Top news from our partner swissinfo

  • Swiss fintech scene on the verge of a ‘big decade’

    Tue, 17 Sep 2019 07:00:00 GMT

    The number of financial technology (fintech) start-ups is rapidly growing in Switzerland, along with the amount of funding they receive from venture capitalists. Ahead of the Swiss Fintech Fair, swissinfo.ch asked two highly regarded young firms about the dynamic sector. The digital finance platform Numbrs has raised $200 million (CHF198 million) from backers including the Investment Corporation of Dubai. This gives the company, which has yet to turn in a profit in five years of existence, a $1 billion valuation – the so-called “unicorn” status. The Numbrs app allows people to optimise their personal finances by bringing together all their accounts onto one platform, while offering advice on how to reduce fees, control spending and how to best save money. Two years’ ago the firm had to cut back on staff, but numbers have recovered to around 150 at its Zurich HQ. Limitations on the number of non-EU staff it could bring to Switzerland were overcome by employing people remotely.

  • Switzerland in the age of automatic exchange of banking information

    Tue, 17 Sep 2019 08:38:00 GMT

    A year ago, Switzerland began to pass on data on the bank accounts held by foreigners in Swiss banks to around 30 countries. This procedure will be extended to a hundred countries. Why have international tax regulations been introduced? With the globalisation of the world economy and the digitisation of services, it has become increasingly easy to deposit and manage funds with financial institutions in other countries. Large sums of money – believed to be in the thousands of billions of francs - can thus escape tax authorities every year. International tax evasion is a serious problem not only for the rich countries, but even more so for those with few financial resources. With the support of the G20 and the EU, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) therefore drew up international standards in 2014 to enable countries to exchange bank information automatically. More than a hundred countries have so far decided to adhere to these standards, almost half ...

  • Mixed reactions to homeschooling court verdict

    Tue, 17 Sep 2019 10:07:00 GMT

    Teachers have welcomed the court ruling stating that there is no constitutional right to homeschooling in Switzerland. But those who teach their kids at home are disappointed as they had hoped for a softening of attitudes. On Monday, Switzerland’s highest court ruled that parents do not have a constitutional right to provide school-aged children with private lessons at home. The verdict came after a mother in canton Basel City appealed the Federal Court, after her application to provide homeschooling for her son was rejected by the local school and cantonal justice authorities. + Read: court says right to private life does not confer right to a private home education The court also ruled that the cantons – who are in charge of educational matters in Switzerland – could decide whether, and to what extent, homeschooling should be authorised (or not). Figures vary but according to a recent Tages-Anzeiger newspaper report, there are over 2,000 homeschooled children in Switzerland.

  • Who can vote in Switzerland? Who can’t?

    Tue, 17 Sep 2019 12:00:00 GMT

    ​​​​​​​ With less than a month to go before parliamentary elections, swissinfo.ch looks at why a third of the Swiss resident population is disenfranchised. What is the voting situation in Switzerland for foreigners, the mentally disabled, prisoners and other minorities?  At the previous elections in 2015, 5.28 million people were entitled to vote out of a total population of 8.33 million (63%). Who were the remaining 37%?  Here we look at various groups of society and whether they can vote at the three levels of government: federal, cantonal and municipal.  Foreigners A quarter of the Swiss population doesn’t have Swiss citizenship. If you don’t have Swiss citizenship, you can’t vote at the federal level (and therefore in parliamentary elections) – even if you were born in Switzerland or have lived in the country all your life. Some 350,000 people were born in Switzerland but don’t have Swiss citizenship.  However, most cantons in French-speaking Switzerland ...

  • On location with Heidi’s Japanese (grand)fathers

    Tue, 17 Sep 2019 06:32:00 GMT

    The 1970s Japanese Heidi cartoon – based on the 19th-century Swiss novel – defined Swissness for many generations around the world. Its creators revisit their source of inspiration in the Swiss mountains. A Japanese group’s two-day stay in the Swiss mountain village of Maienfeld in the summer of 1973 was key for the iconic cartoon tale. swissinfo.ch accompanied two group members, now in their 80s, as they revisited the place that inspired their work.  Maienfeld was muggy and shrouded in fog when we followed Yoichi Kotabe, also of Super Mario fame, and Junzo Nakajima. Nearly half a century ago, they walked up that same hill. This time, with special permission from the local authorities, they went by car.  Back in 1973, the trip was an adventure for Kotabe. He had never left Japan before. “I was so curious and sketched everything that caught my eye, and expanded my imagination from there,” he recalled.   Our destination was the Heidialp, where their guide had told them that ...

