3 Maggio 2017
Vi hyr ut en alldeles speciell nyrenoverad våning i närheten av St. Moritz
The big luxury apartment is equipped with all the modern comforts and has been beautifully furnished mixing sophisticated alpine original details with contemporary art and design. This exclusive residence, decorated with original antique wood floors, is spread over three connected levels. The two spacious lounges make up the biggest Suler in the upper Engadin, with gorgeous typical arches of the valley. They allow for the perfect relaxing atmosphere and sophisticated gatherings amongst family and friends. The apartment is placed in an ancient Engadin house dating back to 1595, located in the village of La Punt, a sunny and prestigious area of Engadin valley. The whole house has been completely renovated, using furnishings, fabrics and natural materials and stone of high quality; it has been designed to ensure the best combination of hospitality and luxury. Flanked by evergreen trees and a garden, it is located in a quiet and exclusive residential village. The apartment is equipped with a rich white porcelain service, and elegant cutlery and glasses; a wonderful original wood table sits up to 12 people. For informal meals, you can use a comfortable table placed in the stunning dining kitchen with a bowled ceiling. The kitchen is a high end kitchen from Boffi equipped with all the latest devices and tools. From the kitchen you can also access a small delightful private garden. 6 bedroom - 5 bathroom - 4 parking places -
20 Aprile 2017
Vi hyr ut vacker, klassisk o renoverad villa i Lugano
We are renting a lovely and spacious detached villa in a classic style, 7 minutes by car from the center of Lugano. It is on the high Pregassona hill, near the nursery school, primary and secondary schools with a bus stop in the immediate vicinity. The house perfectly lends itself to a family with children thanks to both the location as well as the flat garden surrounding the property. The villa is composed as follows: In the garage is: (Tot. 972M2) - Garage for 1 car and 1 motorcycle - Boiler room - Cellar - Hobby and Bunker room At the entrance floor: (tot. 154M2) - Entrance hall and staircase connecting to the upper floor (night) and the underground floor (garage) - Living-dining room with a fireplace and garden exit - Guest toilet - 1 Small studio - 2 adjoining rooms with garden exit - 1 spacious kitchen Upper floor (Tot. 87M2) - 2 bedrooms - 1 master bedroom with bath (bathtub) and garden exit - 1 bedroom with bath (shower) and balcony and veranda The villa was built in 1983 and renovated in 2004. A new kitchen and new bathrooms were installed in 2015/16. Grates were installed in front of all the windows, which can be moved to the side like an accordion. Total 340M2 including the garage floor. Available immediately.
20 Gennaio 2017
Nya våningar till salu med utsikt över Lugano sjön
Titta gärna in på vår hemsida www.swissedrealestate.ch ref. 17013-17014-17015 och 17016 där vi har beskrivning på fyra helt nya våningar. Ni hinner att göra vissa personliga ändringar innan den 28.02.2017 efter egen smak. Utsikten är helt underbar och kvaliteten är garanterad. Ring oss +41 79 935 58 55 om ni vill ha mera informationer
19 Settembre 2016
Vi hyr ut en takvåning i Savosa-Lugano
Vi hyr ut en underbart trevlig o ljus våning i Savosa, 5 minuter med bil till centrum i Lugano. 2 sovrum med direkt utgång till en stor terrass, 2 badrum (1 med dusch och 1 med badkar) . Ett stort vardagsrum med öppet kök och en stor terrass. Sol hela dagen, en park på 2 minuter gå väg, modern. Totalt mäter terrasserna 40 qm. Inträde på begäran. Titta gärna in på www.swissedrealestate.ch
28 Luglio 2016
Swissed Real Estate har en ny hemsida!
Swissed har en ny hemsida! Titta gärna in på www.swissedrealestate.ch. Vi tar hand om allt som har med köp, försäljning, hyra och renovering av ditt hem att göra! Hemsidan kommer snart att översättas på engelska, tyska, ryska o kinesiska! Välkomna att titta in!
22 Giugno 2016
Massor an nyheter hos SWISSED!
Massor av nyheter har vi att komma med! Det blir spännande i framtiden! Varma hälsningar Britta
2 Maggio 2016
Swiss expats discuss pensions and insurance
Concerns about the country's old age pension scheme and health insurance coverage were high on the agenda of the most recent assembly of the Swiss Abroad Council. The delegates, meeting on the shores of Lake Lucerne, raised a series of practical problems. “Social security issues have been a recurring topic for the Organisation of the Swiss Abroad (OSA), just like e-voting or problems for many expats to open a bank account in Switzerland,” said OSA co-director Ariane Rustichelli during Saturday’s meeting in Brunnen. As a major reform of the old age pension system is underway in the Swiss parliament, the expat assembly focused on a voluntary scheme for Swiss citizens living outside the European Union or the countries of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA). Currently, 14,000 people from outside the EU/EFTA – or 5% of the total number – benefit from the voluntary old age pension scheme, according to the Federal Social Security Office. In giving a short history of the voluntary state pension scheme, Roberto Engeler, a leading member of the OSA, conceded flaws in the system since its beginning in the late 1940s. “Reforms of the scheme were introduced at the expense of the weakest members of society or those who temporarily live outside Switzerland and miss out on regular contributions,” he added. “The problems are increasing,” he warned and called on the government to consider possibilities for a voluntary old age pension scheme regardless of the country of residence of the Swiss expats. Reforms läs mera på: www.swissinfo.ch/eng/politics....
21 Marzo 2016
Vaud corporate tax vote sends signal to Bern
Sunday’s landslide vote in canton Vaud for ‘creative’ corporate tax reforms sends an important signal to Bern, Swiss newspapers agree. But they doubt that parliament will adopt such a conciliatory position on this controversial issue. On Sunday, Vaud citizens overwhelmingly backed (87%) a reform of the overall corporate tax rate in the canton – setting a single lower rate of 13.79% from 2019 onwards, compared to 21.65% at present. The plan involves not only slashing the cantonal corporate tax rate and eliminating special statuses for foreign companies, but also social measures - additional funds for family allowances and setting a threshold for compulsory health insurance (maximum 10% of income). In general, foreign firms with special status are expected to pay more tax, while most small and medium-sized firms will pay less. The idea, designed to clarify and stabilize the business and investment situation in Vaud while strengthening certain social aspects, had received wide political support, with opposition only from leftwing parties and unions. The regional French-speaking paper 24Heures described the result as a “small lesson in democracy for all Swiss”. This ‘creative solution’ to a complex technical issue involved a ‘remarkable effort of political schooling to show the link between economic competitiveness and social progress,” it wrote. The Agefi business newspaper said the reform sent an important signal to Bern: “There is a feeling that a new egalitarian regime between Swiss and foreign firms is globally acceptable politically.” Unfair competition For several years, Switzerland has been under pressure from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the European Union, which wish to put an end to unfair competition that benefits foreign businesses with special status in the small alpine nation. In 2014, Bern agreed to end certain company tax measures regarded as ‘harmful’ as part of its reform of corporate tax rules. At the cantonal level, Brussels criticized Switzerland’s tax perks for holdings, as well as domicile and mixed companies. At the federal level it has been critical of Swiss-based headquarters and branches of multinationals as well as companies active as “Swiss finance branches”. In particular, the EU has been demanding that cantons remove “discriminatory” tax breaks on the overseas earnings of foreign firms and apply the same rate as domestic profits. Vaud, the headquarters of numerous multinationals, is the first canton to have pushed ahead with regional reforms, despite the issue still being discussed at federal level in Bern as part of the so-called “tax reform III agenda”. Since tax changes could potentially cause multinationals to find Switzerland a less attractive business location, parliament is focusing on developing a system of tax breaks that will benefit all businesses. This could include the introduction of several instruments, including a system of tax breaks for research and innovation (royalty boxes). Cantons could also be able to deduct expenses incurred for research and development, introduce targeted relief from capital taxation, and lower the tax rates on businesses’ benefits, which vary from one region to another. Federal battle 24Heures said tensions surrounding the ongoing debate in parliament did not augur well for a ‘conciliatory approach’. “The right seems tempted to load the federal reform of companies with tax optimization instruments for multinationals without giving the same importance to balancing elements,” it wrote. The leftwing paper Le Courrier said it was concerned the Vaud result risks “giving the business circles and their lobbies in parliament a real boost.” The Le Temps newspaper said the impact of the Vaud vote on events in Bern should not be overestimated, however: “An increasingly tough right-left tussle is taking place at federal level. The two camps will probably try to resolve things in a nationwide vote.” The battle over the corporate tax reforms is being closely watched inside and outside Switzerland. The average corporate tax rate among the 26 cantons was 17.9% in 2015, compared with 21.2% in 2006. Switzerland is still placed favourably in international comparisons, but tax rates vary significantly between cantons. In 2015, Lucerne stood at 12.32% and Zug at 14.6%. Geneva is still considering whether to slash its rate to 13%. www.swissinfo.ch
26 Febbraio 2016
Switzerland’s defence of the Dublin accords is not a coincidence
What sort of welcome do migrants receive in Europe? While Italy is vociferously calling for the abolition of the Dublin accords, Switzerland and other European nations continue to defend them. And not by chance: since 2009, Switzerland has sent back the most refugees of any European country, mostly to Italy. Although Switzerland is not one of the main destination countries for asylum seekers, between 2009 and 2014 it was the country that transferred the most migrants to another EU state. This practice is part of the Dublin accords, signed in 1990 and adopted by Switzerland in December 2008. According to this agreement, an asylum application can be made only once – as a rule, in the first country in which the migrant is registered. In most cases, this is Italy or Greece. However, not all countries are equal when it comes to the Dublin accords. For one thing, the registration of migrants is not systematic. Furthermore, the first-country-of-transit rule is enforced with varying degrees of rigidity, and ultimately, some countries are more reluctant than others to take back asylum seekers. Read more at: http://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/asylum-policy_switzerland-s-defence-of-the-dublin-accords-is-not-a-coincidence/41970948
26 Febbraio 2016
Rich foreigners in Zug will not get easier residency access
On Thursday, the Zug cantonal parliament rejected a proposal to do away with mandatory German language requirements for rich foreigners seeking a permanent residence permit. The government of the central Swiss canton wanted to make acquiring a Swiss “C” residence permit easier for wealthy expats from other countries. The German language exemption would have applied to foreigners with a taxable income of at least CHF1 million and CHF20 million in assets. It was targeted specifically at rich expats from outside the Eurozone. Around 20 wealthy individuals would have benefited if the proposal had been accepted. In the end, it was rejected by 44 votes to 27, over reservations that the exception would not be to the taste of the local population. The Alternative Green Party had threatened to launch a referendum if the plans went ahead. Zug, known as a tax haven, is not the only canton to appeal to the rich. Ticino, Nidwalden, Lucerne and Schwyz also reserve the right to make exceptions in certain cases, when it’s “in the public interest”. swissinfo.ch
2 Febbraio 2016
2,000 Swiss Volkswagen owners opt for legal action
Between 1,500 and 2,000 owners of Volkswagen cars have filed legal complaints against the German automotive giant, according to the Swiss Attorney General’s Office. However, it is unlikely they will receive financial compensation. The Attorney General’s Office is coordinating the multiple complaints related to the emissions rigging scandal. The dossier comprising all the complaints will be forwarded to the German Braunschweig public prosecutor that is investigating the scandal. “Our German colleagues have already opened a similar procedure,” André Marty, spokesperson for the Attorney General’s Office, told Swiss public television, SRF, on Monday. He also added that the chances of Swiss car owners receiving compensation was slim compared to American ones, due to difference in legal systems. In the US, Volkswagen offered its aggrieved customers $1,000 (CHF1,019) vouchers and a similar option is being considered for the Audi brand as well. In Switzerland, approximately 180,000 vehicles are equipped emission rigging software, according to the Federal Roads Office. Swiss consumer protection groups are currently working on a compensation agreement with AMAG, the country’s largest importer of Volkswagen cars. Slow recall In January, the German roads authority KBA approved in principle the measures proposed by Volkswagen for the recall of vehicles that benefited from modifications masking actual emission levels. But before the recall can begin, measures specific to each vehicle will have to be approved separately. This process is expected to be completed by autumn 2016. All owners of “offending” cars have to register their vehicles with the Swiss importer AMAG or their local dealer so that they can be informed in advance of the recall campaign.
