Top news from our partner swissinfo

  • Ethical food proposals brushed off the table

    Sun, 23 Sep 2018 15:26:00 GMT

    Voters have thrown out two proposals aimed at promoting ethical standards in food production and boosting local farming in Switzerland. But the government's agriculture policy will continue to be on the political agenda. Official final results show the 'Food Sovereignty' initiative and the 'Fair Food' initiative winning only about 32% and 39% of the vote respectively. The initiatives were supported in French-language regions of the country and in urban centres, while the majority in German- and Italian-speaking Switzerland voted against the initiatives.  The campaigners conceded defeat, saying the "scaremongering" by the government and political parties had had an impact. They argued problems for Swiss farmers would persist, but the public debate had raised public awareness of food and agricultural issues.  The two government ministers in charge of food safety and of agriculture, Alain Berset and Johann Schneider-Ammann, welcomed the outcome of Sunday's vote, saying it was a ...

  • Bikes coast into Swiss constitution with clear voter support

    Sun, 23 Sep 2018 14:38:00 GMT

    Almost three-quarters of Swiss voters have approved a proposal to enshrine cycling, and cycling infrastructure, in the country’s constitution. Four decades after walkers in Switzerland earned the privilege of a constitutional place – voters approved an article on the principles of maintaining footpaths and hiking trails in 1979 – cyclists are now set for equal treatment. Some 73.6% of voters said "yes" on Sunday to giving federal authorities more responsibility in coordinating and developing cycle paths nationwide. Turnout was 37.1%, below average, according to Federal Chancellery figures. All 26 cantons voted in favour, with Vaud coming out as most supportive (86.3% said yes), and Obwalden least keen (57.2%). The results surpassed the predictions of opinion polls carried out in the lead-up to the vote. Matthias Aebischer, a Social Democrat Party politician and president of the Pro Velo cycling lobby group, told Swiss public radio RTS he was "astonished" by the scale of the ...

  • Voters approve ‘burka ban’ in St Gallen

    Sun, 23 Sep 2018 11:58:00 GMT

    Face coverings have been banned in public in canton St Gallen in northeastern Switzerland. Two-thirds of voters agreed with the cantonal parliament and supported the so-called “burka ban”, which had been challenged by parties on the political left.  St Gallen thus becomes the second of Switzerland’s 26 cantons, after Ticino in 2016, to ban the burka. The Federal Council has rejected a vote on the issue at a national level.  Turnout on Sunday was 35.8%, with a total of 73,830 people – out of a canton of some 500,000 – backing the measure.  The rightwing Swiss People’s Party said it hoped the ban would have a preventative effect. Opponents spoke of “playing to the gallery”, pointing out it was already illegal to force a woman to wear a burka and that the law’s implementation would be “completely random”.  Cantonal police will now have the discretion to decide whether a person whose face is covered “threatens or endangers public safety or the religious or social peace”.  Legal ...

  • Bolivia, Syngenta and getting into a Swiss university

    Sun, 23 Sep 2018 10:00:00 GMT

    Here are some of the stories we'll be following the week of September 24: Monday Solomon Aklilu hasn’t got a job. But thanks to a government programme, he is able to do an internship and attend school. A portrait of the 24-year-old Eritrean, who has been living in Switzerland for three years and learning the roofing trade in Bern. Tuesday As part of a new business series, we look at what it’s like working for a Swiss multinational. This week we visit Syngenta - one of the largest agribusiness companies in the world. Jessica Davis Plüss travels to the firm’s headquarters in Basel to talk to employees. Wednesday In a new longform multimedia article, Luigi Jorio visits Bolivia, one of the poorest countries in Latin America, to find out how local communities are coping with climate change. Thursday How hard is it for international students to get admission into a Swiss university? Anand Chandrashekar breaks it down for you and compares the process with the ...

  • Annemarie Schwarzenbach: Winter's journey to the Near East

    Sat, 22 Sep 2018 09:00:00 GMT

    The Swiss writer and photographer, Annemarie Schwarzenbach, was considered a pioneer of travel photography. She led the life of a migrant, calling herself an "incurable traveller". In autumn 1933 she embarked on her first journey to the Near East, which took her to Turkey, Syria and Iraq, among other places. Schwarzenbach began her first journey to the East with the Orient Express to Istanbul. In Turkey she took her first pictures of local people before continuing her journey to Syria a couple of months later where she visited cities and saw the countryside. There followed stays in Lebanon, Palestine, and Iraq as well as Persia, today's Iran. During this winter journey, which lasted several months, she struggled through mountain ranges in her car, and used her camera to document numerous places that are off limits to today's foreign travellers, such as Baghdad and Aleppo. Here is Schwarzenbach's itinerary of the most important places: ​​​​​​​In April 1934 Schwarzenbach ...