  • Will tobacco-friendly Switzerland change its tune on smoking laws?

    Mon, 16 Sep 2019 13:00:00 GMT

    Switzerland is one of a handful of countries that has not ratified a major global tobacco control treaty. Why has it dragged its feet, and is change in the air?  Switzerland signed the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) 15 years ago but has yet to ratify it, as do a handful of tobacco-producing countries such as the United States, Argentina, Malawi and Cuba.  Controlling tobacco use to protect the population’s health has been a long, complicated balancing act in the Alpine country, which is an arch-defender of economic and individual freedoms and home to tobacco companies like Philip Morris.  Almost one in three Swiss adults (27.1%) regularly smokes or consumes tobacco in some form – a stable rate, almost 8% above the global average. The WHO says that while Switzerland is strong when it comes to anti-smoking campaigns on TV and radio, it lacks a total ban on smoking in public places (i.e. 100% smoke-free with no designated smoking ...

  • Are Swiss trains becoming less punctual, pricier and more dangerous?

    Mon, 16 Sep 2019 15:00:00 GMT

    The Swiss Federal Railways is the most efficient in Europe in terms of passengers, punctuality and safety. However, there is no shortage of critics who say the situation is deteriorating. Do they have a point? Switzerland has one of the largest and most extensive rail networks on the continent, with a total length of around 5,100 kilometres. Some 3,200km of this is operated by the Swiss Federal Railways. Founded in 1902, the former federal organisation became a public limited company in 1999. The Swiss rail network is the best in Europe in terms of number of passengers, train punctuality, passenger kilometres travelled and accidents, according to the European Railway Performance Index. However, the statistics conceal a growing discontent, among both passengers and staff. This will be a challenge for whoever replaces CEO Andreas Meyer, who is stepping down at the end of 2020. Passengers and train kilometres Each day up to 1.25 million passengers use Federal Railways trains.

  • How a Montreux bank heist led to calls for the death penalty

    Mon, 16 Sep 2019 09:00:00 GMT

    In the early 1900s Switzerland was rocked by a wave of terror incidents by anarchists. A bank heist carried out by two Russians in Montreux in 1907, in which a bank clerk was shot dead, led to public calls for the death penalty.   On the morning of September 18, 1907, the town of Montreux on Lake Geneva was the scene of dramatic incidents straight out of a gangster movie.  Two men sprint down Avenue du Kursaal. “Stop them, stop them!” cry passers-by. A postal employee, Auguste Vuilliamoz, manages to throw one of them down to the ground; the other takes off “like a rabbit”, according to an eyewitness.  Shots ring out   Jules Favre, a notary, courageously blocks the fugitive’s way. But the man takes out a gun and shoots Favre in the leg, then sprints off again. A hairdresser, Georges Bär, who comes out of his shop meets the same fate – he too is shot. In Schopfergasse, a coachman, Octave Pittet, tries to stop the man. Another shot rings out followed by a scream. Pittet falls to ...

  • Switzerland’s new US ambassador ‘fascinated’ to be in Washington

    Mon, 16 Sep 2019 09:00:00 GMT

    Switzerland has a new ambassador to the United States, former intelligence coordinator Jacques Pitteloud. He takes over from Martin Dahinden, who is retiring.  We caught up with Pitteloud just before he left for Washington. In this interview, he talks about Donald Trump, about his own past, and his African connections. The photo above shows Pitteloud and his wife at an event to mark his arrival in Washington, and comes courtesy of the Embassy of Switzerland in the United States.  Subscribe to our podcast, for example on Apple Podcasts, to ensure that you don’t miss the next one.

  • Swiss in New Orleans say 2019 is the year to vote

    Sun, 15 Sep 2019 14:00:00 GMT

    Should Swiss living abroad have a say on votes and elections back home?  As part of our series of roundtable discussions in the run-up to the parliamentary elections in October, Swiss people living Louisiana weigh in on the issues that matter most to them. In this talk we hear from Swiss members of the Swiss American Society of New Orleans who’ve lived in the US for anywhere from seven to 50 years. Considering the distance from their homeland, they’re torn about whether they should still be voting in Switzerland or not. But when possible, they still follow current Swiss affairs. Some say that this election year – with environmental policy a major theme – is a key one to cast their ballots. SWI on tour How do Swiss citizens living abroad view the political debate in their home country? What is important to the expat Swiss community when they vote? To tap into the mood of the “fifth Switzerland” during this general election year, swissinfo.ch visited clubs in Europe as well as ...

