Top news from our partner swissinfo

  • What makes Germany different from Switzerland?

    Sun, 20 Jan 2019 10:00:00 GMT

    It was romance that enticed David Schaffner, 25, to leave Switzerland and move to Germany. But there’s more to like about Germany than just the love of his life. swissinfo.ch: When and why did you leave Switzerland? David Schaffner: For love. I left Switzerland in 2016 for my girlfriend, who is now my wife. The points of view stated in this article, especially about the host country and its politics, are the interviewee’s opinion 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 some day? D.S.: I am not planning to return, but I also wouldn’t rule it out. swissinfo.ch: What is your work? And how is it going? D.S.: I work in the food industry, in marketing. We specialise in “private label packaging” for organic tea and spices and have both big and small customers in central Europe. The organic sector is growing and constantly changing. It is a very interesting and varied job. I got ...

  • The WEF in Davos, an Indian artist and Tezos blockchain

    Sun, 20 Jan 2019 11:00:00 GMT

    Here are some of the stories we’ll bring you the week of January 21: Monday The World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting kicks off on Tuesday in the Swiss mountain resort town of Davos with a powerful line-up of global leaders, business titans, creatives and innovators tasked with responding to the challenges of globalization. Our reporters will be on the spot giving you the latest news and views. Tuesday The Tezos blockchain is taking its first teetering steps following a difficult birth, marked by fractious rows and lawsuits. The Swiss-based foundation tasked with spending $500 million on its development is walking a tightrope between regulatory pitfalls and early adopters demanding rapid progress. Foundation President Ryan Jesperson speaks to swissinfo.ch about his hopes for the future. Wednesday How can we feed the rapidly expanding population of our planet without destroying it? By 2050, Earth will be home to nearly 10 billion people; feeding them will require a 70% ...

  • Deals, no deals and avalanche warnings

    Sat, 19 Jan 2019 16:00:00 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 5 Following several deaths and injuries, the highest avalanche risk rating of “level 5” was declared for important winter tourism areas like Davos, Klosters, Grindelwald, Engelberg, Andermatt and Disentis.   Tuesday 1831 VoteInfo was launched. The government app helps users learn about upcoming votes and check the results over the course of a vote day. It’s also possible to explore archives that go back as far as 1981 at the federal level and even further in the cases of some cantons: 1831 for Zurich.  Wednesday 493 The number of merger and acquisition deals involving Swiss companies hit a record high of 493 in 2018.   Thursday 57 Around 57% of the Swiss population are middle-class. Wages are the main factor when deciding whether someone is ...

  • Swiss Guards get a 21st-century headgear update

    Sat, 19 Jan 2019 10:00:00 GMT

    The Swiss Guards, who have protected the Pope for 500 years, are about to receive new headgear: PVC plastic helmets made with a 3D printer. The guards’ traditional medieval armour is hand-forged in Austria, but the 2-kilogramme metal helmets worn at mass and ceremonial receptions are to be replaced by 3D-printed plastic headgear manufactured in Switzerland, near Stans. Marcus Risi, owner of a 3D printing company, was heavily involved in the development of the project. To make one of the new helmets, the 16th-century original is scanned, and the digital data is reworked on a computer before being printed. It takes approximately one day to produce a new hat. The new hi-tech helmets weigh just 570 grams, protect against ultraviolet rays and are fitted with air vents. But they are not cheap: each costs CHF900-1,000 ($911-1,012) to produce, though this is still cheaper than their predecessors, which also took almost 130 hours to make. The 3D printer makes a PVC helmet in one-sixth ...

  • Why gifted pupils need more support

    Fri, 18 Jan 2019 16:00:00 GMT

    Not all gifted children are receiving the support they need in Swiss schools, with an estimated up to one in five not fulfilling their potential. Time to take more action, the Federation of Swiss Teachers (LCH) says. The Swiss state school system runs along an integrative model to include a wide range of learners, but the focus often goes on children with special education needs, explained Beat A. Schwendimann, a board member at LCH, which represents teachers in German-speaking Switzerland. + Find out more about inclusive education in Switzerland here But gifted children also have special needs and require support. “Gifted education is often seen as an optional add-on,” he told swissinfo.ch via email. But it’s the school’s mission to develop the talents for all children, he added. Studies show that 15% to 20% of pupils would be capable of performing above the class average. That is why the LCH has drawn up a position paper, recently highlighted on its website, calling for ...