  • From CEO salaries to alleged Russian spies

    Sat, 22 Sep 2018 07:00:00 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 800 The number of people from the village of Rheinau near Zurich who have signed up for an unconditional basic income experimental project. Participants will receive an unconditional basic income of CHF2,500 per month for one year. Filmmaker Rebecca Panian is planning a documentary about how the project affects the town on the Rhine River in northern Switzerland. Tuesday 3,500 The age of an extremely rare Bronze-Age golden artifact presented to the public, which came from an ancient burial site in northwestern Switzerland. Police appear to be investigating whether any artifacts were unlawfully taken from the site. A bronze dagger, needle and hair spiral, along with bones of a human male that date from around 1,500 BC to 1,400 BC were also found. Wednesday 18 ...

  • Why expatriate Swiss seldom vote

    Fri, 21 Sep 2018 15:00:00 GMT

    More than half of the Swiss electorate do not take part in national elections. Turnout among the Swiss Abroad is particularly low.  Paradoxically, direct democracy is one of the biggest reasons for low turnout in elections to elect parliamentary representatives, as the Swiss can vote on various policy issues in initiatives and referendums up to four times a year.  This reduces the significance of national elections. In a survey, the second-most cited reason given by those who stayed away from such elections was that referendums and initiatives offer a greater opportunity to wield influence. This is reinforced by the fact that the Swiss government is very stable compared with many other democracies, and that all the big parties are represented in the cabinet. In short, federal elections in Switzerland are just not seen as that important.  Given that there are usually four votes on referendums and initiatives every year, generally people devote more time to political issues than ...

  • Globi: the cartoon character explaining democracy to kids

    Fri, 21 Sep 2018 09:00:00 GMT

    Consensus government, division of powers, federal constitution: all frightening words for children. But now, a new book – and a popular animated character – tries to explain to the young how democracy functions in Switzerland. It’s difficult to explain the Swiss political system to children. Anyone who has tried has probably been met by blank looks; many children see politics as something belonging firmly in the adult world. How can we make children enthusiastic about politics? “By telling them a story and taking them on a journey through Switzerland with a familiar and popular children’s comic character,” says Marc Zollinger, the author of recently-published ‘Globi and Democracy’. Ambassador for democracy Globi, who is half person and half parrot, was conceived as a character to advertise the department-store chain Globus more than 80 years ago. The blue bird character quickly conquered the hearts of Swiss children with his comic books. And he still does today. With his ...

  • Swiss journalism icon took his own life 25 years ago

    Fri, 21 Sep 2018 13:00:00 GMT

    Swiss journalist and intellectual Niklaus Meienberg, who was particularly well respected in German-speaking Switzerland, ended his own life 25 years ago.   After studying history at the University of Fribourg and Zurich, Niklaus Meienberg became a journalist. He went first to Paris, where he covered the start of May 1968 events and the rise of the French politician François Mitterrand. His Paris years helped to seal his reputation. Meienberg’s articles, which were popular with the public, appeared in leading newspapers such as Weltwoche, Tages-Anzeiger and Ostschweiz. Returning to Switzerland, he became a real icon of journalism thanks to his reporting. But he was deliberately controversial, also making enemies by attacking the establishment. This is the case, for example, with his damning portrait of the reigning prince of Liechtenstein or of Ulrich Wille, the general who led the Swiss army during the First World War. His polemic writing meant that he was no longer published ...

  • When children forced to marry stay married

    Thu, 20 Sep 2018 08:43:00 GMT

    Marriages involving minors must be annulled, according to Swiss law. However, exceptions are permitted if it seems to be in the child’s best interests. This provision must be done away with to combat forced marriages more effectively, says lawyer Anu Sivaganesan. If a 16-year-old is already married upon arrival in Switzerland, the marriage can be recognized in consideration of the teen’s interests. Article 105 (6) of the Swiss Civil Code calls for marriages with a minor spouse to be annulled, unless “the continuation of the marriage is in the best interests of that spouse”. A motion by parliamentarian Natalie Rickli of conservative right Swiss People’s Party is calling for this exception to be removed. The National Bureau for Forced Marriage welcomes this request. Its president, Anu Sivaganesan, has been pointing out a legal loophole for years. swissinfo.ch: Why should the law on married minors be revised? Anu Sivaganesan: The law provides for a balancing of interests that ...