2 Febbraio 2016
Switzerland tops Europe for economic freedom
Switzerland is the most economically free country in Europe, according to an annual index by the Heritage Foundation, an American conservative think tank. “Notable successes” were judged to be rule of law, open markets and regulatory efficiency. A concern was control of government spending. “The Swiss economy benefits from high levels of flexibility and institutional strengths that include strong protection of property rights and minimum tolerance for corruption,” wrote the authors of the 2016 Index of Economic Freedom, which measures a country’s freedom in terms of property rights and freedom from government regulation. “Openness to global trade and investment has enabled Switzerland to become one the world’s most competitive and innovative economies.” Switzerland came fourth in the overall ranking, behind Hong Kong, Singapore and New Zealand. It was one of five countries, along with Australia, placed in the “free” category. www.swissinfo.ch
12 Gennaio 2016
Swiss scientists find novel way to make stem cells
Scientists at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne (EPFL) have come up with a technique to convert mature cells into stem cells by “squeezing” them. This discovery could finally allow stem cells to be produced on an industrial scale. Stem cells have the potential to transform into cells of various organs such as the liver, pancreas, skin, etc., thus providing new avenues for the treatment of injuries and diseases. The 2012 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine was awarded to John B. Gurdon and Shinya Yamanaka, who discovered that mature, specialised cells can be ‘reprogrammed’ to become stem cells capable of developing into all tissues of the body. But producing stem cells from mature cells in a standardised manner has proven to be difficult, especially on a large scale. Whereas previous experiments had been conducted in a two-dimensional environment like a petri dish, the EPFL scientists used a three-dimensional gel medium to culture these precursor stem cells - known as “induced pluripotent stem cells” or iPSC. “We try to simulate the three-dimensional environment of a living tissue and see how it would influence stem cell behaviour,” said EPFL’s Matthias Lutolf whose lab published the study results in the journal Nature Materials. In a serendipitous discovery, Lutolf and his colleagues found out that the gel medium influenced the transformation of iPSCs into stem cells. The scientists could then reprogramme the cells faster and more efficiently by adjusting the composition of the gel medium. “Each cell type may have a ‘sweet spot’ of physical and chemical factors that offer the most efficient transformation,” said Lutolf. “Once you find it, it is a matter of resources and time to create stem cells on a larger scale.” This phenomenon is not yet completely understood by the researchers, but they plan to explore it further and identify the “sweet spot” for other cell types as well. swissinfo.ch
12 Gennaio 2016
Swiss companies strive to remain competitive
Export-oriented Swiss companies have accomplished a great deal in the year since the Swiss National Bank did away with the euro peg, but they’re not yet over the hump, says Daniel Küng, head of Switzerland Global Enterprise. “You have to tip your hat to these companies – it’s commendable what they’ve done recently in order to remain competitive,” said Küng in an interview in the Sunday newspaper NZZ am Sonntag. A survey conducted by Switzerland Global Enterprise shows that companies have taken a range of actions in order to remain competitive, among them optimising procurement, calculating in euros or dollars, reducing salaries, sinking production costs, raising prices, searching for other lucrative markets, or pulling out of foreign markets. More than 90% of Swiss exporters do business in Europe, and thus have been affected by the SNB decision, says Küng. He counsels the companies to diversify; not to concentrate too exclusively on business in Europe. The biggest chances for growth for small- and medium-sized businesses lie in countries with a developing middle class, in Asia, Latin America and to an extent in the Gulf states, Küng said. Many companies have fought to retain their market shares, often at the expense of profits, according to Küng. Almost 75% of companies reported a decrease in margins. One problem with companies’ current strategies is that they have little to invest in innovation, and that will have an effect on competitiveness over the medium term, Küng said. He highlighted the importance of companies that will add value to Switzerland, such as the American biotech firm Biogen, which brought 400 jobs and a billion-franc investment to Solothurn. But whereas 500 foreign companies new to Switzerland brought 3,500 new jobs in 2005, the number of new firms dropped to 274 and the number of jobs to 800 in 2014, said Küng. Reasons for the decline include not only the strong increase in the value of the Swiss franc, but also the uncertainty of the political situation in Switzerland in connection with a recent spate of people’s initiatives. swissinfo.ch
30 Dicembre 2015
Gott Nytt år!
Vi tackar hjärtligt för ett lyckosamt 2015 och önskar er alla ett riktigt Gott Nytt år!
7 Dicembre 2015
Nytt kontor i Lugano!
Vi har öppnat ett nytt kontor i centrala Lugano! Via Cattedrale 7 ligger precis vid gågatan som går upp till stationen. Ring gärna o sätt upp en tid, vi hjälper dig med allt som har med en inflyttning till Schweiz att göra, hem, uppehållstillstånd, skolor, pensionshem, körkort, sjukhus, öppning av firma, skattefrågor etc. Ser fram emot ditt besök!