  • ‘The EU will not renegotiate the framework treaty with Switzerland’

    Fri, 18 Jan 2019 10:00:00 GMT

    As the signs within Switzerland increasingly suggest that a framework agreement with the European Union is heading for failure, a political analyst warns that Brussels will not budge and will not return to the deal, which aims to determine the two parties’ long-term relations. Is the framework deal heading for a premature death? Recent comments by several top Swiss politicians suggest so. “We need to renegotiate significant points for the deal to have a chance of being accepted – that’s my view,” said Ueli Maurer of the conservative right, anti-EU Swiss People’s Party as he took on the rotating Swiss presidency for 2019. These comments generated considerable reaction, although the government has yet to take a position and is currently carrying out a public consultation on the agreement proposed by the European Union in December. In the meantime, Christian Levrat, president of the leftwing Social Democratic Party, has called for talks with the EU to be reopened. “The ...

  • Swiss youths strike for climate protection

    Fri, 18 Jan 2019 16:18:00 GMT

    Thousands of young people from schools and universities around Switzerland went on strike on Friday to demand greater action to combat climate change. Their protest was inspired by Greta Thunberg, who began a solo climate protest by striking every Friday in Sweden in August 2018. She was invited to address last year's climate summit (COP24) in Poland, where she accused world leaders of behaving like irresponsible children by not doing enough to address climate problems. Thunberg tweeted that she will be attending the World Economic Forum in Davos from January 23 to 25.  Thousands of students have followed her lead, striking in Australia, the United Kingdom, Belgium, the US and Japan.  On Friday, Switzerland was the stage for the latest protest, where organisers said more than 20,000 students from schools and colleges in 15 cities took part in the action.  Organisers have said another strike is planned for February 2.  The video below was taken in the Swiss capital Bern, ...

  • Time flies: iconic Swiss railway clock turns 75

    Fri, 18 Jan 2019 12:21:00 GMT

    The clocks in Switzerland's railway stations with their particular modern look have become an icon of Swiss design. The clock is the brainchild of Hans Hilfiker, an engineer with the Federal Railways, and was used for the first time in 1944. The timepiece remains eye-catching 75 years on. Hilfiker was inspired by the Bauhaus movement, a German art school noted for a synthesising technology, craftsmanship and design aesthetics. Instead of numbers, the clock face shows simple vertical lines as indicators and a rotating red second hand reminiscent of the traditional signalling disc of the station masters. Despite its age the design looks as young and fresh as ever. It served as a model for the clocks on the tablet computers which Apple introduced in 2012. In a bid to avert a legal dispute, Apple agreed to pay CHF20 million ($20.1 million) to the Swiss national railway company in exchange for the rights to use the clock design. It disappeared from iPads soon afterwards, when Apple ...

  • New calendar forces watchmakers to choose between fairs

    Thu, 17 Jan 2019 11:52:00 GMT

    The decision by Switzerland’s biggest watch fairs - the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH) and Baselworld – to run back to back next year has made life complicated for watchmakers.  On the penultimate day of the SIHH watch fair in Geneva an uninterrupted stream of Japanese, Chinese and European watch distributors and retailers keep the watch brand stalls busy.  The latest collections are unveiled to them in private rooms attached to the stalls. If sufficiently impressed, the international buyers will make the orders that will keep the Swiss watch industry afloat – that is until they have to do it all over again at Baselworld in March.  However, from 2020 onwards both fairs will be held back-to-back: SIHH from April 26-29 in Geneva, followed immediately by Baselworld (April 30 to May 5 in Basel). This new arrangement will continue until 2024. “We have sought dialogue with the SIHH and together have found a solution, which benefits visitors, the media, and the ...

  • Switzerland's oldest cookbook whets modern appetites

    Wed, 16 Jan 2019 09:48:00 GMT

    Want to whip up a storm in the kitchen just like the Swiss did 400 years ago? The oldest surviving German-language cookbook in Switzerland has been republished, and what once fed the clergy of the diocese can now be served up in your own home. It's a weighty book, not just in terms of its many pages, but also in terms of the dense recipes found inside. "Ein schön Kochbuch" (“A beautiful cookbook”) dates from 1559 and contains 515 recipes. The handwritten original was found a few years ago in the attic of a house near Zurich. The owner donated it to Swiss historian Walter Letsch, and today the original is stored in the Cantonal Archives of Graubünden.   Fancy beaver's tail or pike liver? However, cookbooks don't really belong in archives, but in kitchens: and so, Letsch edited the book and translated it into modern German. The newly-published book, available in Swiss bookstores, not only contains the recipes but also additional explanations on the dishes and ingredients as well ...