  • When it comes to day trippers, Lucerne tops Venice

    Thu, 20 Sep 2018 15:44:00 GMT

    Around nine million tourists visit the picturesque Swiss city of Lucerne every year. It's estimated that, when it comes to the number of day trippers per inhabitant, Lucerne has more than Venice. It's great for the economy, but a nuisance for local people, disturbed by coaches and people clogging the streets. Swiss newspaper, the NZZ, found that, with 9.4 million visitors compared to 81,000 inhabitants, the city has 116 day trippers per inhabitant. In Venice, with its 260,000 inhabitants and 25 million visitors per year, the figure is 96. It's hard to compare, considering the small area that tourists are most likely to visit. Looking at just the historic centre of Venice, with its 62,000 residents, the numbers look quite different again.  Swiss Public Television, RTS, carried out a similar survey and also found that Lucerne topped the 'tourist intensity' league compared with Rome, Barcelona, Paris and Venice. However, Vatican City, with a resident population of just 842, was not ...

  • ‘You can’t buy coffee with bitcoin, but you can start a company’

    Thu, 20 Sep 2018 09:00:00 GMT

    Dozens of blockchain startups have got off the ground in Switzerland using cryptoassets as their startup capital, circumnavigating banks. But the strategy is not without risk. swissinfo.ch has traced 60 firms that have stumped up the new brand of digital money to either set up or inject fresh capital into their enterprise. It is a particularly attractive option for companies that raised high volumes of cryptocurrencies through initial coin offering (ICO) fundraising rounds. For some firms, using cryptoassets rather than francs to cover the founding capital requirement is the perfect antidote to banks refusing to open business accounts. SwissCrypOne is a Zug-based trading platform that connects investors with a crypto mining operation in Finland. “We spent days going around every bank in the region with a begging bowl, but were rejected by them all,” CEO Bing Voorham told swissinfo.ch. “Without the option of bitcoin, we were struggling to get established in Crypto Valley.” ...

  • Swiss springboard for Bitmain’s European crypto expansion

    Thu, 20 Sep 2018 09:00:00 GMT

    The world’s largest producer of bitcoin mining hardware, Bitmain, tells swissinfo.ch why it has chosen Switzerland as a location from which to expand its European footprint from a newly created ‘fintech hub’.  Beijing headquartered Bitmain has cornered the market in producing specialist computer cards and other equipment to create - or ‘mine’ - bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. The incorporation of Bitmain Switzerland in Zug’s Crypto Valley last December therefore created a stir.  As the company seeks to expand globally, Switzerland’s central location, crypto-friendly political and regulatory sentiment and growing blockchain business cluster is the perfect springboard from which to develop the European market, explains Bernhard Müller, business development manager at Bitmain Switzerland. “We will help entrepreneurs get access to investments, so they can realise their blockchain projects,” he told swissinfo.ch. “We want to support and help grow the strong fintech ecosystem ...

  • Teen mum: I wouldn't change it for the world

    Thu, 20 Sep 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.  Nadja became pregnant at the age of 17. It was unplanned, but she decided to keep her child. It was a decision that changed the young woman's life - for the better, she says.   Nadja was already three months pregnant when she found out. For Nadja and her boyfriend, giving the baby up for adoption wasn't an option, they wanted to keep the baby. But this wasn't an easy decision for the young couple, Nadja says, as "in Switzerland there is almost no support for young mothers", adding "with child benefit of CHF220, I can barely buy enough nappies each month". Nevertheless, the 23-year-old doesn't regret her decision for a second: "My daughter is the best thing that ever happened to me. I wouldn't give her back for all the money in the world". (SRF, swissinfo.ch)

  • Swiss art sales set a steady, humble pace

    Wed, 19 Sep 2018 16:14:00 GMT

    ​​​​​​​ Giacometti paintings led an intense night of bidding at Christie’s annual auction of Swiss art in Zurich. Netting a total CHF5,369,500, the auction house also bucked the downward trend of Swiss art sales in the last few years. The auction attracted interest from clients from 20 countries (+50% on 2017) with an increase in registered bidders of 48% over the same sale last year. The number of new registrants also doubled. Many artworks fetched values far above their highest estimates while the auction also featured more contemporary pieces (see gallery below). Hans-Peter Keller, Impressionist and Modern Art specialist at Christie’s in Zurich, told swissinfo.ch that the demand for more contemporary works is an imperative, as “sooner or later the offer of traditional pieces will diminish considerably”. The numbers prove Keller right: according to artprice.com, since 2000, the share of contemporary art in global sales jumped from 3% to 15%, while 19th century and Old Masters ...