18 Novembre 2015
Swiss stop short of boosting border controls
The government says there are currently not sufficient reasons to introduce systematic checks at its borders to prevent attacks by Islamist extremists in Switzerland, prompting harsh criticism from the political right. Justice Minister Simonetta Sommaruga said the authorities had no information linking the assailants in Paris last Friday with Switzerland. “The security situation in Europe is tense, but there is no immediate threat for Switzerland,” she told a news conference on Wednesday. Sommaruga said the government, for the time being, did not consider boosting the number of border guards or deploying troops to provide logistical backup. She called for a measured and reasonable response to the attacks. “It is no good rushing into purely symbolic activity. We have to analyse the situation carefully.” Sommaruga said the security authorities would meet regularly to consider an adequate response to a highly volatile situation. She said security at the borders, airports and railway stations had been stepped up. Her statement comes as Defence Minister Ueli Maurer at the weekend called for increased border security. Over the past few weeks, rightwing politicians have repeatedly called for Switzerland to close its borders, notably to stop refugees from entering the country. The conservative right People’s Party on Wednesday accused the cabinet of denying its responsibility to protect citizens from illegal immigrants. Not practical Sommaruga ruled out the possibility of close controls of all the about 750,000 people and 350,000 vehicles entering or leaving Switzerland from neighbouring countries every day. Switzerland shares its 1,900 km border with Italy, France, Germany, Austria and Liechtenstein. In a passionate plea, Sommaruga strongly condemned the attacks in Paris. “There is no way we can or want to accept such attacks against a fundamental value of a free society,” she said. “We have to stand together to defend our freedom.” However, she warned against any emotional anti-Muslim sentiment or against refugees. Asylum Sommaruga said the asylum crisis posed a serious challenge for Europe and Switzerland might soon face an increased influx of refugees. She admitted it was possible that militants might try to come to Switzerland in the guise of asylum seekers, despite systematic checks by the intelligence service of refugees from the conflict in Syria. Sommaruga said the cabinet agreed that there is no need to activate a special programme between the federal and cantonal authorities to manage the influx of asylum seekers. “We can handle the situation with the measures in place now, but preparations have been speeded up for further steps,” she said. Urs Geiser, swissinfo.ch
31 Ottobre 2015
Finance Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf to stand down
Swiss Finance Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf has announced she will not stand for re-election for a third term. She said she would remain in the post until the end of the year, after cabinet elections find a replacement on December 9. "People have been asking me for eight years when I'm going to resign," she said at a packed media conference in Bern on Wednesday. She said she had decided, after speaking with her family, friends and colleagues, that now was the right time to go. “There are other things I like doing very much and to which I haven’t been able to devote enough time over the past eight years. Now I plan to address that.” Relaxed and witty, Widmer-Schlumpf, 59, said she had taken the decision on October 19, the day after federal elections in which her party, the centre-right Conservative Democratic Party, dwindled to 4.1% of the vote. This put additional pressure on her seat in the cabinet. But that was not the decisive factor, she said. Working for the public in an executive had been a great privilege – she had always enjoyed her work – but it had always come at a cost. “In my special situation specially so.” This had been a burden on her family, she explained. Her work was now done, she said, pointing to various achievements, including the strategy for Switzerland as a financial centre. “I don’t think I did my job so badly,” she concluded. For its part, the Swiss Bankers Association said Widmer-Schlumpf had been an accessible, dossier-focused business partner. She had recognised early on that the automatic exchange of information would become the norm, it said in a statement on Wednesday. Widmer-Schlumpf assured a concerned journalist she would not get bored, but did not give any detailed plans for the future apart from following politics “from a distance”. She hoped the big problems facing Switzerland would be solved and not simply “cultivated”. Political earthquake A political earthquake hit Switzerland on December 12, 2007. Christoph Blocher, the controversial billionaire figurehead of the conservative right Swiss People’s Party who had succeeded in little more than a decade in turning the anti-immigrant, anti-EU party into the largest in Switzerland, was voted out after only one term as justice minister. The political horse-trading among the centrist and leftwing parties had worked: Blocher became only the fourth cabinet minister in Swiss history to fail to win re-election and Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf, then 51 and then still a member of the People’s Party, took her seat in cabinet on January 1, 2008. Although she was unknown to the public, she was far from a political novice, having gathered government experience at a cantonal level by heading the Graubünden finance department for almost ten years. She had grown up with politics – her father, Leon Schlumpf, was a cabinet minister for the People’s Party between 1979 and 1987 – and she knew how the machinery of government worked. She also knew what the consequences would be when she accepted election to the cabinet. The People’s Party never forgot or forgave her act of “betrayal” and, unable to kick her out of the party, the party leadership decided to exclude the entire Graubünden cantonal section. This section then formed the Conservative Democratic Party and was joined by the Bern section of the People’s Party, of which then Defence Minister Samuel Schmid was a member. UBS bailout “It wasn’t the first time that an official candidate or outgoing minister wasn’t re-elected – Blocher had himself beaten the Christian Democrat Ruth Metzler in 2003,” Georg Lutz, a political scientist at the University of Lausanne, tells swissinfo.ch. “But the exceptional thing about the nomination of Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf was that it resulted in the creation of a new political party.” But the fact that she was representing a minority party in parliament didn’t discourage her. On the contrary, the adversity stimulated her. She had a hesitant start, being responsible during her first three years for immigration policy, but in September 2008, a twist of fate propelled her to the front of the political stage. Finance Minister Hans-Rudolf Merz had a heart attack and Widmer-Schlumpf stepped in for him, juggling the justice and finance portfolios (Merz returned to work a couple of weeks later, retiring in 2010). It was in effect Widmer-Schlumpf who was called upon to oversee the bailout of Switzerland’s biggest bank, UBS, which was facing bankruptcy as a result of overexposure to the US subprime market. She reacted well to this crisis, reckoned Lutz. This was also the case in 2012, in the “Hildebrand Affair”, when the chairman of the Swiss National Bank (SNB), Philipp Hildebrand, resigned amid a controversy over private currency deals. “She supported the chairman of the SNB until his resignation appeared inevitable. Even if she wasn’t able to dodge criticism, she took a good line in this affair,” according to Lutz. Banking secrecy In 2010, following the retirement of Hans-Rudolf Merz, Widmer-Schlumpf found her true place at the heart of the cabinet. She inherited the finance ministry, a perfect fit for her, where she would have the chance to implement her most significant reforms. Under international pressure, notably from the United States, Switzerland was forced to give up a lot of ground on banking secrecy, judged “non-negotiable” by her predecessors. In December 2012, after the failure of the so-called Rubik accords (on regulating previously non-declared, untaxed funds deposited by foreign nationals in Switzerland while preserving client anonymity), Widmer-Schlumpf triggered an outcry among politicians on the right and bankers by opening the way to the exchange of data concerning foreign clients of Swiss banks. “She played a central role in this very quick paradigm shift. Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf brought this new strategy to the heart of the cabinet and in front of parliament,” Lutz said. The Swiss Bankers’ Association ended up coming round to these new standards. The automatic exchange of information, for a long time considered something for the distant future, will become reality in 2018. “It’s the biggest reform of the past 80 years [banking secrecy was codified in Swiss law in 1934],” said Christophe Darbellay, president of the centre-right Christian Democratic Party and one of the main architects of Widmer-Schlumpf’s election and re-election to the cabinet. Undefeated Widmer-Schlumpf will also be remembered for being member of a cabinet that decided to phase out nuclear energy following the Fukushima disaster in 2011. “She definitely contributed to getting a majority, but her role wasn’t as decisive as with banking secrecy,” Lutz said. A believer in transparency and fiscal equity, Widmer-Schlumpf has not hesitated to brand as “unfair” the system of tax perks for rich foreigners which she nevertheless had to defend on behalf of the cabinet last year ahead of a people’s initiative. In other dossiers, she resembled a more traditional Swiss finance minister. “She kept government debt at an extremely low level compared with other European countries and initiated economic measures at the heart of the administration, thus following traditional middle-class policies,” Lutz said. Appreciated by the left for her attachment to institutions and by the centre-right for her budgetary policies and fiscal rigour, Widmer-Schlumpf has always enjoyed high levels of popularity among the public – People’s Party voters aside. As the newspaper Le Temps recently noted, her record at the ballot box is 11 wins out of 11. Uncompromising “Very pragmatic, solid on all levels, she has made very few mistakes. Her communication style, devoid of all emotion, has been greatly appreciated too,” said Georg Lutz. At most, she can be accused of a lack of charisma. There are no unforgettable memories from her year in the rotating Swiss presidency in 2012, which was marked by dry and often highly technical speeches. However, what impressed observers was her work ethic and knowledge of her dossiers. That said, she could appear uncompromising – not to say cold – when she was sure she was right, according to the NZZ am Sonntag newspaper. For example, when she arrived at the Department of Justice and Police, she didn’t waste any time clearing out the many staff who were loyal to her arch-enemy Christoph Blocher. On a more personal level, Widmer-Schlumpf’s tenacity and resistance has often been attributed to her mountain origins. But family events have also shaped her life: the death of her sister in a car accident in 1983 and the serious heart problems of her youngest daughter as a baby undoubtedly influenced her political career. “When something like that happens to you, you put everything else in perspective,” she told the magazine L’Illustré in 2013. Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf was born on March 16, 1956, in Felsburg, canton Graubünden. She is married with three children and four grandchildren. She received her degree in law at the University of Zurich in 1981 and a doctorate in 1990. She worked as a lawyer from 1987 to 1998. She was elected to the district court of Trin in 1985, presiding from 1991 to 1997. As a member of the Swiss People’s Party, in 1998 she was elected to the cantonal government, acting as president in 2001 and 2005. In 2007, she became the sixth woman to be elected to cabinet, taking office on January 1, 2008. The People’s Party pushed her out and she ended up, with her cabinet colleague Samuel Schmid, in the more moderate Conservative Democratic Party. Adapted from French by Thomas Stephens, swissinfo.ch and agencies
31 Ottobre 2015
Ikea units brought in for asylum seekers
Canton Aargau is short of asylum shelters. The authorities now want to set up mobile Ikea units as temporary homes for 300 people. (SRF/swissinfo.ch) The units are small, but easy to install. They offer space for at least four people and cost CHF1,200. The mini homes can’t be heated though and have to be set up indoors in halls. For Aargau senior civil servant Susanne Hochuli they are a good alternative to underground bunkers, where a lot of people typically have to share a big sleeping space. Cantons Basel and Fribourg are also considering using the Ikea units. For Peter Gomm, president of the cantonal conference of social affairs directors, the shelters are a good alternative for Aargau, which is currently is struggling to find enough housing. But he feels bunkers do still have some advantages: They are already fully equipped and offer heating, electricity and water. The units will be installed inside these former industrial buildings in the community of Frick. But before the 300 new residents can make them their temporary home, the authorities still need to figure out how to make the location secure and ensure all the usual regulations are in place. swissinfo.ch
14 Ottobre 2015
Swiss increase UN funding to tackle sexual violence
Switzerland has pledged $50 million (CHF48 million) to UN Women, a United Nations organisation dedicated to gender equality and the empowerment of women. Speaking in New York, the state secretary in the foreign ministry, Yves Rossier, said the 25% increase in funding for the period 2015-2017 showed the importance of the issue for the Swiss government despite planned public spending cuts. He highlighted the role of women for the peace process in different parts of the world and Switzerland’s support for women networks in the Middle East, North Africa and Myanmar. Switzerland spends about $15 million a year on programmes which tackle gender-related forms of violence, Rossier said. Addressing a meeting of a non-governmental working group on Tuesday, he called for urgent measures to step up protection of female members from other UN personnel on international peacekeeping missions. The UN says it deploys special advisory gender teams to all multi-dimensional peacekeeping operations to further the integration of women. swissinfo.ch and agencies Swissinfo
14 Ottobre 2015
In Switzerland, look before you leap
This summer’s regular media coverage of BASE jumping and mountaineering accidents in Switzerland begs the question: why aren’t “extreme” sports more closely regulated? swissinfo.ch examines the Swiss emphasis on taking personal responsibility for one’s actions and their consequences. According to the Swiss Council for Accident Prevention, about 11,000 Swiss residents suffer accidents requiring medical attention while doing mountain sports such as hiking, climbing, skiing and snowboarding each year. But if something goes wrong during a BASE jump – a parachute-aided leap off a fixed object such as a mountain, building, antenna or bridge – there isn’t much anyone can do to prevent a fatal impact. “In other sports you also get injuries, but if we mess up, in most cases it is deadly,” says Michael Schwery, president of the Swiss BASE Association (SBA). Despite the risk – or perhaps because of it – BASE jumping has gained a devoted following since its founding in the early 1980s. Laws regulating the sport vary widely between countries, sending many enthusiasts to Switzerland where the mountains are high and the rules are few. BASE jumpers in Switzerland, for example, must steer clear of “no-fly” zones closed to planes and helicopters, and are legally required to carry a skydiving license and third-party insurance. Otherwise, anything goes – no bans in national or regional parks as in the United States and Australia, and no lengthy permit application procedures and safety requirements as in Germany. “I think it is a cultural thing,” says Schwery of the laissez-faire attitude. “Switzerland is country that gives a lot of personal freedom; a lot of things are left to personal judgement.” Swissinfo
24 Agosto 2015
Swiss Post, Scytl to develop e-voting system
The Swiss Post is developing a new e-voting system with the Spanish company Scytl. Flüeler Oliver, a spokesman for the Swiss Post, told the NZZ am Sonntag on Sunday that the company hopes to compete with current cantonal e-voting projects, and is currently in talks with some, though no individual cantons were named. Two weeks ago, a system developed in the United States was rejected by the Swiss cabinet when it was proposed by nine cantons in an attempt to introduce e-voting for the parliamentary elections in October. Security flaws were cited as the reason for the rejection. The Swiss government had originally planned to offer e-voting to 86,000 Swiss living abroad, but the technical difficulties brought this estimate down to 34,000. At the moment, voters registered in Neuchâtel, Geneva, Basel City and Lucerne will be able to vote online this fall. Scytl is also the company behind the successful development of Neuchâtel’s e-voting system. www.swissinfo.ch
24 Agosto 2015
De Watteville named top negotiator for EU talks
The cabinet has appointed Jacques de Watteville as its top negotiator as part of a new strategy for talks between Switzerland and the European Union. His task is to coordinate the different bilateral dossiers, including the thorny issue of immigration quotas for EU citizens approved by Swiss voters in February 2014. “It is a difficult task,” said Foreign Minister Didier Burkhalter during a news conference on Wednesday. He added the aim was to achieve a balanced result in negotiations with Brussels on issues including energy, financial services and research. De Watteville, former Swiss ambassador to the EU, is currently secretary of state in the finance ministry. Package “It is an enormous challenge,” the 64-year-old senior diplomat said. “But we have no choice, we have to succeed. I’m determined to defend the interests of our country.” He said he wanted to achieve a result in negotiations with Brussels that would allow Switzerland to tackle concerns about immigration while also maintaining previous packages of bilateral treaties with the 28-nation bloc. The cabinet is due to present a bill to parliament early next year to implement the immigration curbs. Urs Geiser, swissinfo.ch
20 Luglio 2015
Cuba-US: time to lower the Swiss flag – and open banks?
