oil industry, is the attempt to decarbonise the world ...

  • Inside Geneva: What kind of year will it be for the UN?

    Sun, 12 Jan 2020 11:00:00 GMT

    From US tensions with Iran to wildfires in Australia, 2020 has gotten off to an intense and challenging start for the world.  How will the United Nations handle these and other issues coming up this year? And what does the future hold for the international organization?  As part of our Inside Geneva series, host Imogen Foulkes joins UN representative Véronique Neiss as well as New York Times journalist Nick Cumming-Bruce and analyst Daniel Warner for a look at the year ahead. Subscribe to this podcast, The Swiss Connection, for example on Apple Podcasts, PlayerFM or Spotify to ensure that you don’t miss the next episode.

  • Sweating for polenta

    Mon, 13 Jan 2020 14:16:31 GMT

    Hitting the gym after the holiday feasting is a classic. An engineer has found a way to make this sweaty undertaking a little bit more interesting. In its one-room fitness centre located near the train station in Bern, there’s only place for four people at a time. Instead of mirrors and plastic plants, the space is filled with buckets and containers. The fitness machines are connected to grinders and presses. Thomas Wieland recovered the equipment from a second-hand shop and used straps and bike chains to upgrade them. People training at the “Gmües-Esel”, the “Veggie-Donkey”, can easily see the results of their workout through a plexiglas sheet. By pedalling on a stationary bike, gym-goers transform maize into polenta flour or rapeseed oil. During the winter season almost a ton of flour is ground. People can take the fruits of their labour home while the rest is turned into bread sold at the market. The machines can also be used to ground nuts, flax seeds, and wheat. The gym is ...

  • Haiti ten years on: the lasting benefits of Swiss donations and aid

    Sun, 12 Jan 2020 09:00:00 GMT

    On January 12, 2010, an earthquake devastated Haiti. The death toll remains unknown. Swiss aid agencies worked to provide water and rebuild homes, among other things. In most cases this work is still having a positive impact, according to humanitarian foundation Swiss Solidarity.  “When I arrived in Port-au-Prince, the extent of the damage, the broken houses and buildings left me speechless,” recalls Eric Chevallier, programme officer for Central America and Haiti at Swiss NGO Helvetas since 2010.  The earthquake destroyed 80% of the capital and claimed an estimated 200,000-500,000 lives.  Swiss Solidarity launched a national appeal for donations, raising some CHF66 million ($68 million). By 2018, just under CHF63 million of this had been spent on 91 projects implemented by 21 partner relief organisations, including Helvetas.  In the Petit-Goâve region, Helvetas took care of restoring the catchment area of several springs “to guarantee access to high-quality drinking water”, ...

  • Myanmar: the UN body is building up, and watching

    Sat, 11 Jan 2020 13:00:00 GMT

    The latest evidence-gathering body, located in Geneva, is for Myanmar. It is one of the United Nations’ “International, Impartial, Investigative Mechanisms”. How is this new body progressing and what can be expected of it? JusticeInfo asked Nicholas Koumjian, the head of the Mechanism. The Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar (IIMM) seeks to collect and preserve evidence, as well as prepare files for future cases before criminal courts. It was set up by the United Nations while other accountability options were lacking. But Myanmar is now facing a barrage of attempts to make it face justice for an alleged genocide against its Rohingya people. The International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague has approved an investigation, rights groups in Argentina are bringing a case under the principle of universal jurisdiction, and the small West African state of Gambia has just brought a high-profile case before the International Court of Justice (ICJ).  Nicholas Koumjian, head ...