  • Six trend foods that grow in Switzerland

    Wed, 19 Sep 2018 08:34:00 GMT

    Crops once exclusive to South and Central America are now flourishing in Switzerland as the demand for unusual foods and those with specific health benefits grows. Here are six examples. 1. Quinoa can give you ideas Growing quinoa in Switzerland was the 2014 brainchild of Mirjam Lüthi, a Swiss agronomist who researched the crop and found it to be compatible with the Swiss climate and its soil. Quinoa has its origins in the Andean region of South America, where it’s been grown for thousands of years. Highly nutritious and healthy, quinoa is becoming increasingly popular in Switzerland. Only a handful of farmers started planting the crop in 2015, whereas in 2017, there were 34 producers planting 40 hectares. 2. One potato, sweet potato  After the common potato and manioc, sweet potato is one of the world’s most popular root and tuber plants. The sweet potato is native to Central America and is cultivated in over 100 countries. In 2014 the sweet potato trend first came onto ...

  • Wettstein – the first Swiss diplomat had the city of Basel in mind

    Wed, 19 Sep 2018 09:00:00 GMT

    It was 370 years ago that the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648) ended with the peace conference at Münster, Westphalia. Johann Rudolf Wettstein was the man of the hour for the Swiss Confederacy. Although Switzerland had largely been spared in the hostilities, there was a unique opportunity at the negotiating table to get clarity about things that Swiss are still concerned about: trade and the jurisdiction of foreign courts, power politics and the international status of the Confederacy. This was a herculean task that required a clever diplomat.  In 2018 we can commemorate two epoch-making peace treaties: the treaty of Versailles ending the First World War (1914-1918), and the treaty of Westphalia ending the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648). While Versailles has gone down in history as a miscalculation with eventually disastrous results, the Peace of Westphalia is considered today as one of the most useful and long-lasting agreements in European history. swissinfo.ch asked Andreas ...

  • Parts of US plane wreck pulled from glacier 70 years on

    Tue, 18 Sep 2018 15:00:00 GMT

    Parts of a wrecked US military plane have been recovered from melting glacier ice 70 years after it made an emergency landing in the Alps.  The Swiss Air Force says it has pulled out important parts of the American Dakota C-53, which landed on the Gauli Glacier in the Bernese Oberland in 1946. But not all the parts have come to the surface. The cockpit, for example, remains under the ice.  "We found an engine block with the propeller, some parts of the wing and a lot of small pieces, bits of sheet metal, wooden parts and also some blankets," Fritz Teuscher, head of the recovery team, told a press briefing on Monday.  Up to two tonnes of recovered material is being airlifted to the valley.  “The Americans have given the plane to the government,” said Teuscher. Some parts will be put on display in an exhibition at the tourist centre in the village of Innertkirchen.  On November 19, 1946, the Dakota came off course in fog before making a safe landing high in the Bernese Alps, ...

  • Why our cities aren’t as smart as they could be

    Tue, 18 Sep 2018 09:00:00 GMT

    We read about tech advances in energy all the time. But are low-consumption, high-efficiency ‘green’ technologies enough to create the kind of sustainable cities we’d like to live in? Passengers on bus line 23 of Geneva’s public transport operator TPG, which runs between the airport and municipality of Carouge, might not immediately notice anything out of the ordinary. Sure, the buses are remarkably clean, and so quiet all you can hear is the sound of tires on pavement. And, OK, a USB port built into one of the support bars (with the polite invitation to “charge your mobile device!”) is a bit unusual for a city bus. But what makes bus 23 truly unique happens so fast, you’ll miss it if you blink: every few stops, a mechanical arm extends from the roof of the vehicle – which is free of overhead lines – and hooks itself into an unassuming overhanging battery charging port, which could easily be mistaken for a street lamp. In the time it takes for passengers to step off and on the ...