  • Ten key ingredients for a democratic society 

    Sun, 15 Sep 2019 12:00:00 GMT

    ​​​​​​​ The recent elections in Russia shows the country still has a long way to be a successful democracy. For International Day of Democracy this Sunday, here’s a short checklist of the key things needed for a successful democratic system.  The journalist of the Russian television channel looked at me with expectant eyes. She had asked me to give my take on last weekend’s local elections.  “I think the authorities staged a big show to make people forget that many opposition candidates were excluded from standing in the elections,” I said.  “But – what do they think of the digital technology used for the ballot?” she went on, turning to the giant wall of television screens behind me. They showed live footage from the tens of thousands of polling stations across the country.   I said that I was indeed impressed, adding with a slightly sarcastic tone: “It allows us to see beyond doubt that only very few citizens found their way to a polling station.”  In fact, turnout in ...

  • ‘People are more convinced than ever by democratic ideals’

    Sun, 15 Sep 2019 09:00:00 GMT

    Democracy is in crisis, we often hear – including in the West. Is it? Political scientist Hans Vorländer says that people are keener than ever on democratic ideals, even if globalisation and social media pose challenges. To mark the International Day of Democracy, today September 15, here’s an excerpt from an interview the German researcher gave to Swiss public radio, SRF. SRF: Which is the best democracy in the world? Hans Vorländer: The best democracy is a representative, liberal democratic model, like those that have been developed over centuries in Europe and North America. These models have enabled the reconciliation of two things: self-determination and the protection of fundamental and human rights. SRF: Norway occupies the top spot in the democracy ranking of the Freedom House NGO and the Economist magazine. Does that make sense for you? H.V.: Yes, though I wouldn’t be able to pick out the differences between the countries in the top spots. You always need to see ...

  • These Swiss inventions have become iconic

    Sat, 14 Sep 2019 09:00:00 GMT

    The Swiss are often perceived as cautious and meticulous, but they also have a creative spirit that has produced many inventions used all over the world. Some have become design icons. The former rural society has become innovative. According to the Global Innovation Index, Switzerland was the world innovation champion in 2012. Nowhere else in Europe are there as many patents registered by individuals and per inhabitant as in Switzerland. By way of comparison, 955 patents were filed per million inhabitants in Switzerland in 2018, 332 in Germany and 132 in the United States. The list of Swiss inventions is long and the stories behind them are fascinating. Switzerland has a strong pharmaceutical industry, so it is not surprising that important achievements have been made in that sector. These include the artificial production of vitamin C, the anti-inflammatory cortisone, sedatives such as valium and the controversial drug LSD. Popular Swiss innovations that make life easier ...

  • Empty homes, aid experts and university ranking

    Sat, 14 Sep 2019 15:00:00 GMT

    Almost every article published by swissinfo.ch contains a percentage, an age, an amount of money or some other figure. Here’s a round-up of some of the most interesting statistics to appear in the past week’s stories. Monday 75,323 The number of empty homes in Switzerland on June 1, representing 1.66% of the total housing stock. The number of empty dwellings continues to grow, but at a slower rate than previously.  Tuesday 30 Around 30 climate activists floated down the bright-green Limmat River in central Zurich to protest “the impending collapse of our ecosystem”. They had poured a harmless dye into the river to colour it green. Wednesday 13 The Federal Institute of Technology ETH Zurich was ranked 13th in the Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings 2020. It dropped two places compared to last year. Switzerland was the only nation outside Britain and North America to make it into the top 20. Thursday 113,000 The number of signatures handed into ...

  • When Gandhi visited Switzerland

    Sat, 14 Sep 2019 13:44:00 GMT

    Gandhi spent five days in Switzerland (December 6-11, 1931) at the home of his friend, Nobel-prize-winning French writer Romain Rolland.  Rolland had written a biography of Gandhi called "Mahatma Gandhi - The Man Who Became One with the Universal Being" that was published in 1924. Gandhi visited him and stayed at his house in Villeneuve on Lake Geneva after his visit to London to attend the Roundtable meeting on the future of colonial India.  In charge of trip organisation was Gandhi's English disciple Madeleine Slade who adopted the Indian name "Mirabehn" or sister Mira. She was a great admirer of Rolland, having visited him before leaving for India to meet Gandhi. Among the Indian contingent accompanying him was his youngest son Devdas and secretaries Mahadev Desai and Pyarelal Nayyar.  Rolland's diary records Gandhi's dietary routine in detail. At 6 or 7 in the morning he would drink a glass of of freshly-pressed orange juice followed a little later by a glass of boiled ...