  • Getting the Swiss back on skis

    Wed, 16 Jan 2019 10:00:00 GMT

    Switzerland has always thought of itself as a nation of skiers, but there is a whole section of society that is not tempted by the white stuff. Many of them would rather spend the winter holidays on a beach than on a mountain slope. In general, fewer people are skiing in Switzerland. A report published in 2018 by the Swiss Tourism industry shows ski days were down 23% between the 2008/9 season and 2017/18. This reflects a general world trend. Swiss researcher Laurent Vanat publishes an annual international report on snow and mountain tourism. He writes, "It is the global Western skier market that is flattening, although this is not reflected in the number of skiers worldwide, which is growing thanks to developing markets such as China”. The latest report from Swiss Mountain Railways, the association of ski-lift operators, notes that about two-thirds of skiers on Swiss slopes are locals. These are mainly younger people up to the age of 30, and baby boomers, aged 50 or over. The ...

  • Keeping slopes safe is risky work

    Wed, 16 Jan 2019 16:11:00 GMT

    What does it take to keep ski areas safe? Following the death on Monday of a snow patroller caught in an avalanche, Swiss Public Television, RTS, takes a closer look at the dangerous work. The 24-year-old Swiss victim and a colleague were working in ​​Crosets in the Porte du Soleil ski area in canton Valais when an avalanche was triggered at 1,970 meters. One of the patrollers managed to escape from the snow mass on his own, and dug out his colleague, buried under 1m 40cm of snow, but the victim was dead by the time a helicopter arrived to take him to hospital. Snowfall is currently at record levels in the Swiss Alps, making off-piste skiing particularly dangerous. A 20-year-old Swedish skier lost his life in an avalanche on Tuesday. It's the patrollers' job to try to limit the danger for the public, but they put themselves in the way of great danger by doing so. A television crew found out more about the profession from patrollers working in the resort of Ovronnaz in Valais.

  • Brits in Switzerland wonder about their rights amid Brexit countdown

    Tue, 15 Jan 2019 07:00:00 GMT

    Can British citizens in Switzerland feel reassured about their post-Brexit situation following a complicated deal between Switzerland and the UK? Embassy officials are working to clarify the situation, but several issues remain unresolved.  A citizens' rights deal between Switzerland and the UK, agreed in December, is said to “broadly” protect the existing rights of UK citizens living in Switzerland, and vice versa, after the United Kingdom leaves the European Union on March 29. The agreement – which will apply even if the UK crashes out of the EU without a deal – also takes into account some 2,600 British cross-border workers who commute into Switzerland from neighbouring countries (they will still have to comply with residency rules in the country where they live). Jane Owen, the British ambassador to Switzerland and Liechtenstein, spoke to swissinfo.ch ahead of a series of “roadshow” events being held across Switzerland to answer Brits’ questions about Brexit. She discussed ...

  • How Santander’s ditching of Andrea Orcel stunned finance industry

    Tue, 8 Jan 2019 08:11:00 GMT

    Cancel the welcome drinks and pulp the business cards: Andrea Orcel, the high-profile dealmaker from UBS, will not be joining Santander as chief executive after all. The announcement that Mr Orcel’s ascension to the top of Spain’s largest lender has been terminated following a row over a €50m compensation package has stunned the banking industry. Indeed, its capacity to shock was second only to the fact that Mr Orcel was appointed by Santander in the first place. Mr Orcel had expected to receive tens of millions of euros in Santander shares upon joining the bank to recompense him for €50m of deferred stock he earned during his seven-year stint at UBS. Under the terms of Mr Orcel’s contract, the Swiss bank was entitled to withhold his UBS shares because he was joining a rival. However, in a statement on Tuesday night — released moments before the parliamentary vote on Brexit in the UK — Santander said it had “become clear” that the cost of reimbursing the Italian-born banker ...

  • 20 years of fighting the white death

    Wed, 16 Jan 2019 08:27:00 GMT

    Heavy snowfalls in recent days have prompted the authorities to issue the highest level of avalanche risk warning in the Swiss mountains. Similar dangerous levels were reached in the winter of 1999. What has changed in avalanche protection since then? (SRF, swissinfo.ch) Because of the heavy snowfalls over the weekend, the Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research (SLF) in Davos resorted to the seldom issued "level 5" warning of avalanche risk in some parts of the country.  Affected were the eastern areas of the Bernese Oberland, central Switzerland, the Glarus region and large parts of the southeast.  On Tuesday, the SLF expected slightly better conditions thanks to less snowfall. The avalanche danger, however, remains at level 4, the second highest and applies to practically the entire Alpine area. The conditions rekindle memories of the winter of 1999, when over a dozen people were killed by avalanches. At the time, in just over a month, the Alps saw over five metres of snow ...