  • A Nigerian with a dream becomes a priest in Switzerland

    Sat, 11 Jan 2020 10:00:00 GMT

    As a child in rural Nigeria, Gerald Chukwudi Ani had to assume a man’s role at the age of five. He struggled to realise his dream and follow his religious calling, but now he is a Catholic priest in Switzerland. During a soccer match, one of his team-mates sent him a deft pass in the penalty area. The 15-year-old Gerald could have kept the ball in front of him and taken a shot at goal. He would surely have scored and gone on to a promising career in football. But instead he tried a hair-raising overhead kick and fell heavily to the ground, injuring his back. This injury, as it turned out, put an end to football, but made room for God in his life. So begins the story of Father Gerald, whom I meet at Saint Christopher’s parish in Grancia, a village near Lugano, in the southern canton of Ticino. He greets me with a smile that stays on his face as we talk.  Now aged forty-five, he seems to remember every detail of his childhood in Nigeria and his later life in Europe, including ...

  • Nestlé struggles to win over baby formula critics

    Fri, 10 Jan 2020 10:00:00 GMT

    For Nestlé, the Swiss food and beverage giant, diversifying its formula milk offerings harbours great promise. But industry critics are sceptical. Weeks into his life, Lindsay Beeson’s son developed a rash, had blood in his nappies and suffered from diarrhoea and vomiting. Doctors determined he was allergic to cow milk. Beeson, like countless other mothers in her situation, eliminated milk in her own diet and supplemented her breastmilk with hypoallergenic infant formula. When her son turned one, he moved on to a specially formulated milk for toddlers with allergies. “I knew that with this he was getting the right balance of protein, fat and vitamins, just like cow’s milk,” she told swissinfo.ch. “And my son liked the taste.” For big nutrition conglomerates like Nestlé, products like these, targeted at older babies with allergies, special dietary needs or simply picky eaters, are the next frontier in infant nutrition offerings. “We want to address all babies, not just ...

  • Who is Trump’s Swiss postman in Tehran?

    Fri, 10 Jan 2020 10:43:00 GMT

    With the US and Iran this week on the verge of war, they nevertheless exchanged messages via the Swiss embassy in Tehran, headed by Ambassador Markus Leitner. He is the man in charge of implementing Switzerland’s “protecting power” mandates for both countries in conflict. Ambassador Markus Leitner has been in post for more than two years and is well placed to ensure that diplomatic professionalism is maintained in the current heated climate. Switzerland's work as a messenger between Washington and Tehran is kept highly confidential, in order to maintain the trust of the two sides. Again this week, the foreign ministry in Bern would say only that there had been an exchange of messages between the enemy countries. Leitner told the Neue Zürcher Zeitung newspaper in September that since the US withdrew from the nuclear agreement with Iran in 2018, the protecting power mandate had been giving him more work. It was taking up to 50% of his work time, he said, and now that may well be more.

  • How should we regulate the magic of technology in the 2020s?

    Fri, 10 Jan 2020 13:00:00 GMT

    Digital technologies offer huge potential to enhance the human experience, yet as we enter 2020 serious questions must be resolved over future digital governance, especially in the field of artificial intelligence, writes Jovan Kurbalija, executive director of DiploFoundation and head of the Geneva Internet Platform.  As the new decade dawns, the promise of technology seems endless. The horizon is unlimited. Beyond it, the sky looks blue. Now more than ever tech looks like a kind of magic, carrying us above old limitations and beyond the predicaments of the here and now. The analogy is nothing new: as [science fiction writer, futurist and inventor] Arthur C. Clarke said, ‘any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.’  But as Clarke knew all too well, technological progress brings serious challenges as well. To meet them we must be careful in how we frame the digital story we tell, and I want to suggest that thinking more deeply about the analogy of ...

  • Swiss Lotto – creating and dashing dreams for half a century

    Fri, 10 Jan 2020 10:30:00 GMT

    Exactly 50 years ago the first national lottery draw took place in Switzerland, with players of Swiss Lotto having to choose six correct numbers out of 40 to win a top prize of CHF200,000. Since then 962 millionaires have been made.  Of course there have many, many more non-winners, but their losses have gone towards good causes: over the past 50 years around CHF6 billion ($6.2 billion) has been invested in charitable projects in the areas of culture, sport, nature and society, lottery company Swisslos said on Thursday.  What got the lottery ball rolling in Switzerland was the fact that more and more Swiss were nipping over the border to try their luck on the German lottery.  To ensure that the first official draw went off without a hitch on January 10, 1970, various test runs were held at the television studio in Zurich.  The “6 out of 40” formula (to win the top prize) lasted for nine years, changing in April 1979 to “6 out of 42” and a jackpot. Various tweaks and ...