  • Abortion in Switzerland: the debate and the law

    Sat, 14 Sep 2019 07:00:00 GMT

    Switzerland allows abortion in the initial weeks of pregnancy, as does most of Europe. The government has defended the policy when presented with a petition from abortion opponents. A Christian circle represented by the association “March for Life” is demonstrating in Zurich on September 14. In February, the group submitted a petition with 24,000 signatures to the federal government, requesting that it “raise public awareness about the consequences of abortion”. The petitioners believe that hospitals and family planning counselling centres caring for women with unwanted pregnancies provide one-sided information. Low abortion rate “Is the executive prepared to meet the demands of this petition?” Franz Ruppen, a parliamentarian from the conservative right Swiss People's Party, asked the Federal Council (Switzerland’s government) in March. In May he received a categorical reply that the government “has no evidence of any shortcomings and sees no need to adopt specific measures”.

  • Swiss theatre gets high on Philip Glass and physics

    Fri, 13 Sep 2019 09:00:00 GMT

    The Grand Théâtre de Genève starts its 2019/20 season with a bold new version of Einstein on the Beach, the milestone Philip Glass/Robert Wilson opera that has challenged directors for over 40 years.  However, the Compagnia Finzi Pasca from Lugano in Italian-speaking Switzerland is not afraid of big events. With three Olympic ceremonies and dozens of montages and operas in its pocket, la Compagnia now brings a musical and visual treat for those ready to brave its four hours of hypnotic ecstasy.   Einstein on the Beach doesn’t have a plot and its narrative is made of loose associations related to nuclear physics, mathematics, music and whatever the viewer may feel. US stage director and playwright Robert Wilson himself said that “you don’t have to understand anything; you go there to get lost”. swissinfo.ch followed the rehearsals for a whole day and night, a week before the opening on September 11. The rehearsal extended much beyond the closing time of the Grand Théâtre de ...

  • The story behind Swiss Solidarity

    Thu, 12 Sep 2019 09:29:00 GMT

    Launched on Thursday, the humanitarian charity Swiss Solidarity has devoted its 250th fundraising campaign to women, who are often double victims in the event of war or disaster. This is how the organisation got its start.  In its 73 years of existence, the humanitarian arm of the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation (that includes swissinfo.ch) has raised CHF1.8 billion (1.81 billion) for those in need. It all began in 1946 in the city of Lausanne on Lake Geneva, on what was then called Radio Sottens, the public radio station of French-speaking Switzerland (now RTS). Host Roger Nordmann and comedian Jack Rollan launched “Chaîne du Bonheur” or Swiss Solidarity, a programme designed to collect donations for humanitarian causes.  Women in forgotten crises: 250th fundraising campaign  Those living in a refugee camp in Somalia, in a gang-controlled neighbourhood in El Salvador or under bombardment in Yemen are often forgotten by people living in the Western world.  And living in those ...

  • Press freedom becomes a test case for Swiss foreign policy

    Wed, 11 Sep 2019 09:00:00 GMT

    When a prominent Saudi columnist was assassinated last year, Switzerland opted out of a joint condemnation of the killing, leaving journalists and their advocates wondering how serious Bern was in its efforts to lobby for global press freedom. It was a rare international move to sharply rebuke Saudi Arabia for its human rights record some six months after the journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. All European Union member countries, along with several others, were on board to sign the statement in Geneva calling on the Gulf state to cooperate with a United Nations rapporteur’s inquiry into the murder. But Switzerland declined to join in. Reporters without Borders (RSF) Switzerland strongly condemned that decision, says its secretary-general, Denis Masmejan. “Switzerland is traditionally a country that defends human rights, particularly freedom of expression and the press.” The case reflects the fine balancing act by Swiss officials of aligning ...