With Washington and Havana reopening embassies, another chapter of the Cold War comes to a close, together with half a century of Swiss diplomatic mediation. What role did Bern play amid two diverging world views which nearly obliterated the planet? And what could that role be within the current phase of the Cuban Revolution? “Due to its historic position and its experience, Switzerland is ideally positioned to accompany the current process of transition in Cuba,” the Swiss foreign ministry told swissinfo.ch. As early as 1961, because of its status as a neutral country, Switzerland received a request from the United States to represent its interests towards the Cuban government. In 1959, within 72 hours, Washington had recognised the government which resulted from the Cuban revolution. But the honeymoon was short-lived. Two years later, the US embassy’s staff boarded a ferry to return home. “It was a huge disappointment,” Wayne Smith, the delegation’s third secretary and later head of the US interests section chief, recently told AFP news agency. Switzerland then assumed a thorny task, especially during the Cuban missile crisis in 1962, a key moment during the Cold War which followed the attempted invasion of the Bay of Pigs, when the Soviet Union positioned missile launchers capable of striking Washington. Swiss diplomatic records acknowledged “the threat of a third world war, but a nuclear one, this time”. The same source, which recently published a special dossier on Switzerland's representation of US interests in Cuba, mentioned that while the crisis was finally resolved between Moscow and Washington, “Swiss diplomacy played a primary role”. Ambassador Emil Stadelhofer was called to mediate with Fidel Castro and later organised the transfer of the body of US pilot Rudolf Anderson, shot down over Cuba. The Camarioca refugee crisis (1965-1973) represented another event involving Swiss diplomatic efforts. More than 260,000 Cubans fled the island, initially by sea, and then by air, with the authorisation of the countries of origin and destination. “We never decided who would go and who wouldn’t,” Werner B.* told swissinfo.ch. “We interviewed people with special problems and who were beyond military age [15-27] whose names were on lists provided by the Cuban authorities, and we transferred reports to the US authorities.” It was a titanic endeavour. “Between 3,000 and 4,000 people departed every month. Full planes took off. There were two flights a day. The first arrived (in Varadero) between six and seven o’clock in the morning. Two immigration officials and a doctor would come on board. They checked the passengers’ documents and their health.” Werner was 24 when he was employed by Bern to strengthen personnel at the Swiss embassy. “We received hundreds of letters every day from people who would enquire about their applications or what they needed to do to be on the [emigration] list. We replied to everyone, sometimes with standard replies. It was an enormous job.” Werner later became a full member of the Swiss diplomatic service and travelled to many countries. Now in retirement, he nostalgically evokes the year he spent in Cuba, including the interminable administrative duties and the return trips between Havana and Varadero. Above all, he remembers the apprehension of the applicants, the pain of separation [men of military age were not authorised to emigrate] and the generosity of people willing to share the little that they had. “In Cuba I truly understood what the human condition was.” In 1991, with the fall of the Soviet bloc, Czechoslovakia stopped representing Cuba in the US and Switzerland took over. But Swiss duties had been alleviated starting in 1977, when US President Jimmy Carter and Cuban President Fidel Castro agreed on the opening of interests sections between the two countries. Läs mer på: http://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/memories-and-perspectives_cuba-us--time-to-lower-the-swiss-flag---and-open-banks-/41556764
10 Luglio 2015
Why is weather so important to Solar Impulse?
The Swiss Solar Impulse 2 plane requires good weather for its around-the-world record attempt: difficult when it comes to long crossings. (SRF/RTS/SolarImpulse, swissinfo.ch) The plane’s journey so far has shown that the right weather conditions are rare. Wind and cold fronts have, in the past, played havoc with the Swiss solar-powered plane’s attempt to go around the world. By the time pilot André Borschberg started the first Pacific crossing from Japan to Hawaii on June 28, the team had waited for nearly two months for a clear weather window. The problem is that Solar Impulse 2 cannot fly in winds over four knots or 7km/h, so it requires almost perfect conditions. The five days and five nights of good weather needed for the Pacific crossing were almost impossible to guarantee. Meteorologists at mission control in Monaco work around the clock to provide detailed weather advice when the plane is in the air. A good forecast will also be needed for the next leg of its journey, across the Pacific from Hawaii to Phoenix in the United States. The idea is to then hopscotch across the United States and the Atlantic to Europe, before returning to Abu Dhabi. If the pilot hits inclement weather on one of the legs, it could mean baling out and ditching the plane.
10 Luglio 2015
The flying postman
Switzerland’s postal service has begun testing autonomous flying drones for parcel delivery. Real-world use could come within five to ten years. (SRF, swissinfo.ch) Swiss Post, in collaboration with Swiss WorldCargo (the air freight division of Swiss International Air Lines) and Matternet (a drone manufacturer from California), has started testing unmanned flying drones for logistical purposes. The aim of the tests is to develop and pinpoint the technical possibilities that the use of flying drones could offer. At the moment, real-world implementation of autonomous drones includes express delivery of goods in areas cut off by unfavourable weather or the delivery of urgent consignments like laboratory tests. Swiss Post is testing the Matternet ONE model, designed to transport small loads weighing up to one kilogram for more than ten kilometres. These drones can fly autonomously, following predefined and secure flight paths. Before drones can be used for commercial use, a few hurdles need to be overcome. These include the regulatory framework and short battery life.
20 Maggio 2015
Science foundation targets careers, innovation
The Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) has presented a plan to promote academic careers and young researchers in Switzerland from 2017-2020. In addition to supporting technology transfer and tenure-track academic careers, one of the goals of the initiative is to make Swiss research and innovation more flexible and sustainable. After voting to curb European immigration in February 2014, Switzerland’s future access to European research funding programmes such as Horizon 2020 has been up-in-the-air. In December, Switzerland was granted partial participation in Horizon 2020 until 2016, but its status from 2017 remains uncertain. The SNSF said on Tuesday that if Switzerland does become ineligible for Horizon 2020 participation, government funding programmes such as the Temporary Backup Schemes would not be sufficient replacements for European competition. The SNSF’s initiative, which will require about CHF4.5 billion ($4.8 million) in funding, tackles the immediate problem of research funding while simultaneously addressing the long-term goals of driving innovation and nurturing burgeoning science careers.