  • Crypto determined to emerge from the shadows

    Fri, 10 Jan 2020 10:19:00 GMT

    Global politicians, regulators, financiers and technology pioneers will soon be gathering in Switzerland for the World Economic Forum. This has not been lost on the blockchain and crypto industry, which is redoubling efforts to engage with policy makers. Next week’s Crypto Finance Conference (CfC), in the up-market ski resort of St Moritz, has positioned itself to attract such big-hitters, days before they attend the annual WEF summit in nearby Davos. Initially conceived as a match-making platform between deep-pocketed investors and blockchain start-ups, the third edition of CfC has now broadened its scope.  Cameron and Tyler Winkelvoss, the US billionaire bitcoin twins, are undoubtedly the star attraction, but the guest list also includes representatives from central banks, financial regulators and government advisors. “If we only invited crypto enthusiasts then we would just hear a self-fulfilling prophesy that crypto is great and here to stay,” CfC CEO Nicolo Stöhr told me.

  • The provocateur beating a path towards equality

    Thu, 9 Jan 2020 13:00:00 GMT

    Last October, Swiss citizens elected the most female parliament in the country's history. Although parity has not yet been reached, women now account for 42% of members of the House of Representatives. To mark this shift, swissinfo.ch is presenting profiles of eight newly-elected parliamentarians from different parties. Tamara Funiciello, the outspoken former head of the young socialists in Switzerland, entered parliament with a bang last October. Will the 29-year-old be able to inject some radicalism into slow-moving Swiss politics? The Wifag factory in Bern, once a thriving hub producing print machinery and employing over 1,000 workers, now stands empty. Only the regular clatter of the nearby Zurich train line breaks the silent obsolescence. For newly elected Social Democrat parliamentarian Funiciello, it’s a personal and a political place. When the plant closed its doors in 2011, her father Remigio was one of hundreds that were let go – a defining moment for the ...

  • The Iranian paradox: a regional powerhouse but weak at home 

    Thu, 9 Jan 2020 12:33:00 GMT

    The United States’ killing of Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani has not diminished Iran’s regional power, but internally the regime faces an impasse, according to a Geneva-based Iran expert.  On Wednesday, the US and Iran appeared to have backed away from the brink of further conflict in the Middle East. President Donald Trump signalled that the US would not respond militarily to Iran’s missile attacks on bases housing American troops in Iraq, an act of retaliation for the January 3 US drone strike that killed Soleimani.  Mohammad-Reza Djalili, honorary professor of international relations at the Geneva Graduate Institute, gives his analysis of the current situation facing the Iranian regime and the wider Middle East due to the rising tensions.  swissinfo.ch: Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei described the firing of more than a dozen missiles against Iraqi military bases hosting US-led coalition personnel as a “slap on the face” of the US. But he said such action ...

  • Homophobia: a crime or a matter of opinion?

    Thu, 9 Jan 2020 10:00:00 GMT

    Is discrimination against homosexuals acceptable? That is a question to be answered by Swiss voters next month. Ultra-conservative groups have forced a vote to combat a new piece of legislation which makes homophobia a crime – they see it as an attack on freedom of speech. LGBTIQ campaigners have gone on the defensive. In Switzerland, young lesbians, gays and bisexuals are two to five times more likely to attempt suicide than heterosexuals. Figures from the group “Gay Health” emphasise the extent of the problem. These young people are also victims of many instances of aggression and homophobic verbal abuse, as the media regularly report. Most countries in Europe now have legislation on the matter. France, Austria, Denmark and the Netherlands have found a place for homophobia in their criminal code. Switzerland, however, has no legislation affording protection to LGBTIQ (lesbians, gays, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex) as a community. A clause in the Swiss Criminal Code ...