  • China wants to seduce the world with culture

    Mon, 14 Jan 2019 08:54:00 GMT

    The Beijing Opera has performed twice at the Grand Théâtre in Geneva. Such a spectacle goes beyond just a simple cultural event. For the Chinese authorities, it is also a means to win hearts and minds abroad. A true classic in the literary tradition "Sun Wukong's Fantastic Journey" combines singing, music, dance, theatre and martial arts with to bring stories from Chinese folklore to life. The central theme of the story is that of the rebellion of the monkey king against the power of the emperor. By showcasing its rich culture, China is exercising its soft power like the US does through film and music. Cultural activities help to give a more positive image of a country. Beijing spends around 10 billion dollars a year on image building. 

  • Swiss bank crypto services ‘tip of the iceberg’

    Mon, 14 Jan 2019 15:31:00 GMT

    The worlds of crypto-assets and traditional finance have been brought closer together by Swiss bank Vontobel’s Digital Asset Vault. More banks are expected to follow suit, often in combination with technology firms to bring cryptocurrencies to the masses. Digital Asset Vault is a plug-in platform that enables other institutions to both store and trade crypto-assets on behalf of their clients. It combines Vontobel’s trading know-how with the expertise of Swiss crypto-company Taurus to solve two problems in one stroke. The vault allows people to trade cryptocurrencies without the technological hassle of holding their own encrypted private keys. It also lets banks keep cryptocurrencies off balance sheets, which would otherwise force them to hold large amounts of capital in reserve to insure against potential losses. The aim is to provide a fully regulated corridor to trading in crypto assets that appeals to institutional investors. The platform will focus on cryptocurrencies, such ...

  • Is there life elsewhere?

    Mon, 14 Jan 2019 10:00:00 GMT

    Twenty-five years ago, two Swiss astronomers made the first discovery of an extrasolar planet in the Pegasus constellation – a milestone in astronomical research. What have we learned since then? Swiss scientists Michel Mayor and Didier Queloz were the first to discover a planet outside our solar system back in 1995, establishing the University of Geneva as a global centre for exoplanet research. The giant planet they found was in a four-day orbit around the nearby star 51 Pegasi. Since then, astronomers around the world have discovered thousands of exoplanets. Today's telescopes are capable of detecting different regions of the electromagnetic spectrum, cosmic rays, neutrinos or gravitational waves. And Queloz has continued his involvement, searching and finding extrasolar planets as part of the Astrophysics Group of the Cavendish Laboratory, Cambridge, and at the University of Geneva. In this video he tells swissinfo.ch what we've discovered so far, and how future ...

  • Why debt collection is booming in Switzerland

    Mon, 14 Jan 2019 11:30:00 GMT

    The number of debt collections has doubled over the past 20 years. Fewer Swiss are paying their taxes, health insurance bills or online purchases on time. "Only the Greeks are less punctual,” claimed the headline in the newspaper, the SonntagsZeitung, in a story at the end of last year. It was referring to a report by debt collection company Intrum, in which about 25,000 people in 24 countries across Europe were surveyed about their attitudes towards paying bills. Of the Swiss who were polled, 54% stated that they had failed to pay at least one bill on time in the previous 12 months. This put Switzerland second to last, just ahead of the Greeks. The comparison website, Comparis, came to a similar conclusion, stating that one in four people in Switzerland had failed to pay punctually, and the indebtedness of one in seven had landed them in the debt collection register. Another indication that the situation has got worse is the nearly annual increase in the number of debt ...

  • ‘These women never gave up on their dreams’

    Sun, 13 Jan 2019 10:00:00 GMT

    ​​​​​​​ On their trips around the world, two longtime friends found something missing from travel guides: women. So, the Swiss duo wrote a different kind of travel book featuring ground-breaking females in places like Tanzania, Myanmar and Switzerland.  When Carin Salerno and Elisabeth Thorens launched "The World of Women" travel book series, they wanted to tell readers more than just where to stay and what to eat. Salerno, who has worked all over the world for the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), contributed volumes on Tanzania and Myanmar, while Thorens, a vocational teacher and author in Lausanne, drew on her experiences to help with the book on Tanzania and author an edition about Swiss women.  Each book does include information for travellers on customs and traditions, lodging and dining. But at the heart of the series are local women's stories, such as the three that follow. As diverse as the women featured in the books are, they share a common trait, ...