20 Maggio 2015
Switzerland set to do business with Iran
Switzerland’s business representatives are beginning to explore the potential for trade with Iran, even though doing business with the sanction-hit state remains delicate and the nuclear deal is not yet finalised. An outline agreement to curb Iran's nuclear programme was reached in Lausanne after marathon talks with six major powers on April 2. The preliminary deal, which should also provide sanctions relief for Iran, is to be implemented by June 30 as part of a more comprehensive agreement. Hopes that there will be a positive outcome are also growing outside diplomatic circles. Western business representatives are already trying, also through official channels, to make contact with Iran. This is not surprising: with its vast gas and oil resources and more than 80 million inhabitants, many of whom are well-educated and wealthy, Iran has great economic potential, especially if sanctions are lifted. Even the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) is keen to cultivate relationships with the Islamic country. On Sunday, a delegation of economic representatives under the leadership of former ambassador to Iran Livia Leu will travel to Tehran in order to determine economic opportunities. “We would like to find out how the Iranian government wants to proceed until negotiations are concluded, and after the sanctions are lifted,” said Leu, who is the cabinet’s delegate for trade agreements, who served in Tehran until 2013. Leu does not name names, but she reveals: “apart from members of SECO and the Swiss Business Federation, economiesuisse, company representatives from different business sectors will also travel to Iran”. While there, the delegation will be in contact with ministries, authorities and economic players. It is important for business representatives to find out more about business culture in Iran and whether their products and services would have a future in Iran. “It’s definitely worth going there and getting an idea of the market yourself,” Leu said. www.swissinfo.ch
12 Maggio 2015
Wanted: volunteer mountain farmhands
More than 70 farming families in the Swiss mountains urgently need volunteers to help out with a range of tasks in the coming months, from haymaking and beekeeping to harvesting saffron. Caritas Mountain Work, part of the church charity Caritas, puts volunteers in touch with farming families who are overloaded with work as a result of accident, illness or poor weather. The spring and summer months are a tough time for mountain farmers, it said on Tuesday: the preparation of the fields is followed by haymaking and harvesting. Forty people had been placed by the end of April and 220 have already been placed for the summer, but another 800 are urgently needed, it said, to carry out the equivalent of 1,215 weeks of work. This ranges from haymaking, looking after animals and general farm work to housekeeping, looking after children and gardening. Specific farming tasks could include making cheese, beekeeping and harvesting saffron. Volunteers can offer to help for one week or more, but they need to be “over 18, motivated and healthy”, the charity said. No special knowledge is required. The farming families cover the costs of food and lodging, but volunteers have to pay their own travel expenses. Information on applying, as well as the farms which need help, can be found here (in German and French). Four farms close a day Life on Swiss farms is increasingly tough. In 2013, 159,000 people worked in agriculture, less than half as many as in 1975, according to a report by the Swiss Statistical Office. Four out of five people working in agriculture are family members and just over half work part-time. The number of farms declined from 79,500 in 1996 to 55,200 in 2013. More than half of these were managed by people aged over 50. Compared with the previous year, around 1,400 farms closed down – four a day. The opposite trend was seen among organic farms, the number of which increased by more than 150 between 2012 and 2013. The average agricultural income per farm amounted to CHF61,000 ($65,500) in 2013. The average farming household earned an additional CHF30,000 from non-agricultural activities. The total hasn’t changed much since 1990, when adjusted for current prices, although the proportion of non-farm income has roughly doubled. For farm work, a third of family members received no salary. Two-thirds of the 30,000 wives or partners were not paid, but had a share in the income from self-employment. swissinfo.ch and agencies
12 Maggio 2015
Immigrants and naturalised Swiss trust authorities
People with a migration background have greater trust in the Swiss police, courts and political system than people without such a background, according to a study by the Federal Statistical Office. A third of the population aged over 15 has a so-called migration background, which covers those without a Swiss passport, those who have become Swiss and those who were born in Switzerland to parents who were born abroad. The study, published on Thursday, analysed 68 integration indicators to compare how equal opportunities were between people with and without a migration background. It found that, of people without a migration background, 54.5% had a lot of faith in the Swiss police, 46.2% in the legal system and only 36.1% in the political system. The rate was “significantly higher” among people with a migration background, with the greatest difference seen in attitudes towards the police – the level of trust was 1.4 times greater among those with a migration background. The study noted that differences in income and living conditions between people with and without a migration background had barely changed over the past five years. One difference, however, concerned political participation. Between 2010 and 2013 the proportion of people with a migration background who took part in national votes dropped by ten percentage points. The level remained the same for Swiss without a migration background. swissinfo.ch and agencies
14 Aprile 2015
Swiss researchers work on ‘paedophile detector’
Forensic psychiatrists in Basel and Zurich are developing a brain test that could help identify paedophiles. Although testing is in the early stages, there are already concerns about how such results might be used. The tests, led by Marc Graf, director of the forensic psychiatric clinic in Basel, involved 43 men: 20 who had been convicted of either consuming child pornography or abusing children, and 23 who had volunteered for the study. Participants were connected to machines which measured responses in their brains and fingers while they performed assigned tasks. During the tasks the men were shown various photos – for example, of naked adults and children – and the machines measured how distracted they were and what exactly grabbed their attention. The hope is that in future, the tests would be able to reduce uncertainty in the methods currently used to estimate how dangerous a paedophile is. Similar testing will take place in the psychiatric clinic at the University of Zurich. According to the leader of that clinic, Andreas Mokros, “It’s difficult to confirm paedophile tendencies if the subject is not willing to give information”. Graf in Basel agreed, saying that if, during the course of therapy, somebody says that he no longer has fantasies about children, it’s hard to know whether he’s telling the truth. According to research from North America, almost 60% of criminals convicted of child abuse were not in fact paedophiles. The tests could provide a chance for these convicts to demonstrate that they do not necessarily pose a risk to children if they are released. The researchers hope that their test will one day be useful in criminal proceedings or in prison to significantly improve the objectivity of findings. But both Graf and Mokros are aware that, as Graf said, “We have to be very careful with this technological development. Such tests are not only ethically and morally, but also legally delicate.” www.swissinfo.ch
7 Aprile 2015
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20 Marzo 2015
Swiss economy tipped to weather strong franc
Although the appreciation of the Swiss franc will have a detrimental impact on the competitiveness of Swiss companies, brighter economic prospects for Europe and the United States should alleviate these negative effects, a Swiss government expert group has forecast. The Swiss economy experienced a shock on January 15 when the Swiss National Bank (SNB) announced its decision to abolish the exchange rate floor against the euro. This led to a rapid appreciation of the Swiss franc and a rush of doomsday predictions. But two months later, things are looking a little more positive. On Thursday the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (Seco) downgraded its 2015 GDP forecast to 0.9% from the 2.1% predicted in December last year. Its growth forecast for next year has been reduced from 2.4% to 1.8%. This compares to 2% GDP growth last year in which the economy created 33,000 jobs. But Seco is nevertheless cautiously optimistic for the future. “Switzerland may experience a temporary economic slowdown. However, in the current environment there are no signs of any sharp downturn – with a marked fall in economic activity and a sharp rise in unemployment,” it said in a statement. The latest forecast refers to positive news coming from the US, where economic growth clearly accelerated in the second half of 2014 and unemployment is down to 5.5%, its lowest level since the outbreak of the financial crisis. The economic recovery in the euro zone also gained momentum in the second half of 2014, primarily thanks to the stimulus provided by private consumption, the statement said. Deflationary trend Also on Thursday, the SNB decided to stick with its negative interest rate policy to counter deflation. The central bank’s three month Libor target range remains at between -1.25% and -0.25%. It will continue to charge institutional investors 0.75% on deposits held at the SNB. The central bank has forecast a deflationary trend for the next two years with -1.1% inflation this year followed by -0.5% in 2015. Inflation will not move into positive territory until 2017, the SNB has predicted. Consumers and mortgage holders will continue to gain from the negative interest rates, but there are fears it could spark further unstable growth in real estate prices and dent pension fund returns. The SNB also downgraded its GDP growth forecast for 2015 from a previously stated 2% to just under 1%. On Wednesday, the United States Federal Reserve hinted that it may raise interest rates later this year for the first time in a decade. swissinfo.ch
20 Marzo 2015
The day Switzerland became neutral
The neutrality so strongly associated with modern Switzerland originated in a congress 200 years ago, when the Great Powers met in Vienna to reorganise the territorial boundaries of Europe. But rather than being a conscious choice, neutrality was imposed on Switzerland by stronger countries that were determined to isolate France in the wake of the revolutionary wars which had rocked the continent, argues historian Olivier Meuwly. When it was invaded by France in 1798, Switzerland was a patchwork of 13 cantons, allies, bailiwicks and other territories that effectively disappeared when it became a “single and indivisible” republic in the French model. The cantons became mere prefectures, and the political situation was tense when Napoleon imposed mediation. Switzerland was formed into a country of 19 autonomous and equal cantons united under a common regime. Recent interpretations of history have defined the Act of Mediation as the origins of “modern” Switzerland. But as a satellite country of France, Switzerland suffered the brunt of the Napoleonic debacle of 1814, and its future was to be decided in Vienna at a meeting of the powerful victors. swissinfo.ch: What was the real significance of the Congress of Vienna for Switzerland? Olivier Meuwly: The stakes were high. There were two camps. The cantons of the Confederation of 1798 wanted a return to the old regime, whereas the new cantons wanted to maintain their autonomy. The roles of different people were important. Frédéric-César de La Harpe, former tutor to Tsar Alexandre I, became involved on behalf of canton Vaud to conserve its independence, therefore maintaining a Switzerland of 22 cantons (the 19 cantons resulting from the Act of Mediation, plus Neuchâtel, Geneva and Valais). Like everyone, he was hostile to Napoleon, but there was one thing worth saving from his system: mediation and the structure of 22 cantons which assured peaceful equilibrium of a Switzerland still troubled, and despite everything, important to the Great Powers. swissinfo.ch: Why was little Switzerland important to the Great Powers? O.M.: Switzerland was one of the buffer regions between a France which needed containing, and Austria. Everyone wanted to control this territory at the foot of the Alps which ensured France was surrounded. Neutrality suited everyone. Switzerland, incapable of stability, would become neutral and the Swiss could work it out, even if they didn’t feel neutral. There was no project for neutrality; circumstances dictated that Switzerland would be forced into neutrality by others. In the end, it was Alexandre I, as head of the coalition, who decided Switzerland’s lot. In agreement with de La Harpe, he decreed that the Switzerland of 22 cantons would be maintained, even though the Austrian Chancellor Metternich preferred the canton of Bern and the reestablishment of the former Confederation. swissinfo.ch: So modern Switzerland is thanks to the Russians… O.M.: It’s always delicate to attribute historical events to people. But in this case, I believe the role of certain people was considerable. If there had not been such very strong lines of friendship, of mutual respect between de La Harpe and Alexandre, would the Tsar have accepted the claims made by the Vaudois? You can’t rule it out, but the existence of personal links helped. De La Harpe is without a doubt a Swiss who would enjoy a more important position in world history. Never had a Swiss been so close to the big global questions and important leaders. He was in constant, close contact with the Tsar, from the arrival of the Russians in France until the end of the Congress of Vienna. He was the head of the antechamber, the personal secretary. He was one of the important links between the Tsar and the rest of the world. swissinfo.ch: Some say Switzerland’s