  • Is Iran’s nuclear deal dead?

    Wed, 8 Jan 2020 15:48:00 GMT

    Geneva-based arms proliferation expert Marc Finaud says Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers remains intact despite rising tensions between Iran and the United States.   Tensions between Washington and Tehran have escalated following the US killing of top Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani in a drone strike on January 3 in Baghdad.  Iran responded on Monday by firing more than a dozen ballistic missiles against Iraqi military bases hosting US-led coalition personnel.  Friction between Iran and the United States has risen since Washington withdrew in 2018 from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear deal between Tehran and other world powers, achieved in 2015 with Swiss support. The US has imposed new economic sanctions on Iran, and Tehran said on Sunday it was dropping all limitations on uranium enrichment, its latest step back from commitments under the deal.  Former French diplomat Marc Finaud of the Geneva Centre for Security Policy told the press ...

  • How ‘messenger’ Switzerland deals with the US and Iran

    Tue, 7 Jan 2020 15:17:00 GMT

    As tensions rise between the United States and Iran, Switzerland’s role as intermediary between the two countries has returned to the spotlight. But why is neutral Switzerland getting involved?  On Sunday the Swiss envoy representing US interests in Tehran was summoned by Iranian authorities in protest over threats made by US President Donald Trump on Twitter. Trump said the US would target Iranian sites if Tehran attacked American citizens or assets in retaliation for the killing of military commander Qasem Soleimani.  Iran has threatened revenge after the US confirmed on Friday that Trump had ordered the strike against the head of the Iranian elite Quds force.  The Swiss foreign ministry confirmed a meeting had been held “under the protective power mandate” and said the contents of the discussion were “confidential”. Switzerland has exercised a protecting power mandate for the US in Iran since 1980. Washington broke off relations with Tehran in 1980 over the hostage crisis ...

  • How a Swiss programme is teaching online privacy to children

    Wed, 8 Jan 2020 10:00:00 GMT

    Swiss data protection officials say children as young as four years old should be taught about data security and privacy - even before they start to use the internet. The Canton of Zurich recently released what could be the world’s first set of educational materials on data security and privacy for kindergartens and younger primary school pupils. The project wants to teach children to distinguish between secrets that they can share from others – and those that they can’t. The aim: instill an understanding of young children’s right to privacy. The makers of the syllabus said that a conversation about privacy with children was long overdue. And that it should go much further. For them, it is a first step in defending democracy from the threats of surveillance and disinformation. Educators need to make these highly complex issues relatable to young children. “We have to think about what kind of secrets kids might have at this age,” said Jürg Fraefel, the director of the Digital ...

  • ‘The Charlie Hebdo spirit has completely disappeared’

    Tue, 7 Jan 2020 12:09:00 GMT

    French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo survived the attack that decimated its editorial office in Paris on January 7, 2015. But the “Charlie spirit” is dead, says Swiss press cartoonist Thierry Barrigue with the bitter observation that “Fear has triumphed”. In the aftermath of the carnage that killed 12 members of the editorial staff of Charlie Hebdo – as well as five others – the expression “I am Charlie” became a motto to defend freedom of expression. But this moment of ephemeral communion quickly passed, strangled by the dictates of the internet and the difficulties of the press. Thierry Barrigue, the founder of Vigousse, a satirical weekly in French-speaking Switzerland, is worried about the future of press cartoons. swissinfo.ch: Five years after the Charlie Hebdo attacks, has the cartoonist profession changed? Thierry Barrigue: Yes, the profession has changed enormously. Beyond the loss of these friends and their irreplaceable talent in the attacks, the press cartoon took ...

  • Do the Swiss need at least 10% social housing?