  • How ice fishing became cool in the Bernese Alps

    Mon, 14 Jan 2019 09:25:00 GMT

    The imposing mountain backdrop at Lake Oeschinen attracts hundreds of fishermen – young and old. Swiss Public Television, SRF, met mountain guide Fritz Loretan, who works for the commune of Kandersteg and makes sure the ice is at least 10cm thick and therefore safe for people to fish.  This is home to rainbow trout, Canadian trout and char, but if they're not 25cm long, the fishermen have to throw them back in. You need a license to fish and on peak days, 150 to 200 are sold.  Thanks to pictures being shared on social media, ice fishing from the lake is becoming more popular.  (SRF/swissinfo.ch) 

  • Snow dumps and ice-skating injuries

    Sat, 12 Jan 2019 16:00:00 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 73 Winter has come! Many Swiss regions were covered in the white stuff, with a high of 73 centimetres of fresh snow recorded in the village of St Antönien, situated at 1,510 metres above sea level, in eastern Switzerland.  Tuesday 2.6 The unemployment rate in Switzerland averaged 2.6% in 2018, a ten-year low. Just over 118,000 people were registered with regional job centres during 2018 – 17.5% fewer than the previous year.  Wednesday 15 billion The Swiss National Bank says it expects to report a loss of about CHF15 billion ($15.3 billion) for 2018, mainly because of a weak performance of foreign currency positions.  Thursday 3,600 Some 3,600 ice-skaters require medical attention every year in Switzerland, with almost nine out of ten injured people ...

  • Switzerland's sole volunteer paramedic service

    Sat, 12 Jan 2019 10:00:00 GMT

    Croce Verde (Green Cross) Lugano is a non-profit that runs an ambulance service, a low-cost dental practice and first aid training courses. Volunteers are the backbone of this organisation.  The association based in Lugano in the southern Swiss canton of Ticino celebrates its 118th anniversary this year. It relied exclusively on the work of volunteers until 1989 before becoming more professional. However, Croce Verde still depends on a pool of 110 volunteers, in addition to the 95 people it employs. These volunteers offer pre-hospital medical assistance free of charge during their spare time. This structure is unique in Switzerland; no other canton has integrated volunteers into its emergency relief efforts.  250 hours of commitment What motivates volunteers to join Croce Verde? Reasons range from the need to help, the adrenaline that comes with emergencies, the relationships that are created with patients and their families, the unpredictability of the role, the feeling of ...

  • What’s the real risk from avalanches?

    Fri, 11 Jan 2019 14:31:00 GMT

    On Thursday, an avalanche crashed spectacularly into a hotel restaurant at a small mountain resort in eastern Switzerland. Three people received minor injuries. What are the avalanche risks in Switzerland and how are such hazards monitored?  At 4.30pm on Thursday, a 300 metre-wide avalanche swept down the Schwägalp in canton Appenzell Outer Rhodes burying over 25 vehicles in a car park and crashing into the restaurant of the Hotel Säntis. Search and rescue operations are continuing.  How common are avalanches in Switzerland? Over the past 20 years, there has been an average of 100 reported avalanches a year where people were involved. On average, 23 people die in avalanches every year, the majority (+90%) in open mountainous areas where people were off-piste skiing, snowboarding, or backcountry touring on skis or snowshoes.  In controlled areas (roads, railways, communities and secured ski runs) the 15-year annual average number of victims dropped from 15 at the end of the ...

  • Why Trump’s absence could benefit Davos

    Fri, 11 Jan 2019 11:06:00 GMT

    If this year’s World Economic Forum (WEF) annual general meeting does indeed take place without US President Donald Trump, it won’t matter too much and the Swiss resort of Davos probably won’t even lose much money, say some Swiss media.  Trump announced on Thursday he was cancelling his planned visit over a government shutdown. It is not clear if the partial shutdown will still be ongoing when the summit takes place in the Swiss mountain resort on January 22-25.  Certainly WEF founder Klaus Schwab should be disappointed as he likes to “bathe in the light of the powerful”, writes Fredy Gsteiger, diplomatic correspondent of Swiss public television, SRF.  Ueli Maurer, who holds the rotating Swiss presidency this year, will also miss a rare opportunity to speak face to face with the US president. Otherwise, however, Trump can be seen as “a burden rather than an enrichment for the WEF”, says Gsteiger, “especially as he would hardly have shown up with any creative new initiatives but ...

  • Switzerland's leniency on criminals, explained

    Fri, 11 Jan 2019 10:00:00 GMT

    When compared with many other countries, Switzerland tends to hand down shorter sentences, particularly for violent crime. And usually only repeat offenders or serious criminals have to do prison time. Why? Closer inspection of the penal codes of European countries shows that German-speaking countries, including Switzerland, issue relatively lenient criminal sentences. Anyone who kills a person in Switzerland while suffering “great mental distress” could, under certain circumstances, get just one year in prison. In other countries, the penalties are much more severe, as the following chart shows: In Switzerland, a life sentence can be given for murder, but under Swiss criminal law “life” doesn’t mean that the perpetrator remains in prison for the rest of their days. + What does “life” mean in Swiss criminal law? After 15 years, sometimes after just ten years, a conditional release is possible. It is generally the norm in Switzerland that a criminal is conditionally released ...