neutrality began with the Battle of Marignano in 1515 because following the defeat, Switzerland pulled back from large European military engagements. What do you think? O.M.: To me it’s a stretch. Not even all the Swiss cantons were present at Marignano. It seems to me difficult to weave links between this battle and neutrality. In fact, the first snippets, at the level of international law, which would give rise to recognition of an independent Switzerland were in the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648, which ended the Thirty Years’ War. Recognition of Switzerland as an entity and more or less neutral began sometime around then. swissinfo.ch: Switzerland did not claim neutrality in 1815, although today neutrality is one of its essential characteristics. How did this evolution come about? O.M.: In the 19th century, neutrality was not an essential guiding principal. It was simply a consequence of an independent Switzerland which was becoming known on the international stage. But the Swiss understood that if they weren’t neutral, they would have to take sides. But which one? During the Franco-Prussian war of 1870, as during the First World War, Switzerland declared itself neutral. Neutrality was in fact a good way of not choosing. The humanitarian aspect would give substance to neutrality. This notion of neutrality would become very useful; not only in retreat, but as a means of being available. After the two world wars, Swiss neutrality experienced its glory days during the Cold War. We can also see that this neutral Switzerland has always been interesting. De La Harpe, a republican, obviously did not become the tutor of the future Tsar because of his political opinions. However, he spoke French, the diplomatic language, and Catherine II took him into her service because she preferred to see her grandson educated by a Swiss republican rather than a French aristocrat who could be a double agent. The fact that Switzerland was always a little bit removed from the large military and political events was an advantage. Especially after 1945, when the country could really thrive in this role of good offices. swissinfo.ch: Despite its advantages, neutrality is often the subject of debate. Think of the concept of “active neutrality” as put forward by former Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey. More recently, her successor Didier Burkhalter has also been criticised in Switzerland for his role in the Ukrainian crisis as president of the [Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe]… O.M.: Neutrality cannot be a rigid concept. All political principles must be submitted to discussion, confronted with events of the day, their pertinence and evolution. I am also a fan of direct democracy, but it’s not a sacred norm delivered by a higher being. It can also be debated. That’s a bit of the problem that Switzerland has: we tend, on both the right and left, to make things into myths and that poses problems. It’s typical of neutrality. It’s a notion that is necessarily in confrontation with reality. What does it mean to be neutral? That can change. We can never say, we’re neutral, full stop. That means nothing in itself. swissinfo.ch
13 Marzo 2015
New Credit Suisse boss welcomed by Swiss papers
Tidjane Thiam’s face was on the cover of the main Swiss newspapers on Wednesday, along with the words “non-banker”, “carrier of hope” and, in particular, “black”. “Long overdue” was the view of Zurich’s Tages-Anzeiger regarding the change at the top of Switzerland’s second-largest bank, which also signalled a “fundamental strategic and cultural shift” at the institution. On Tuesday it was announced that Credit Suisse had swooped on the boss of British insurer Prudential to lead it in a push to manage more of the wealth of Asia’s fast-growing multi-millionaires’ club. The 52-year-old former Ivory Coast government minister will in June replace American CEO Brady Dougan, who has drawn fire for failing to reform the bank and scale back its risky investment banking business fast enough. “The size of the expectations in the black African without banking experience could be seen in the 8% rise in the bank’s shares yesterday at the start of trading,” said the Tages-Anzeiger, adding that Urs Rohner, the bank’s chairman, had “landed a coup” in the new CEO. “Of course, he can be accused of hanging on to Dougan for too long – the time would have been ripe to remove the American after last year’s admission of guilt in the tax dispute with the US – but now Rohner can pride himself on having used the time to carefully assess the new boss and name an outsider with a respectable record on whom hopes are pinned.” Rohner too was “tarnished” after the US deal, the paper added. “The clean break at the top now takes him out of the line of fire for a start”. It concluded that Credit Suisse had “shown courage” in handing the reins over to Thiam but added that the bank’s 46,000 or so employees were not the only ones that would have to re-adapt to the move – the public would, too. “It’s the first time a manager with black skin has made it to the top of a traditional Swiss company. Bienvenue, Monsieur Thiam!” www.swissinfo.ch
13 Marzo 2015
Swiss watchmakers to take on smartwatch big guns
Galvanised by the presentation of the Apple Watch, Swiss watchmakers are staking out their places in the next battle of the watch giants to come. The first ‘Swiss Made’ smartwatches, produced by Festina Suisse, are expected to hit the stands at Baselworld, the world’s largest watch trade fair which opens its doors in Basel on March 19. Other big players like Swatch Group and Tag Heuer are now also expected to release smartwatches by the end of the year, despite previous reservations about the viability of the market. “I am still convinced that the mechanical Swiss watch that sells for more than CHF1,000 ($1,014) is not in any danger. However, at lower price ranges, smartwatches are real competition for the Swiss watch industry,” says Tag Heuer’s watch division interim CEO Jean-Claude Biver. The sudden interest in smartwatches represents a significant change of tune from Swiss watchmakers whom just a year ago were being criticised for their lack of interest in the market by the likes of Xavier Comtesse, founder of the think tank Watch Thinking. “All, or almost all, of the bosses have changed their minds. It wasn’t a bluff. They simply realised in recent months that Switzerland has colossal technological attributes and is better equipped than California to win this market,” says Comtesse. Competing with California A similar view prevails at the Swiss Centre for Electronics and Microtechnology (CSEM) of Neuchâtel, where for the last 15 years engineers have been working on miniaturised technologies destined for devices worn by people. “The media and financial analysts underestimate the capacity of Swiss watchmakers to react. Switzerland has all the microtechnical and electronic experience to produce high quality smartwatches which are also aesthetically very beautiful,” says Jens Krauss, head of the research project at the CSEM. Traditionally conservative, the microcosm that is the Swiss watch world preferred to wait and see how this new market - for the moment still a small, technophile market - would develop before diving in head first. Comtesse, who spent two months visiting a range of watchmakers using digital technology in the United States, says he has a good idea of what the smartwatches of the future will look like. “They will be like remote controls for managing objects which are nearby, like your car, computer or home security device, but they will also be used to make payments at the bank or supermarket,” he says. This seems to be the direction being taken by Swatch, which has announced it is in discussions with Coop and Migros, Switzerland’s two largest supermarket chains, to develop a mobile payment system. In the face of the financial power of the 2.0 giants, the Swiss watchmaking industry has three major attributes to bring to the table, says Comtesse: energy efficiency, sustainability and expertise in the luxury industry. Làs gärna mer på: www.swissinfo.ch/eng/battle-of-the-smartwatches….
12 Gennaio 2015
High-stakes year ahead for Switzerland’s new president
Reconciling the will of the people with national law and Switzerland’s international commitments will be the most delicate task for Simonetta Sommaruga, who has been elected to the rotating position of Swiss president for 2015. The 54-year-old Social Democrat received 181 votes out of a total of 210 in Wednesday’s parliamentary vote in Bern – considered an excellent result. Another item on Sommaruga’s to-do list next year is coming up with a way of implementing the initiative to limit European Union immigration. She was elected to Switzerland’s seven-person cabinet in 2010 and was given the justice and police ministry – considered by some a second-class portfolio (these are allotted on a principle of seniority, with ministers who have been in cabinet the longest getting first pick). This infuriated those on the political left who, for the first time in decades, found themselves unrepresented at the head of any of the “key” ministries. With her conciliatory attitude, she has tried to minimise the “low blow” dealt to her party and to reassess the importance of her department. “I harbour a strong sense of justice, and this office will enable me to look after the rights of the weakest [members of society] and those who need greater protection,” she said, pointing to minorities, women who had been discriminated or abused, children of divorced parents, asylum seekers and victims of people trafficking. In this area the justice minister has had her hands full since entering the cabinet, launching many proposals, draft laws and round tables. Just last week she persuaded the government to support a draft law calling for the introduction of a quota of 30% women on the board of directors of all publicly-listed Swiss companies. Another would enable unmarried couples and gays to adopt their partner’s children. Burning issue But a large chunk of her first time as president – it’s possible to hold the rotating office more than once if you stay in the cabinet for long enough – will be spent dealing with the “rights of the majority”, in other words what voters approve in federal referendums or initiatives. Indeed, Sommaruga faces the delicate task of finding compromises for various important issues which have been recently approved but which clash with national law or international treaties or agreements signed by Switzerland. This is the case, first of all, of the initiative put forward by the rightwing Swiss People’s Party to put a limit on EU immigration. This was approved by 50.3% of voters in February but, for the EU, it clearly violates the free movement of people – a central EU tenet – and could result in a cancellation of the current bilateral treaties. Given the stakes – the future of relations with Switzerland’s main trade partner – Sommaruga finds herself holding what will probably be the hottest dossier of 2015, an election year. The head of the justice and police ministry, who says she values the sharing of ideas and consensus politics, will have to square the circle of direct democracy on the one hand and EU commitments on the other. To this end, she will be able to benefit from her year as president to increase the number of meetings with European leaders – already on the agenda is a visit by French President François Hollande to Switzerland next year. Primacy of Swiss law Also on her desk is the equally tricky dossier concerning the deportation of foreigners who commit crimes – also the result of a People’s Party initiative which was approved by 53% of voters in 2010. According to the text of the initiative, foreigners who commit serious crimes – and some lesser offences such as burglary – lose the right to stay in Switzerland and must be sent back to their country of origin. Parliament is still split on how to implement this initiative, which, according to several experts, clashes not only with agreements signed with the EU but also the European Convention on Human Rights. In order to increase pressure on the government, the People’s Party has already announced a new initiative, which would decree the primacy of Swiss law over international law. Sommaruga will also have to tackle the initiative to ban convicted paedophiles from working with children for life, which was backed by 63.5% of voters in May despite government opposition. Implementing this will also involve a dilemma: either parliament sticks to the wording of the initiative and violates the principle of proportionality – one of the pillars of the rule of law – or it veers away from the text approved by voters and runs counter to the original meaning of the initiative. Asylum challenges In addition, the new president will not be able to ignore reforming the asylum law. Her first project, presented in 2012, aimed to speed up the asylum procedure and to house applicants in centres run by the federal authorities instead of in accommodation in the cantons. However, little remains of this project: the centre-right majority transformed it into a new package of measures, destined to worsen the asylum law. In September this year, Sommaruga had another go with new proposals aimed at making the procedure quicker and cheaper: cutting the time needed to process requests to 140 days in most cases. But the problem would remain of repatriating rejected asylum seekers or sending them back to the European country where they first applied for asylum. Last month Bern and Rome reached a new agreement, according to which Italy said it would guarantee appropriate accommodation for asylum seekers. Nevertheless, the range of the agreement with Italy, where most asylum seekers enter the EU, remains uncertain. Unusual cabinet minister Called upon for her legal shrewdness, Sommaruga isn’t a lawyer like most of her predecessors and doesn’t even have a university degree. She trained as a pianist at the Lucerne Academy of Music and got into politics via a women’s shelter in Fribourg. She then became very popular protecting the rights of consumers. She is reserved but also extremely skilful, pragmatic and tenacious – to the point of earning respect and praise even from her political adversaries. One of her main qualities is listening to other people. “I learnt that from music,” she explained. She will need to do that to cope with the difficult challenges that await her next year. www.swissinfo.ch
30 Dicembre 2014
Gott Nytt Ã…r!