  • Linking corporate taxation and pensions: a risky compromise

    Tue, 18 Sep 2018 08:47:00 GMT

    The Swiss Parliament has decided to link corporate tax reform (Tax Project 17) to the financing of old-age insurance. This is an unprecedented political manoeuvre that may not go down well with ordinary citizens.  The debate is closed: Parliament has completed its examination of Tax Project 17 and approved its link with the financing of the old age pensions. We look at what the fuss is all about.  What is Tax Project 17? Corporate tax reform is one of the most important issues facing the legislature today. Tax Project 17 (TP 17) is a new version of the third corporate tax reform, that was rejected by nearly 60% of voters in a referendum held on February 12, 2017. The objective of TP 17 remains the same: to comply with international requirements by eliminating special tax rebates for foreign companies, while retaining Switzerland's attractiveness as a low tax destination for all companies. FP 17 is therefore a second attempt at passing the failed tax reform measures by making ...

  • Why men can’t be rape victims in Switzerland

    Tue, 18 Sep 2018 09:00:00 GMT

    Swiss criminal law defines rape as assault during vaginal sexual intercourse with a woman, legally exempting men from the status of victims. A proposal wants a legal reform, forcing parliament to use explicit language. “Coercing a person of the female gender to endure sexual intercourse” is the Swiss definition for the crime of rape. If a man is raped anally or a woman is penetrated with an object, this is only considered a so called “sexual assault”. In both cases, courts can hand down maximum prison sentences of up to ten years against the offender, but a minimum sentence of 12 months is only applicable in the case of rape. As for sexual assault, offenders may only face a monetary fine because it includes a series of other forms of sexual assault considered less serious. Oral sex It is a particularity of Swiss law to distinguish between anal rape of a man and vaginal rape of a woman, legally speaking. Most other countries know much broader – and gender-neutral – definitions.

  • Pupils must remain in education until 18 in Geneva

    Tue, 18 Sep 2018 05:42:00 GMT

    Young people in Geneva now have to stay in education until they turn 18, which will see those with no post-school plans going back to school or starting an apprenticeship. The aim is to ensure that young people are not marginalised and are given an extra chance to finish their education, said Anne Emery-Torracinta, head of the Public Education department in canton Geneva. The initiative, which is unique in Switzerland, is pioneering in the fight against young people dropping out of school with no qualifications. Until now Geneva pupils could leave school at age 15. Every year 1,000 young people, of which 550 are under 18, break off their studies. They subsequently find themselves hovering close to the margins of society. Even if they have the support of their parents or can count on a series of casual jobs, they are four times more likely to find themselves long-term unemployed than their more qualified peers, experts say. Bottom of class Canton Geneva’s problem is a ...

  • Credit Suisse/Finma: the usual suspects

    Tue, 18 Sep 2018 06:52:00 GMT

    Who could ever have suspected it? Weak money-laundering defences at a Swiss bank, of all places. And in relation to Fifa and Petrobras, those beacons of moral probity. Thank heavens regulator Finma has shown how seriously Switzerland regards lapses at Credit Suisse. It has issued a press release. Enough sarcasm. European banking has a lucrative history of controls lax enough for money laundering and tax evasion to flourish. Tighter public morality is making this expensive for shareholders and bosses, as scandals at Danske and ING illustrate. Further trouble may be brewing. Finma has been probing several banks in relation to suspected corruption at Fifa, which runs world football, and to Petrobras of Brazil and Venezuela’s PDVSA. The regulator cannot levy fines. It can only demand reforms. It may be able to time announcements for best effect, however. If that applies here, Finma’s action against Credit Suisse may be the drum roll rather than the execution. Worse revelations ...

  • Nestlé: battle for the millennial coffee drinker

    Mon, 17 Sep 2018 15:00:00 GMT

    A reader asked us what Nestlé’s purchase of a majority stake in Blue Bottle Coffee in 2017 means for the California company’s local employees. After a busy month for coffee drinkers with Coca-Cola’s purchase of Costa Coffee, Starbucks’ first store in Italy, and comments by a Nestlé executive about the potential for Blue Bottle to work Europe, the future of the local, independent coffee shop is more uncertain than ever. The quaint, local coffee shop has been a fierce battleground of globalization for decades. The disappearance of the beloved independent coffee shop pushed out by big coffee chains became a symbol of what was wrong with capitalism and free markets. Today there is a new sort of coffee battle underway. Instead of pushing out local coffee shops, the behemoths are discreetly swallowing up smaller brands that have won fans among young, hip coffee drinkers in local urban markets. Case in point is Nestlé, which in 2017 bought Blue Bottle Coffee – a coffee roaster and ...