  • Record number of women running for parliament

    Wed, 11 Sep 2019 09:34:00 GMT

    ​​​​​​​Never before have so many candidates entered the race for a seat in the Swiss parliament. One in three hopefuls is less than 30 years old and a record number of women are among those running in next month's elections. A total of 4,596 candidates are vying for a mandate in the 200-seat House of Representatives, according to official lists compiled by the cantonal authorities at the end of August. The number of hopefuls has grown from around 3,000 in the 1990s, exceeding the 4,000 mark for the first time in 2007. What are the reasons for the major increase over the past two decades? Cloé Jans, political scientist at the GfS Bern research institute says a key factor is a reform of the rules in some of the 26 cantons. She says it has become easier to register as a candidate because the requirement to get a certain number of signatures backing the candidacy has been dropped. “Then there is also the strategy of some political parties which aim to enter the race with as ...

  • Smart village: the online ‘piazza’ where people connect

    Wed, 11 Sep 2019 13:00:00 GMT

    A woman living in a southern Swiss town noticed that people around her wanted to connect and share things but didn't know how. So she created the "smart village": a virtual town square. In the lead up to October's parliamentary elections, this is the fourth in a video series dedicated to looking at how political decisions affect the everyday lives of Swiss people.  Monica Rush Solcà lives in the Italian-speaking region of Ticino. She recalls a time when people in the area used to connect with each other in the piazza, or town square, every evening. They would talk about their day, see what others needed and help if they could. But times have changed, says Solcà. Now, people are more physically isolated from one another and tend to connect online. They also own more "stuff" than ever before. One morning, she had an idea: create a group and a platform where her townspeople could exchange things and meet each other. "Smart village" was born. Today, the concept has been extended ...

  • Micro-cars come to Swiss cities

    Wed, 11 Sep 2019 12:31:00 GMT

    After e-scooters and bikes, you can now also hire electric micro-cars in Switzerland. A company from Biel is leading the way. In Switzerland, "smart mobility" is controversial. Some people see these new small vehicles as getting in the way, occupying rare parking space and creating insecurity on the road. But others see "micro-mobility" as a potential way to revolutionise traffic in cities. And amidst all the discussion, cities are trying to find a way of dealing with each new trend. When swissinfo.ch asked Zurich city's traffic department and police media service how they were dealing with the new vehicles, they reacted with surprise. Nobody knew offhand that there were such micro-cars in the city. They asked swissinfo.ch to send them photos of the vehicles so as to find out which licence plates the vehicles were using.  According to the provider's app - the company Enuu from Biel - there are currently thirteen vehicles in both Zurich and Biel. Basel is to follow in the ...

  • Is it possible to study in Switzerland as a returning expat Swiss?

    Tue, 10 Sep 2019 09:00:00 GMT

    You asked: “What options do young expatriate Swiss have if they want to continue their education in Switzerland?” The answer is many, but there are challenges along the way. This summer we’ve been asking readers to submit their questions on Swiss education: so far, we’ve answered the queries on teaching with a foreign qualification and if you can study after doing an apprenticeship. Our latest story was mainly prompted by a query about what educational options were open to a 13-year-old Swiss Abroad returning home. To answer this, we turned to educationsuisse, which, among other things, advises young Swiss Abroad about education in Switzerland. Language an issue A 13-year-old is obliged and has the right to attend a free local school (Swiss compulsory schooling ends at age 15-16), explained educationsuisse director Barbara Sulzer Smith. “Obviously it depends very much on the language level: so, if the level of German is sufficient, then the pupil would go straight to school.

  • Switzerland: the imaginary champion

    Mon, 9 Sep 2019 15:00:00 GMT

    Switzerland performs well in economic rankings but it isn't a model when it comes to the social and environmental costs of its economic activities abroad. Historian Jakob Tanner writes that Switzerland must be careful not to be blinded by a glossy version of itself that it had a hand in creating. “All things considered we are in the top ten in all rankings, this is quite stable at a high level,” explained Nicolas Bideau, Switzerland's top country salesman. The head of Presence Switzerland is fulfilling its core mission by raving about the smart "cliché Switzerland", which is apparently "sexy" again. Presence Switzerland was established in 2001 as an administrative unit of the government with the goal of “generating sympathy for Switzerland”. According to the website of the Swiss government, the impetus for this was the “topic of dormant assets”. This concerns Jewish accounts during the Nazi era that had not been repaid by the banks. In the late 1990s, Switzerland was ...