  • Nation urged to vaccinate against tick-borne disease

    Thu, 10 Jan 2019 15:40:00 GMT

    Ticks have become such a menace across Switzerland that the government is urging everyone to get vaccinated against one of the diseases they cause - early summer meningo-encephalitis (ESME). Health insurers will reimburse vaccination costs.  Previously only recommended in specific regions, the net for vaccinations has now been cast wider. That's because of an increase in cases of ESME, a disease which attacks the central nervous system: 380 cases were reported in 2018, compared to 100 per year in previous years. According to the government information platform ch.ch, the most widespread tick species in Switzerland is the wood tick. It prefers deciduous woods with abundant undergrowth, the edge of the forest and forest paths, and waits on low growing plants until a warm-blooded host (a person or animal) brushes against the plant. Ticks do not fall from trees. Ticks have to be properly removed with tweezers. If part of the tick remains under the skin for longer than around 36-48 ...

  • 300-year-old watchmaker creates crypto storage timepiece

    Thu, 10 Jan 2019 16:03:00 GMT

    One of Switzerland’s oldest watchmakers, which traces its roots to 1718, has entered the blockchain age with a timepiece that stores cryptocurrencies. The watch from A. Favre & Fils aims to create a new type of crypto wallet with integrated mechanical elements. Laurent Favre, the tenth generation of the watchmaking clan who revived the family tradition in 2008, says the product is no mere gimmick. It is intended to keep the mechanical watch relevant in the modern age. The family firm almost foundered in the late 1970s when the Japanese quartz watch fad threatened to wipe out the traditional Swiss watch industry. For Favre, marrying the latest technology with centuries-old craft is the best way to avoid a reoccurrence of such hard times. “It’s a bit like figuring out the future of steam engines in the age of electric trains,” he told swissinfo.ch. “You have to keep adding relevant features that advance the design.” Unlike other brands that have released limited edition watches ...

  • Foreigner voting rights: broad variety of opinions

    Thu, 10 Jan 2019 10:00:00 GMT

    What do swissinfo.ch readers make of the idea of granting foreigners in Switzerland the right to take part in votes and elections? The more than 200 answers to our question cover a broad range. We tried to sort them in different categories. Considering the bare figures, it’s not particularly astonishing that easing the voting rights for foreigners is a recurring topic in Swiss politics. About 25% of the residents in Switzerland have a foreign passport. In Geneva it is even 40% and in Basel City 36%. But the non-Swiss have very limited possibilities to express their opinions at the ballot box – an obvious flaw in the Swiss-style democracy as international comparisons have criticised. At a national level, foreigners in Switzerland have no say at all. But things are slightly better – and more complex - at the level of the 26 cantons, which enjoy wide-ranging political autonomy. In Neuchâtel and Jura, foreigners can take part in votes and elections at the cantonal level. However, ...

  • The Swiss adventures of 90-year-old Tintin

    Thu, 10 Jan 2019 12:20:00 GMT

    Tintin the nonagenarian: 90 years ago on Thursday, the character was published for the first time in a Belgian newspaper. And though strongly associated with Brussels, the globe-trotting reporter – along with creator Hergé – also had Swiss links. Indeed, just three years after Tintin’s 1929 unveiling in the Belgian Petit Vingtième paper, the character’s cartoon strips were seen in the Swiss weekly L’Echo – one of the first publications outside Belgium to publish him. And a few decades later, in 1956 Tintin himself – as well as Hergé (1907-1983), who kept a house in the Villars ski station in canton Vaud – would make a real appearance in the Alpine nation. The 18th of Tintin’s adventures, the Calculus Affair saw the reporter flying into Geneva airport before heading to Nyon and Rolle in search of the famous Professor Calculus, who has mysteriously disappeared after attending a nuclear physics conference in Geneva. Indeed, Professor Calculus himself (who is rescued) was based ...