  • Swiss animation scene needs polish

    Mon, 17 Sep 2018 09:00:00 GMT

    The success of My Life as a Courgette, nominated for Best Animated Feature Film at the Oscars last year, raised the profile of animation in Switzerland, but there are still many hurdles to getting funding and distribution deals. At the recent Fantoche animation film festival in Baden, swissinfo.ch spoke to animators and producers about the evolution of the art form and the challenges it faces in a small alpine country, with limited funding and language barriers to overcome.  “Animation is wonderful. It can fly, it can do anything. That’s why it’s a bit difficult to apply the rules of traditional storytelling when deciding whether to fund it: other factors must also be taken into account.” Gabriela Bloch Steinmann, SRF  Film funding If you want to make a film in Switzerland, you will spend months, if not years trying to organise financing. Nevertheless, more and more films are being made and funding has increased correspondingly.  Two of the major contributors to film funding ...

  • Tezos blockchain platform finally goes live

    Mon, 17 Sep 2018 06:14:00 GMT

    The blockchain project Tezos has put its past problems behind it by launching the platform fully live on Monday. Tezos raised $232 million from the public in July 2017, but corporate governance disputes delayed the completion of the project until now. In function, Tezos has broad similarities to smartphone operating systems that allow third parties to plug in their services via apps. The main difference is that Tezos has a decentralised structure, which means it is owned, operated and developed by its entire community of users rather than by a single company or entity. The platform has been operating in a controlled live phase since the end of June. In that time, users had been able to mint, or ‘bake’, the digital Tezos tokens needed to run the system in the knowledge that the platform could have been shut down in the event of technical problems. Collective effort Having passed that test, Tezos is now fully operational without such a kill switch or other forms of centralised ...

  • Extravagant photographs shown in lakeside town of Vevey

    Mon, 17 Sep 2018 10:09:00 GMT

    Every two years Vevey becomes a town of photographs. For three weeks, monumental pictures are shown at the festival, "Images Vevey", Switzerland's largest open-air exhibition of its kind. Sixty-one projects, and 58 artists from 19 countries are presenting their works on the theme: "Extravaganza. Out of the ordinary".  The oversized photographs are wallpapered on houses and placed in parks, projected onto facades and streets or afloat in the lake. "Extravagance" comes to the fore as a huge whale floating above the rooftops of Paris, captured by Daido Moriyama, or the traffic policeman who performs a handstand at a crossroads and is observed by a colleague. Vevey's townscape is the perfect canvas for these larger-than-life images. The Festival runs until September 30.

  • The Swiss woman who made a splash in Boston

    Sun, 16 Sep 2018 15:00:00 GMT

    Swiss architect Renata von Tscharner has spent the past two decades championing the cause of the Charles River in Massachusetts. In 2000, she founded the Charles River Conservancy (CRC), a nonprofit group dedicated to improving the urban parklands along the waterfront. Having grown up swimming in the River Rhine in Basel, Renata wants to get people swimming in the once badly-polluted Charles. The CRC is developing plans for a swim park that would give Bostonians the chance to enjoy the river that inspired the song “Dirty Water” by The Standells. Subscribe to our podcast on iTunes to ensure that you don’t miss the next one.

  • Army wish list reveals splits in parliament

    Sun, 16 Sep 2018 13:00:00 GMT

    The Swiss army wants to invest CHF2 billion ($2 billion) this year, including on high-performance bullet-proof vests for every soldier. It also plans to sell off around half of its fleet of F-5 Tiger fighter jets.  The total budget of CHF2.053 billion, approved on Thursday by the House of Representatives but still to return to the Senate, would be spent on modernising certain systems of the air force, supplementing soldiers’ equipment and development training infrastructure.  This figure is similar to previous years and would be allocated as follows:  The politicians also gave their backing to the most controversial item on the army’s shopping list: new combat gear for every soldier, costing CHF3,000 per person, including a high-performance bullet-proof vest. This will cost the army a total of CHF377 million – something that has divided politicians, with some questioning whether every single soldier needs such a vest. The plan is to introduce the equipment in 2022 and use it ...

  • ‘Everything is a little bit more relaxed’

    Sun, 16 Sep 2018 09:00:00 GMT

    Florian Lüthi only became an expatriate this year after moving to the Netherlands, where he hopes to gain new experience working as a nurse. Aged 30, he is still getting used to Dutch directness.   swissinfo.ch: Why did you leave Switzerland?  Florian Lüthi: I left Switzerland at the beginning of April 2018. I wanted to gain new experience in my job as a nurse, and do my master’s degree abroad. I decided to take this step for those reasons and because my mother has relatives in the Netherlands. The points of view stated in this article, especially about the host country and its politics, are the interviewee’s points of view and are not necessarily in line with swissinfo.ch’s position. swissinfo.ch: Was it a one-way journey, or do you intend to return to Switzerland one day?  F.L.: So far it is a one-way journey. It was first and foremost a question of gaining experience. But I didn’t know if what I was hoping for would work, or if I would perhaps find something else.