  • Giving amputees hope through recycled bottles

    Fri, 6 Sep 2019 10:10:00 GMT

    Recycling plastic to make new bottles is one thing, but using the material to create prosthetic limbs? That's another. Two Swiss designers are using their skills to improve other people's lives. In the lead up to October's parliamentary elections, this is the fourth in a video series dedicated to looking at how political decisions affect the everyday lives of Swiss people.  Fabian Engel and Simon Oschwald travelled to Kenya, where they heard about the indignities people with prosthetic limbs faced in everyday life. Due to the high number of traffic accidents, amputations aren't rare. The cost of an artificial limb is prohibitively high for many people, and the restricted mobility that living with one leg brings, makes finding work difficult. The two designers set themselves the challenge of coming up with a prosthesis that would be available at a fraction of the normal cost - using local labour and recycled materials. A visit to a vast rubbish dump in Nairobi cemented the idea ...

  • How Swiss direct democracy made a comeback after authoritarian rule

    Mon, 9 Sep 2019 09:00:00 GMT

    The Second World War was over when the Swiss government finally started to enjoy the “regime of full powers” that parliament granted them during times of crises. It wasn’t until 1949 – exactly 70 years ago – that the initiative dubbed “Return to direct democracy” passed with a slim margin, bringing Swiss direct democracy back on solid footing. In times of crises, democracies are sometimes too slow to react. It’s for this reason that the Swiss parliament granted the government the “right to rule” under emergency law on the eve of the Second World War. This allowed the Swiss government to make decisions without parliament’s consent, a move that would make it easier for the executive body to act in times of war. Putting direct democracy on hold This rule had another side effect. By making ample use of this emergency clause, parliament kept the Swiss people from acting as the third power in democracy alongside government and parliament. The emergency clause deprived voters from ...

  • How a Swiss decision changed football history

    Mon, 9 Sep 2019 07:57:00 GMT

    Few English football fans will have heard of Gottfried Dienst, but the Swiss had a significant influence on world football and English culture. Dienst, born exactly 100 years ago, was the referee when England beat West Germany in the final of the 1966 World Cup.  “I asked him in English ‘Is it goal?’ and he replied, ‘Yes, the ball is behind the line’ and pointed again with his flag to the centre circle. It was then clear to me.”  That was Dienst referring to his high-pressure conversation with his assistant referee and his subsequent decision to award Geoff Hurst’s controversial goal. A decision that not only meant England took a 3-2 lead but also ensured that Dienst would never have to buy another drink – at least in England.  “Gotti” Dienst was born in Basel on September 9, 1919. He played for FC Basel from 1932 to 1944 and then for amateur side FC Kleinhüningen until 1948, when a chronic knee problem resulted in a switch to refereeing.  When not working as a supervisor in ...

  • Inside Geneva: populist rhetoric and humanitarian work

    Sat, 7 Sep 2019 09:00:00 GMT

    In this podcast edition, we’re introducing a series called “Inside Geneva” – where we’re taking a closer look at the work being done by the international organisations that are based there.   For example: How do humanitarian groups cope when politicians launch verbal attacks on refugees?  swissinfo.ch correspondent Imogen Foulkes recently discussed that question with people who deal with it every day in Geneva: Liz Throssell of the UN Refugee Agency, Matt Cochrane of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and analyst Daniel Warner of the Graduate Institute Geneva. Subscribe to our podcast, for example on Apple Podcasts, to ensure that you don’t miss the next one.

  • Even with negative interest rates, Swiss banks post positive results

    Sun, 8 Sep 2019 07:00:00 GMT

    In spite of ups and downs in the stock market and negative interest rates, Swiss banks finished 2018 with an increase in operating income and profits. As regards the future, bankers say they are concerned about the worsening political and economic situation in the world, but do not expect further cuts to banking jobs. The prosperity of the banking sector is being affected more and more by the negative interest rates applied by the National Bank of Switzerland (the country’s central bank) to prevent the franc from increasing too much in value. This eats away at the banks’ profit margins and room for manoeuvre, and in many cases they see themselves with no choice but to pass on the negative rates to their own customers. Last year the financial institutions paid negative interest rates to the tune of CHF2 billion ($2 billion), as is detailed in the Banking Barometer 2019, an annual industry survey by SwissBanking, the Swiss bankers’ association. “Negative interest rates are likely ...

  • Banknotes, snowfall and forced internments

    Sat, 7 Sep 2019 15:00:00 GMT

    Almost every article published by swissinfo.ch contains a percentage, an age, an amount of money or some other figure. Here’s a round-up of some of the most interesting statistics to appear in the past week’s stories. Monday 60,000 The number of people forcibly interned in nearly 650 Swiss institutions over the past century, according to an independent expert commission. The commission calls for financial and emotional assistance for victims as well as public education as steps toward rehabilitation.  Tuesday 100 The Swiss National Bank unveiled the new CHF100 banknote that will enter circulation from September 12. The inspiration behind the design is Switzerland’s humanitarian tradition, represented by water. Wednesday 1 The World Economic Forum ranked Switzerland’s tourism industry the most environmentally sound out of 140 countries, in its Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report.  Thursday 300 The number of trees installed by a Swiss artist in an Austrian ...