  • Why one party is opposing the criminalisation of homophobia

    Thu, 10 Jan 2019 11:40:00 GMT

    Last year, parliament approved legislation to criminalise homophobia. Now, a small ultra-conservative political party have decided to launch a referendum against the law. Party representative Marc Früh explains why. The legislation approved by parliament in December amounts to an extension of anti-racism norms to encompass discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation: a legal modification that allows for homophobia to be prosecuted just like racism, or anti-Semitism. For the rightwing Federal Democratic Union (see infobox), however, the new law is an attack on freedom of expression. Claiming that “valid opinions will in future be criminalised,” the group has decided (without the support of any other parties) to launch a referendum against it. The Federal Democratic Union The Christian, ultra-conservative party describes itself as the “party of ethical values”, founded on “the Bible and the world of God”. It occupies a marginal space in the Swiss political landscape: it ...

  • Inside Philip Morris International: On a mission to convince the skeptics

    Wed, 9 Jan 2019 10:00:00 GMT

    The world’s largest tobacco company says it wants you to stop smoking. What is it like to work inside Philip Morris International as it tries to radically reinvent itself? In short: never boring. The inside of Philip Morris International’s (PMI) operational headquarters in Lausanne looks more like the headquarters of a tech company in Silicon Valley than an old cigarette company. In contrast to the straight edge façade, the interior is bright, busy, and almost playful with purple work pods and tall glass phone booths scattered around as people zigzag across the building. This is perhaps emblematic of the major transformation underway at PMI. Or, so it says. As Tinat Chowdhry, manager of market support for global communications, puts it, “people think of us as the Marlboro maker. It is going to take time to convince them that we are genuine about our commitment to a smoke-free future.” Inside the Multinationals Series This article is part of a series on what it is like to ...

  • Global democracy looking better as Switzerland slips

    Wed, 9 Jan 2019 16:02:00 GMT

    Increased political participation around the world has halted a democratic backslide, finds the latest democracy index from the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU). Switzerland has dropped in the rankings, largely due to low voter turnout. The much-heralded retreat of global democracy, if not definitively stopped, was at least “paused” last year, according to the EIU’s Democracy Index, published on Wednesday. In contrast to various recent reports advertising end times for liberalism and civil rights, the London-based magazine writes that while 42 countries’ democracies declined in 2018, the overall global score remained stable; and almost 50 countries improved. The main cause of the pushback, which halted a three-year decline, was a boost in the ‘political participation’ category: turnout figures, party affiliation, engagement with the media, and adult literacy levels all increased. Apart from the Middle East and North Africa, participation increased in all regions of the ...

  • What does the future hold for electric vehicles?

    Wed, 9 Jan 2019 13:31:00 GMT

    Switzerland has a new strategy to promote greater use of electric vehicles, but the Alpine nation remains far behind leading electric mobility pioneers such as Norway. The Swiss plan comes amid questions about how environmentally friendly electric cars really are.  Sales of electric cars in Switzerland increased by 40% in 2017, compared to the previous year. But the 4,929 electric vehicles sold only represented 1.6% of total vehicle sales, according to the Federal Statistical Office. This compared to Norway, where 20.8% of cars sold that year were electric. By 2025, only electric or hybrid vehicles will be allowed on Norwegian roads.  But Switzerland has new ambitions when it comes to electric vehicles. Last December, the Swiss Federal Energy Office published its “Roadmap for electric mobility 2022”, a strategy document which contains plans to increase the share of rechargeable tourism vehicles (electric and hybrid) on Swiss roads to 15%.  Electric vehicles will thus become ...

  • The shady origins of gold refined in Switzerland

    Tue, 8 Jan 2019 10:00:00 GMT

    Most of the gold in the world passes through Switzerland. This is a business worth CHF70-90 billion ($70-90 billion) depending on the year. Gold arrives here in unrefined form, and leaves the country in all its glittering purity. Sometimes, though, it is of highly dubious provenance. The government recognises the risk, which is why it recently issued a report on the subject. This report raises concerns over the exploitation of mine workers, and makes several recommendations to Swiss firms active in the field. Swiss refineries process 70% of the unrefined gold mined in the world each year. Four of the nine major players in the global gold industry conduct most of their business here in Switzerland. While the gold originates in ninety different countries,  roughly half of all the gold imported for processing in Switzerland comes from Britain, the United Arab Emirates or Hong Kong – three countries that produce no gold themselves. Gold accounts for 63% of Britain’s exports to ...

  • Authorities seek collective health insurance for asylum seekers

    Wed, 9 Jan 2019 08:29:00 GMT

    The Swiss government has put out a public tender for a collective health insurance to cover all asylum seekers in its federal asylum centres. But could the move end up being expensive? All asylum seekers have right to basic healthcare in Switzerland. Provisionally admitted foreigners and refugees have to take out basic health insurance within three months of submitting their asylum requests. If they have already been allocated to a particular canton, it’s the canton’s job, but if they are still in a federal centre, the task falls to the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM). The federal agency has to pay for the insurance as well as any arising healthcare costs until the asylum seeker is allocated to a canton. The SEM is however now looking, via public tender, for an insurer to offer basic insurance to all asylum seekers in federal centres. This would help reduce administrative costs – but should not affect coverage, as asylum seekers have the right to the same medical cover as ...