    Tue, 7 Jan 2020 09:19:00 GMT

    Opinions are divided about a Swiss proposal to promote housing owned by the state or non-profit groups. Supporters argue it helps curb speculation while opponents warn of excessive regulations.  The issue will come to a nationwide vote on February 9, alongside a referendum about a law which makes homophobia a crime. It is the first of up to four nationwide ballots in Switzerland this year. The context Switzerland is known as a “nation of tenants”. At the end of 2017, 59% of households nationally, that is, 2.2 million of them, were living in rented accommodation, according to figures provided by the Federal Statistics Office. This rate varies quite a bit from canton to canton: it turned out to be anything from 39% in Valais to 84% in the city of Basel. In the main urban centres, the price of residential property can be pretty astronomical, and only a small proportion of the population can think of owning its own apartment. Rents are the biggest single item in the average Swiss ...

  • The WTO’s 25 years of achievement and challenges

    Tue, 7 Jan 2020 12:30:00 GMT

    As the World Trade Organization (WTO) marks its 25th anniversary, Director-General Roberto Azevêdo reflects on the organisation’s achievements and on the formidable challenges it faces in the coming years. Over this past quarter century, the WTO has helped transform international economic relations. Binding rules for global trade in goods and services have facilitated dramatic growth in cross-border business activity. Since 1995, the dollar value of world trade has nearly quadrupled, while the real volume of world trade has expanded by 2.7 times. This far outstrips the two-fold increase in world gross domestic product (GDP) over that period. Average tariffs have almost halved, from 10.5% to 6.4%. For the dozens of economies that joined the WTO after its creation, accession involved far-reaching reforms and market-opening commitments that research suggests have been associated with a lasting boost to national income.   The predictable market conditions fostered by the WTO ...

  • Why are there no school uniforms in Switzerland?

    Mon, 6 Jan 2020 10:00:00 GMT

    A look into any Swiss school playground will tell you: there are no school uniforms. Unless of course you count jeans, hoodies and trainers. Why? In fact, the only place you will really find school uniforms are in elite private schools, such as the Lemania-Verbier international school into which the Danish Royals Frederick and Mary have enrolled their four children for a 12 weeks, starting on January 6 (grey trousers, white polo shirt). The uniform topic periodically comes up though. In spring 2019 the Valais cantonal parliament roundly rebuffed a motion for the canton’s state (public) pupils to wear school uniforms – education is the responsibility of the cantons in Switzerland – arguing that it would be “a step backwards” and that pupils were already subject to rules on acceptable clothing. Historical reasons “School uniforms are mostly found in Anglo-Saxon countries, former British colonies, and Asian countries. Switzerland never had school uniforms in public schools, so ...

  • V-Cableway: Grindelwald's construction controversy

    Mon, 6 Jan 2020 10:00:00 GMT

    The Jungfrau Region is a tourist area attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors each year, to ski, to hike or just to gawk at majestic mountaintops. Alpinist Dan Moore writes that a large-scale development project could mean the death of the last vestiges of the untouched landscape surrounding the world famous Eiger North Face. Construction of the V-Bahn (or V-Cableway) project is well underway in the area. When completed, the two new cableways will start from the same valley station then lead off up the mountain in different directions, hence the V. One will replace the out-dated Männlichenbahn, and a second, the “Eiger Express”, to cart tourists faster than ever before up to the Jungfraujoch – a mountain station that is a tourist magnet due to its lofty position at the top of the Alp’s longest glacier. But 'Far away …from ordinary'. I pause the V-Cableway's advertisement video and read the words again. You'd think that a project expected to cost half a billion Swiss ...

  • Science and diplomacy hope to save Red Sea coral

    Sun, 5 Jan 2020 10:00:00 GMT

    Corals are our underwater forest, supporting a whole ecosystem. But they are fast disappearing due to global warming. Swiss and Israeli scientists have discovered that corals in the Red Sea are more resistant to climate change.  Now Switzerland is leading a project aimed at bringing scientists from the Red Sea countries together to help save the corals. Subscribe to this podcast, The Swiss Connection, for example on Apple Podcasts, PlayerFM or Spotify to ensure that you don’t miss the next episode.

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