  • ‘You’ll never hear “Switzerland first” from me’

    Sat, 7 Sep 2019 07:00:00 GMT

    Swiss Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis aims to strengthen Switzerland’s sense of identity in the wider world. In this interview he tells swissinfo.ch why Switzerland needs to act based on clearly defined interests from now on.  swissinfo.ch: You know the psychology of this country, so how would you wish to strengthen Switzerland’s sense of identity in the wider world? Ignazio Cassis: Not “how”, but “what” is the real question. What opportunities does Switzerland want to pursue in the world ten years from now? What direction are we headed in? Here is where values, a position and a vision come in. We need to know the drivers of development. We are talking about digitalisation, climate change, patterns of migration. We need to concentrate on the challenges and most of all the opportunites that arise for Switzerland from all of this. The “how” of it will come later. swissinfo.ch: Switzerland is not a great power, nor is it part of Europe, and it has little political weight. When the ...

  • Rob Gnant, the ‘van Gogh’ of Swiss photography

    Sat, 7 Sep 2019 10:00:00 GMT

    Rob Gnant, a Swiss photographer with a knack for linking important social themes with a strong visual aesthetic, died in August leaving behind a legacy of over 200,000 negatives of his work.  A key photographer of the post-war period in Switzerland, his work involved both reportage and portraits. Gnant also had a keen interest in documentary film, leading him to work as a cameraman for the documentary film "In the Fall" (A fleur d'eau), which won the short film category at the 1963 Cannes Film Festival. Gnant often shot in black and white and was influenced by his work in film, seen in the graininess and the quick-shot approach that gave movement to his still images. His stylistic approach to social stories earnt him the nickname in the industry, the "van Gogh of Swiss photography". He strove to capture the extraordinary and beautiful in everyday life by focussing on various working worlds, looking at society's outsiders, or miners for example. The photographer was intrigued by ...

  • Switzerland’s ups and downs with Robert Mugabe 

    Fri, 6 Sep 2019 10:12:00 GMT

    Swiss relations with former Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe, who has died aged 95, were not easy, especially in his later years. They reflect Mugabe’s passage from independence hero to tyrant and human rights abuser at loggerheads with the West.   In 1980, the year Mugabe became president of former white-ruled Rhodesia, Switzerland recognised the independence and constitution of Zimbabwe and opened a consulate in its capital Harare. In his early years, Mugabe was hailed particularly for his development policies and was seen as a friend of the West.   But this began to sour in the 1990s with increasing human rights abuses, and especially after 2000 when Zimbabwe launched violent seizures of white farms. Switzerland froze bilateral relations with Harare and joined the European Union and other nations in imposing sanctions for electoral fraud and human rights abuses.   Mugabe turned on the West, and Switzerland was not spared. In 2011 he took offence when Switzerland refused ...

  • Swiss Film Archive inaugurates research centre

    Fri, 6 Sep 2019 18:22:00 GMT

    Thousands of old and rare films, books, posters and other cinematic treasures – one of the most important film archives in the world – have found a new home near the city of Lausanne.  Twenty years in the making, the National Film Archive – or Cinematheque – on Friday inaugurated a modern new research and archive centre at Penthaz in western Switzerland.  “This is an extremely important moment, which has been long awaited,” Cinematheque Director Frédéric Maire told swissinfo.ch. The CHF50-million ($50 million) centre stores 85,000 film titles, or 700,000 reels, as well as 2.5 million photographs, 500,000 posters, 26,000 books, 2,000 rare film cameras, and other valuable film paraphernalia in its deep vaults, which stretch over an area equivalent to the size of three football pitches. The site also houses a 40-seat cinema, a museum area and conference rooms. It employs around 50 people – from film restoration specialists to IT technicians.  “This is one of the most important ...