  • ‘Cool’ Swiss tech puts on a show in Vegas

    Tue, 8 Jan 2019 15:47:00 GMT

    The cream of Swiss innovation is being presented at the Consumer Electronic Show (CES) in Las Vegas – for the first time ever. It is hoped the decision will reap financial rewards. In all, 32 companies, most of them start-ups, feature in the imposing 200m2 Swiss pavilion. The aim is to stand out among the 4,400 exhibitors. The CES event itself, the world’s largest expo for home electronics, is expected to attract more than 180,000 visitors over four days. Among the innovations on show: a ring that transforms your hand into a computer mouse, an app that lets the audience at the next Paléo music festival create works that will be projected onto festival screens in real time, and a bottle opener that remembers everything that it opens. There’s a huge and diverse range of ideas from finance to biometrics, to video games and drones. It’s the drones that form the highpoint, with demonstrations showing how the devices can be used by amateurs, but also in a professional context, such as ...

  • High prices cloud future of alpine railways

    Tue, 8 Jan 2019 09:25:00 GMT

    Chances are you won’t get a seat on a Swiss train to travel on Europe’s highest railway if you’ve booked a 12-day European travel package, including flight, for as little as $600. Yet such cheap packages to Europe are being offered to Chinese tourists, and China is the key market for Switzerland’s Jungfrau Railways and its pricey mountain trips. The company’s rail journey to the ‘Top of Europe’ as it’s billed – with the upper mountain station at 3,454 metres above sea level (11,332 ft) – has been one of the Swiss tourist industry’s biggest success stories, attracting record numbers year after year. A large reason for this has been the company’s winning strategy of making deals with tour operators in China, convincing them to include the ‘Top of Europe’ in their Europe packages. According to a report from Swiss public television, SRF, the Chinese accounted for well over half of all tourists who took the Jungfrau train in 2017, when the railways reported a record 1.07 million ...

  • What winter used to look like in Switzerland

    Mon, 7 Jan 2019 14:22:00 GMT

    Snow in Swiss cities is sparse these days. This was not always the case, as historical black-and-white photographs taken between 1930 and 1970 show. A look back into the Swiss winter wonderland of yore reveals heavy snowfall and sub-zero temperatures, even in major cities such as Bern, Zurich and Geneva. In the winter of 1962/1963, lakes Zurich and Constance froze over, making it possible for people to walk on the ice. Even the camels from the Knie Circus trekked across frozen Lake Zurich. In our series #swisshistorypics we travel back in time to look at photographs which document past life and culture in Switzerland.

  • Swiss plans for whistleblowers fall short, critics say

    Tue, 8 Jan 2019 08:11:00 GMT

    Swiss government plans to update laws on whistleblowers will fail to provide sufficient protection for employees who reveal corporate wrongdoing, according to anti-corruption campaigners. The role of whistleblowers in uncovering European company scandals has been highlighted this year by Danske Bank, where a former executive helped to reveal a €200 billion money-laundering scandal. Legislative changes proposed by the Swiss government fall short of international best practice on protecting whistleblowers from dismissal and the circumstances in which they can report corruption to law enforcement authorities or the media, said Martin Hilti, executive director in Switzerland of Transparency International, a non-governmental organisation. “Unfortunately, Swiss lawmakers so far have consistently avoided providing adequate whistleblower protection. They seem to have not yet understood its importance for employees, but also the value added for Swiss companies and Switzerland as a ...

  • Swiss voters asked to decide on urban sprawl

    Mon, 7 Jan 2019 10:00:00 GMT

    As urban development continues apace, should a freeze be placed on the creation of new construction zones? Such is the proposal of a people's initiative put forward by the youth chapter of the Green Party to be voted on by the Swiss on February 10.  For opponents, the initiative is too radical, and the recently revised Planning Act is more than adequate to reasonably manage urban development. Is Switzerland covered with too much concrete and asphalt? Officially, 7.5% of the country is covered by buildings, roads or other human-built infrastructure. But the figures, which date to 2009 and are the most recent available, do not tell the entire story. Even though each year a surface area equal to the size of Basel disappears underneath concrete, Switzerland is not comparable to countries like the Netherlands or Belgium, where 37% and 25% of the surface area, respectively, is occupied by buildings, railways or roads. Neighbouring countries also have greater proportions of ...

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