  • Marching cows to Lehman losses

    Sat, 15 Sep 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 300 Switzerland has launched a new platform to help reduce the number of non-assisted suicides. It is part of a long-running government strategy to bring down the number of suicides by 25% by 2030 – in other words, to prevent about 300 suicides per year.   Tuesday 270,000 Every year, more than a quarter of a million cows march up to the top of mountains in Switzerland and then march down again. The migration starts in early summer as they are taken to alpine pastures and ends in early autumn when they return to the valleys. Tuesday  115 Between 2014-2017, Switzerland began 115 anti-corruption investigations against corporations and individuals conducting trade abroad, according to Transparency International. The NGO says that makes Switzerland an active ...

  • The Art Basel for classic car fans

    Sat, 15 Sep 2018 09:00:00 GMT

    The Swiss city of Basel recently hosted a four-day classic car show featuring over 100 exclusive automobiles from “past, present and future”. swissinfo.ch’s Thomas Kern visited the first inaugural luxury and classic car trade show, Grand Basel.  I wonder whether they managed to meet their 12,000-visitor target and budget? In any case, the organisers seem happy. Before the show, the press material was a masterclass in understatement: “a building full of expectations!”, “masterpieces, significant cars, that’s what it’s all about”, or simply “cars are art.”  However, on the day I visited, Hall 1 was slow to fill up. Collectors and VIPs had gone the previous two days. Today was the first one for the public and I was in good company. Most people had come to ogle and take snaps with their smartphones. There were only a few women, mostly accompanied by men.  When admiring so many beautiful luxurious cars, you often feel like you are in church – you can just hear the hushed ...

  • Opponents of e-voting suffer setback in parliament

    Sat, 15 Sep 2018 06:00:00 GMT

    Parliament has thrown out attempts to stall the permanent introduction of electronic voting – a decision welcomed by the Organisation of the Swiss Abroad (OSA). Two proposals by representatives of right and leftwing parties cited data security concerns, including cyberattacks, and were aimed at effectively blocking plans by the government to conclude more than 15 years of trials and enshrine e-voting in law as a third option - besides going to the polls and the postal vote. The House of Representatives earlier this week rejected the proposals by parliamentarians of the Swiss People’s Party and the Greens, thereby refusing to draft a bill for discussion. However, plans are afoot to launch a people’s initiative in the near future, further threatening the hopes of the OSA, which represents the interests of the more than 750,000 Swiss living around the world. The government is due to present details of a draft bill in the next few months and parliament could discuss the plans by 2020.

  • The Swiss apprentice: biggest event of its kind shows off "Swiss Skills"

    Fri, 14 Sep 2018 13:00:00 GMT

    Visitors to the Swiss capital, Bern, have been finding out for themselves what it’s like to work as an apprentice.  The different jobs at "Swiss Skills" – with 135 categories represented - are shown in authentic work environments, giving people an insight into these different professions and career opportunities.  A main attraction: the championships, in which around 900 apprentices across 75 categories compete against each other to be the best in their field. It's only the second time that the championships, which are normally held separately by profession, are being carried out in one place. The last time was in 2014. Swiss Skills, which ends on Saturday, is expecting 50,000 visitors, the majority of which will be school children. Organisers say this year’s event is the biggest of its kind worldwide in terms of the number of professions represented. WorldSkills 2017, in Abu Dhabi, in the United Arab Emirates – where the Swiss had a record gold medal haul in the international ...

  • Even the world’s best democracy isn’t perfect

    Fri, 14 Sep 2018 09:00:00 GMT

    Switzerland’s system of direct democracy is admired by many, and it is often held up as a model for others. But even a country which to a certain extent invented citizen’s rights doesn’t get it right the whole time.  Switzerland has been called a gold standard for direct democracy. But did you know, for example, that…  …the government and parliament sometimes blatantly disregard the wishes of the people?  One example is the current discussion about Daylight Saving Time, that is putting the clocks forward an hour for summer and back for winter. European Commission president Jean-Claude Junker wants the practice to end, which could call time on the issue in Switzerland as well. Parliament approved the law on Daylight Saving Time in 1977. A group of farmers successfully challenged it and won a subsequent nationwide vote in 1978.  But the people’s vote was never implemented because the government and parliament introduced a new bill on the issue in 1980 – and this time nobody ...