30 Dicembre 2014
Closing the circle on 2014
Another year is coming to an end; 2014 will soon be consigned to history. The past 12 months were lively, especially on a political level. Many large and small events will be remembered long after the new year begins. Switzerland has mixed feelings towards the European Union, as demonstrated by the February 9 vote in which 50.3% of voters surprisingly accepted the "mass immigration" initiative. However, the much more restrictive Ecopop immigration initiative was roundly rejected at the end of November. 2014 also saw the final nail hammered into the coffin of banking secrecy when Switzerland signed the OECD agreement on the automatic exchange of bank information. At the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, the circle of international heavyweights from the worlds of politics and economics met once again. A very round event was the full moon on August 10. Because it was the shortest distance from the earth, it was the largest and brightest full moon of the year. Summer in Switzerland was a washout, with Emmental experiencing extreme flooding. Throughout November rain fell almost without interruption on canton Ticino. Four people were killed in the space of four days in landslides triggered by the heavy rainfall. Fortune shone on the Swiss in tennis: Stanislas Wawrinka and Roger Federer powered to victory against France in the Davis Cup, with the Swiss winning the trophy for the first time in history. www.swissinfo.ch
19 Novembre 2014
Schweiz folkomröstning väcker bestörtning – och jubel
Det inget annat europeiskt land har vågat, är nu en realitet i alplandet: Befolkningen vill själv bestämma vilka som får tillgång till landet. Så genomförde då Schweiz sin omskrivna folkomröstning, uttalat formulerad som ett initativ mot massinvandringen. Trots att opinionsmätningarna hade visat på ett bekvämt övertag för nej-sidan, blev det slutligen ja-sidan som segrade, med 50,3 procent av rösterna. Initiativet kan sammanfattas som ett förslag om att återinföra de kvoter för invandring från Europeiska Unionen som avskaffades genom landets bilaterala överenskommelse om fri rörlighet med unionens länder. Så snart resultatet blivit känt, meddelade landets regering att man ”snabbt och konsekvent” ska tillämpa förslagets skrivning. Initiativet betyder att den schweiziska författningen måste ändras på flera punkter. Som det står i initiativets text: Schweiz reglerar självständigt invandringen av utlänningar. Antalet beviljade uppehållstillstånd för utlänningar i Schweiz begränsas av tak och årliga kvoter. Taken gäller för samtliga beviljade uppehållstillstånd, inklusive för asyl. Rätten till permanent uppehållstillstånd, familjeåterförening och sociala förmåner kan begränsas. Taken och de årliga kvoterna för utlänningar med sysselsättning skall fastställas i enlighet med Schweiz övergripande ekonomiska intressen och med principen för företräde för schweiziska medborgare, inklusive gränspendlare. De avgörande kriterierna för beviljande av uppehållstillstånd ska framför allt vara en arbetsgivares efterfrågan, förmågan till integration och möjligheten till en tillräcklig och oberoende försörjning. Inga internationella avtal som kränker ovanstående artikel ska kunna ingås. De internationella avtal som motsäger … [initiativet, reds anm] ska omförhandlas och omarbetas inom tre år. … Om dessa lagar ännu inte trätt i kraft inom tre år efter folkets och kantonernas antagande, ska Federala Rådet genom dekret tillfälligt införa de nödvändiga åtgärderna. Resultatet i folkomröstningen visar på tydliga geografiska skillnader, där framför allt landets tysk- och italiensktalande delar visat sig positiva till initiativet, medan de fransktalande varit emot. Särskilt kantonerna Genève och Vaud har bekymrat sig för hur en ny lagstiftning skulle påverka den arbetskraft som pendlar över gränsen. Landets etablerade medier befinner sig nu i chock. Tidningen Le Temps kallar valdagen för ”en svart söndag”, och skriver: ”Detta resultat skapar osäkerhet för alla som investerar i landet, dess forskare och dess studenter.” Tidningen menar vidare att resultatet kommer att hämma tillväxten för lång tid framöver. Claude-Alain Voiblet, vice ordförande för Schweiziska Folkpartiet, som lanserade förslaget, invänder dock: ”Vårt parti är inte emot tillväxt, men vi motsätter oss dess påverkan på medborgarnas livskvalitet.” När Schweiz skrev under avtalet om fri rörlighet med Europeiska Unionen 2002, förutspådde experter en årlig invandring på 8 000 personer. I dag är denna siffra i stället 80 000. Schweiz övriga politiska aktörer, som varit motståndare till initiativet, betonar nu att folket har talat och att man bara har att respektera utgången. Landet president Didier Burkhalter, från liberala FDP, säger: ”Det är hårt för Förbundsrådet, vi har förlorat, men vi måste acceptera detta beslut och göra det bästa av det.” Föga förvånande är även Europakommissionen bestört över folkomröstningens resultat. I en kommuniké säger man sig ”beklaga” resultatet och förklarar att man nu ska ”undersöka följderna av detta initativ för samtliga relationer mellan EU och Schweiz”. Europas nationalistiska och EU-kritiska partier är däremot positiva till söndagens resultat och ser det som en signal för hela kontinenten. U.K. Indepence Partys partiledare Nigel Farage säger: ”Det här är underbara nyheter för nationell suveränitet och för frihetsälskare i hela Europa.” Sverigedemokraternas Jimmie Åkesson betonar den demokratiska aspekten och konkurrensen på arbetsmarknaden: ”Överhuvudtaget tilltalar mig inslaget av direktdemokrati, men också vi har länge krävt liknande omröstningar om invandringen i Sverige, framför allt på lokal nivå, så det tycker vi är väldigt bra så klart. Det är klart att någonstans är det bra att vi kan röra oss fritt över gränserna, men det ställer till problem när vi har så olika modeller för arbetsmarknaden. Sverige skulle också må bra av en omförhandling.” På Twitter meddelar det holländsk Frihetsspartiets Geert Wilders att omröstningen är ett exempel som även hans eget land bör följa: ”Det som schweizarna kan, kan vi med: begränsa invandringen och ta oss ut ur EU! Kvot för invandrare. Fantastiskt.” I ett pressmeddelande ger den franske Front Nationals ledare Marine Le Pen sin kommentar: ”Ja-sidans seger vid söndagens omröstning i Schweiz mot massinvandring, på SVPs initiativ, markerar en positiv vändning från gränslöshetens destruktiva dogmer. Det handlar också om en tydlig seger för det schweiziska folket mot deras eliter, EUs teknostruktur och godhetstänkandet som inte besparas något land i Europa. … Tvivla inte på att denna schweiziska seger kommer att stärka fransmännen i deras vilja att stoppa massinvandringen och att återta kontrollen av sina gränser gentemot EU. Denna omröstning borde slutligen tjäna som exempel för våra gamla förstelnade demokratier, som inte längre vågar ge rösten till folket, då människorna som styr oss i så hög grad är rädda för den. Omröstningen förstärker mer än någonsin vårt behov av att införa ett verkligt folkomröstningsinitiativ.” Artikeln är skriven av Tobias Svensson 2014
19 Novembre 2014
Is Switzerland really the best place to live and work?