  • Campaign funding still a taboo topic in Switzerland

    Fri, 6 Sep 2019 09:00:00 GMT

    Campaigning for the upcoming Swiss parliamentary elections is in full swing. However, it's unclear exactly who funds the parties and candidates on the ballot. Here’s what we do know. How much are political parties investing in the campaign? We asked the seven main Swiss political groups this question. Those with the greatest representation in parliament (the Social Democratic Party, Radical Liberal Party and Christian Democratic Party) are also investing the largest amounts. The country's leading party, right-wing Swiss People's Party, was again not willing to reveal its campaign budget. Like in years past, it undoubtedly has a sizeable war chest, enabling it to cover the country with its controversial posters and send costly mailshots to all households.Swiss People's Party (right-wing): no informationSocial Democratic Party (left-wing): CHF1.4 million ($1.4 million), same budget as in 2015Radical Liberal Party (centre-right): CHF3 to 3.5 million, approximately the same budget ...

  • Green parties consolidate gains in latest Swiss election poll

    Thu, 5 Sep 2019 15:00:00 GMT

    Environmentalist groups have continued to win support while the right looks set to lose ground according to a survey ahead of the Swiss parliamentary elections next month.  The ‘Green wave’ is still strong enough and there are no other major topics that were able to impose themselves an opinion poll carried out by the Sotomo research institute on behalf of the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation – swissinfo.ch’s parent company.  “Those who thought a moderately hot summer in Switzerland would lead to a demobilisation of the Green Party grassroots were proven wrong,” Michael Hermann, director of Sotomo told journalists.  The Greens are currently at 10.5%, their best result in an opinion poll, while the centrist Liberal Greens progressed to nearly 7%. The gains come at the expense of parties on the right and in the centre.  The right-wing People’s Party remains clearly in the top position with nearly 27%, ahead of the left-wing Social Democrats with about 19% and the centre-right ...

  • Expats in Switzerland report hot scenery and cold locals

    Thu, 5 Sep 2019 08:00:00 GMT

    Switzerland is the 38th-best country to live as an expat, according to an annual survey. While this is up six places on last year, the champagne corks aren’t popping yet.  Let’s start by focusing on the positive. For the sixth year in a row Switzerland is among the top ten countries for quality of life (5th out of 64 countries), the InterNations Expat Insider 2019 survey revealed on Thursday.  It found that almost every expat (96%) is happy with their personal safety (compared with 81% globally) and 75% even say it’s very good (48% globally). Just 1% finds the country not peaceful (10% globally).  + Who is an expat?  The political stability is also a plus, with 93% of respondents saying they are happy (61% globally). This compares very favourably with Britain, which has fallen 14 places in terms of political stability amid ongoing Brexit uncertainty, now ranking 57th out of 64 for this factor. Overall the UK comes 58th, right behind Greece and Russia.  Winners and losers ...

  • Writing about uncomfortable truths: Pakistan’s army, Nepali justice and Indian beef

    Thu, 5 Sep 2019 09:00:00 GMT

    Three journalists from South Asia share their experiences of covering stories that make uncomfortable reading for many of their compatriots.   Sarah Eleazar from Pakistan, Aditya Adhikari from Nepal and Rohini Mohan from India were recently invited to Switzerland’s capital because their stories were among the 39 of 924 submissions nominated for the True Story Award. It was the world’s first global journalism prize, given in Bern as part of the Reportagen Festival. The goal of the prize is “to supplement and broaden the predominantly Western view of the world with other perspectives”, according to its organisers.  While in Bern, the three journalists shared what it’s like to work on such difficult – and sometimes dangerous – subjects.   Challenging state narratives on Pakistan’s war on terror Journalist Sarah Eleazar’s article “The Anatomy of a Political Movement” covers an emerging protest movement in the former federally administered tribal areas (FATA) in northwestern ...

  • Can Swiss refineries stay ahead of forgers?

    Thu, 5 Sep 2019 07:00:00 GMT

    Swiss refineries have come under the spotlight following revelations that fraudulently stamped gold bars with their logos are being used to launder smuggled or illegally sourced gold. Refineries rely on new technologies to stay ahead of forgers and preserve their reputation.  “The latest fake bars ... are highly professionally done,” Michael Mesaric, the chief executive of Swiss refinery Valcambi told Reuters during their recent investigation into the matter. He calculates that a couple of thousand gold bars have been found but says that there could be more still in circulation.  Over the past two years, the American bank JPMorgan has discovered more than a thousand contraband gold bars in its safes. Some forgeries carry the signatures of major Swiss refiners.  Switzerland processes about 2,000-2,500 tonnes of gold a year, worth approximately $100 billion (CHF100 billion).  The trademarks of Valcambi, PAMP, Argor-Heraeus and Metalor are among the most common and trusted in the ...

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