  • The financial crisis of 2008 and the Swiss ‘miracle’

    Fri, 14 Sep 2018 06:00:00 GMT

    The collapse of Lehman Brothers ten years ago triggered one of the biggest financial and economic crisis in a century. Switzerland did not escape unscathed but fared better than other countries, without amassing huge debt. On September 15, 2008, the fourth largest US investment bank filed for bankrupcy over the crisis in the subprime mortgage market. The government refused to bail out the insolvent institution, creating a collapse in confidence that froze credit markets and decimated the banking sector. From the United States, the financial crisis spread to other countries, soon turning into a global economic crisis that raised the spectre of another Great Depression. Switzerland was also affected but not as badly as initially feared.  Several reasons rendered Switzerland particularly vulnerable over the course of the crisis. Its top two banks, UBS and Credit Suisse, were among the most exposed foreign institutions in the subprime bubble. Switzerland was more dependent than ...

  • Lehman Brothers: the bankruptcy of a bank and that of a system

    Fri, 14 Sep 2018 09:54:00 GMT

    On September 15 2008, Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. It was the start of a lengthy and complex process encompassing about $1.2 trillion worth of creditor claims.  When flight LB2008 crashed, after suddenly disappearing from the radar assigned to so-called systemic banks, it was apparently a case of thunder on a sunny day, an unpredictable catastrophe.  However, some elements of the black box, despite their complexity, allow us to better comprehend the reasons for this disaster and to highlight the untruths that had allowed this bank’s catastrophic situation to be camouflaged well before its disappearance. In this respect, Lehman Brothers’ last annual report offers an abundance of indications. It is complacent with frequent self-praise. Terms such as "record performance", "terrific results", "talent management efforts", “excellence” and “focus on risk management” follow one after another. In 2007, the bank boasted about being “number one” in ...

  • Understatement as statement in photography

    Fri, 14 Sep 2018 06:10:00 GMT

    A group exhibition in the Photobastei in Zurich is dedicated to young photographers. Thematically, it deals with the limits of human perception; Nigerian refugees, Dominican men, Swiss legends, and Tuscan quarries. Simon von Gunten won the vfg prize for young photographers with his work "Cutis". His series of portraits seem to be made for Instagram: People immersed in blue-violet fluorescent light - imperceptible to the human eye - but recorded by digital cameras. It's less about showmanship than about making life stories visible.  Connecting the different photographic impressions is a certain understatement. This young generation of photographers has something to say, and therefore something to show. But they are not showing off.  The exhibition runs until October 7, before moving to the Galerie l'Elac in Lausanne in the first half of November, and then Basel at Oslo 8 in late November through early December and Stuttgart, Germany next March. 

  • Bands and biscuits spark debate over racism and culture

    Thu, 13 Sep 2018 09:00:00 GMT

    The name of two carnival bands and a sweet treat have stirred a debate in Switzerland about the use of terms that many people consider racist. Should they be changed, or are they a part of history that should be preserved? In Basel, two long-existing carnival bands have been accused of having racist names and symbols from the colonial era. “Negro-Rhygass” and “Mohrechopf” (“blackamoor”) have taken their websites down and are now discussing their logos and names. The logo of both bands was a clichéd image of a black man with thick lips and bones in his hair. There is also a chocolate sweet treat called “Mohrenkopf” (meaning the same as Swiss-German “Mohrechopf”) – soft white interior covered in chocolate. The sweet became the subject of controversy in German-speaking Switzerland last summer, when an Internet petition urged a popular producer in Aargau to give it another name. The company’s persistent refusal to do so led to a rapid rise in sales. Customers ate more of the ...

  • When young people want a Swiss passport

    Thu, 13 Sep 2018 06:00:00 GMT

    Being born on Swiss soil does not mean you are automatically Swiss. Naturalisation is therefore an option for foreigners who have been born in Switzerland and want Swiss nationality.  The process includes one or more interviews, which children from 12 years of age may also be required to complete. Swiss nationality is acquired through one blood relationship – that is, through the father or mother – or through naturalisation. In general, when a foreign family starts the process, this also includes their children. If the children are older than 16, they must put down in writing why they want to become Swiss. From age 14, they can submit their request for naturalisation individually, with the agreement of a parent.  Journalists from the Swiss Public Television RTS programme "Temps Présent" were allowed to sit in during the interviews of three young naturalisation candidates in the canton of Fribourg.  Requirements to become Swiss To make a naturalisation request, one must ...

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