If a survey by HSBC bank is anything to go by, executives languishing in Cairo dream of their next posting in Zurich or Singapore. But what is it really like to work as a foreigner in the world’s most desirable locations? According to the HSBC Expat Explorer study for 2014, Switzerland retains its number one spot as the most desired location for expat workers, followed by Singapore and China. Egypt languishes in last place among the 34 countries surveyed. Paul Cooke, a British expat, has worked in both Switzerland and Singapore with United States coatings firm Valspar. Cooke recognises many of the same qualities in both the alpine and island nations: small, prosperous states located at the heart of their geographic zones with a strong sense of stability and reliability. Singapore is, after all, dubbed the “Switzerland of Asia”. But the average working day is somewhat different. “Asia is a lot more demanding and the hours are longer. This is partly driven by customer expectation and partly because everyone is charging about, chasing business opportunities,” he told swissinfo.ch. Swiss workers are driven too, but benefit from more established and well-grooved work systems. “People are less experienced in Singapore and are not quite as well organised as in Switzerland,” Cooke added. “As a result, you can find yourself doing more work than is really necessary.” Making friends Shenjie Wang, a Chinese national, made the opposite journey from Asia to Europe to first study at Lausanne’s Federal Institute of Technology (EPFL) and then to work at the Swiss branch of semiconductor firm Marvell. Wang also found the Swiss working structure more efficient, with a better work-life balance. But one of the most important changes was to his health. “Life quality is excellent here with better food, water and air compared with China,” he told swissinfo.ch. “Maybe Europeans take this for granted, but in China I suffered from asthma every winter. Last winter was the first time that never happened.” Wang found it straightforward to socialise and make friends with colleagues at EPFL and Marvell, but the language barrier has complicated matters outside of his professional environment. “People from Spain and Italy can learn French very well within a year or two but it is more difficult for Asian people.” The language barrier was a particular obstacle to finding accommodation. It is hard enough to find quality, affordable apartments in cities like Lausanne and Geneva, according to Wang, but this is made even more difficult if communication is strained. Indian national Raghu Viswanathan found no trouble making contact with his neighbours once he managed to breach the reserve of the Swiss, despite slow progress with local dialects. However, he initially struggled on moving from the US to Baden to work at French power company Alstom. “There was a more easy going atmosphere at my workplace in the US. Swiss workers draw a line between their professional and home lives and stick to those boundaries,” he told swissinfo.ch. “Conversations at work were limited to work matters and there was not so much personal contact.” “But I soon got to learn that the concept of friendship is just different between the two countries, with a lot more depth in Switzerland. Everyone in the US is friendly to start with, but it can be a bit superficial. In Switzerland you have to work harder to become accepted on a personal level, but once you are there the friendship is deeper.” Cost of living The natural reserve of the Swiss can take some getting used to, according to Sjoerd Broers, chief executive of Auris Relocation, a company that gets between 600 and 700 international workers settled in Switzerland each year. “The Swiss can be stubborn at times. International workers coming to Switzerland for the first time soon realise that they often have to take the first step when establishing contact,” he told swissinfo.ch. “But in the end, companies tell us that they have far greater problems sending employees away to new postings abroad than they do attracting them here in the first place.” The cost of living can also take some incoming expats by surprise despite the relatively high wages in Switzerland. Viswanathan finds it hard to comprehend that the Swiss would pass up perfectly good bargains because they associate quality with high prices. “This mind set seems to make everything more expensive and that can limit choices,” he said. “In Switzerland I had to decide whether to join a gym or a tennis club. In the US I could afford to do both.” But Wang feels that the high price island tag is overstated. “You don’t have to pay big prices for everything,” he said. “There is plenty of scope to shop around and find lower priced goods.” Anti-foreigner sentiment? Expats accepting their place of work is, of course, only half the story. The other side of the coin is what the local population thinks of migrant foreigners. Switzerland has made international headlines recently for voting in February to restrict the flow of immigrants into the country. The initiative was short on detail on how that should be achieved, leaving it up to the government to find a solution. Until such an agreement is reached, the international jury is out on how welcoming the country is to foreigners. “It creates uncertainty because people don’t really understand what the vote was all about and hear all sorts of gossip,” Broers said. “But there is a good chance that a pragmatic solution can be reached.” All that may change, however, if voters approve another immigration control initiative, called Ecopop, on November 30. This demands fixed limitations on net inflows of immigrants in the name of preserving the environment in Switzerland. “Ecopop would be disastrous for Switzerland by giving the impression that the country is not welcoming to foreigners,” Broers warned. Paul Cooke left Switzerland for Singapore in 2009, well before the immigration votes became headline news. But he did live through the infamous rightwing People’s Party political poster campaign depicting white sheep kicking a black sheep out of the country. Nevertheless, he still felt welcome in Switzerland. “I never felt any animosity as a foreign worker in either Switzerland or Singapore,” he said. For Wang, the situation has become confused, and not just because of the immigration vote. Switzerland is also in the throes of reorganising its tax structure for foreign companies to appease criticism from the European Union. “This time last year I thought I would stay in Switzerland for a long time,” he said. “But things have changed this year. Switzerland seems confused about how it views expat workers while there is a danger that the tax changes could force my company to shrink in Switzerland, or even leave.” Everywhere different Cooke has now moved from Singapore (ranked 2nd in the HSBC survey) to France (23rd). But does he feel that he has dropped 21 places in one fell swoop? “In some respects it does feel like dropping out of the premier league,” he told swissinfo.ch. “Switzerland is highly organised and there is a tremendous drive in Singapore, neither of which I feel here. The infrastructure is also not quite as good in France. Flying from Charles de Gaulle airport is not such a pleasure as from Zurich or Changi.” “But you have to adapt and not demand that every country has to be the same. The key is to find the best things that each country has to offer,” he added.
14 Ottobre 2014
Swiss billionaire may fund new bilateral initiative
Swiss billionaire Hansjörg Wyss says he would be prepared to finance an initiative to consolidate Switzerland’s bilateral agreements with the European Union as a solution to the controversial February 9 vote curbing immigration from Europe. The 79-year-old entrepreneur, reportedly worth CHF11 billion ($11.5 billion), told Swiss public radio he would be ready to fund an initiative campaign on the bilateral accords if it was organised by an organisation like the Swiss Business Federation. “The vote of February 9 has only caused problems,” said Wyss. “Our young children need international collaboration, without which they have no chance.” Wyss, who made part of his fortune selling artificial joint maker Synthes to Johnson & Johnson in 2011 for over $21 billion, made the comments during a conference in Bern on Thursday which brought together leading Swiss scientists and businessmen to discuss their future after the controversial February 9 vote. That day Swiss voters adopted the so-called mass immigration initiative, with 50.3% voting in favour. The initiative seeks to curb immigration by introducing foreigner quotas and prioritising Swiss nationals when it comes to filling vacancies. Swiss politicians have since been struggling to find a way out of an impasse between the alpine nation and the EU. Since this vote is deemed by the EU to violate a bilateral agreement on unrestricted access to EU workers, Switzerland was frozen out of key Europe-wide educational schemes. Switzerland has recently been able to negotiate partial and temporary access to the Horizon 2020 research programme and has kept the Erasmus+ student exchange scheme going only by raising extra money to cover lost EU funds. But these temporary solutions are not seen as adequate and the impasse over the free movement accord remains. Wyss said he didn’t think Swiss politicians would be able to find an appropriate way out the current political dead-end and that the EU was in a much better negotiating position. The only solution, he added, would be to revisit the February decision via a new vote by the Swiss people in order to consolidate the bilateral accords. Since retiring from business Wyss and his foundation have been in the press for major donations to Harvard University and part funding of the Campus Biotech, the former headquarters of Merck Serono in Geneva which will house the Human Brain Project. swissinfo.ch and agencies
6 Ottobre 2014
While Swiss entrepreneurial spirit runs deep across the country, setting out on your own as a self-employed foreigner requires permits and permission. Working for yourself offers lots of freedom but not without risk. Being allowed to work for yourself as a foreigner means being able to prove to the authorities that you can make ends meet. For others it's extremely difficult to get permission to set out on their own. Nationals from EU/EFTA countries People from EU/EFTA countries are allowed to be self-employed in Switzerland and can receive permits for five years. To extend the time, they will need to prove that being self employed pays enough to cover living costs. Self-employed European nationals lose the right to residence if they can no longer cover their living costs and become dependent on welfare assistance. To get a permit as a self-employed worker, an applicant must present the following documents as a general rule: Proof that the company has been correctly registered (in the commercial register, see section on Investing in Switzerland, How to start a business) Proof of a professional domicile in Switzerland (a rental contract for your business premises) Proof of contributions to the Old-Age and Survivors’ Insurance Fund (OASI) or the Swiss Accident Insurance Fund (Suva) Proof of a regular income showing that there is no risk of needing welfare assistance Bookkeeping data (interim balance, etc.) Business plan For more on living and working in Switzerland please go here. Other countries (so-called third states) It is extremely rare that a person from a so-called third state (neither EU/EFTA nor Swiss) is given a residence permit based on self-employed work. swissinfo.ch
6 Ottobre 2014
Great expectations for scholarship Angolans
Among the intake of students at the Zurich University of Applied Sciences (ZHAW) this semester is a unique group from Angola. These young adults fought tough competition to secure places on a course billed to make them decision-makers back home. More than 700 people applied for the new “Future Leaders of Angola” scholarship programme and 46 were chosen to travel from Angola to the Swiss city of Winterthur to attend the sixth-month course in finance and asset management. Oil-rich Angola has experienced an economic boom over the past 12 years since the end of a brutal, three-decade long civil war. The former Portuguese colony, however, faces many difficult challenges, including corruption, poor healthcare and a neglected education system. The latter has had an impact on Angola’s workforce, which comes up short in providing enough well-educated nationals. The Swiss sponsorship programme is a high-profile effort by Angola to address the knowledge gap. The programme is spearheaded and financed by the Fundo Soberano de Angola (the country’s sovereign-wealth fund), which is headed by José Filomeno de Sousa dos Santos, the son of Angola’s long-serving president. Students attending the ZHAW program will learn about a wide range of financial topics from equity analysis and research methods to portfolio management simulation. The goal, according to the fund, is that the students receive a “profound understanding” of asset management thanks to their education in Switzerland, a global financial centre. "Great opportunity" ‟It is a great opportunity for me,” said Cesar da Cunha, an outgoing and stylishly dressed 27 year old, who earned a Business Administration Degree in Algeria on an Angolan government scholarship. ‟Switzerland is so advanced because of its education system.” Da Cunha is hopeful that “we are going to see some of the people in this class become members of government or future leaders in Angola because of this programme.” Classmate Irene Cabral, 26, who earned a Business Administration Degree in South Africa before returning to work in a bank’s trading finance department in Angola, told swissinfo.ch she was grateful to receive the scholarship. ‟It’s a dream for all of us to get into this programme,” said Cabral, an articulate and elegant 26-year-old whose ambitions include one day being the chief executive officer of a company. Läs meta på swissinfo.ch/eng/great
11 Settembre 2014
Swatch inventor: Swiss watch industry missed the smartwatch boat
Elmar Mock, co-inventor of the Swatch watch, believes the Swiss watch industry ignores the Apple Watch at its own peril. He sees it repeating the mistakes from the 1970s, when it underestimated competition from Japanese quartz watches. In 1970, Elmar Mock invented the Swatch along with Jacques Müller and Ernst Thomke. It was designed as an affordable product that could compete with the cheap Japanese quartz watches that flooded the market. Currently the director of Creaholic, an innovation consultancy, Mock shares his views on the Swiss reluctance to enter into the smartwatch fray. swissinfo.ch: Many predict the Apple Watch will be as disruptive to the market as the Mac, iPhone or iPad. Do you share this view as well? Elmar Mock: The big deal is not the Apple Watch itself but the fact that an electronics giant like Apple has entered the watch market. It makes total sense to have a communication tool on the wrist and, in my view, this strategic space has enormous market potential. The biggest challenge lies in the digital environment and the consumer experience that a smartwatch can offer. There is a lot to learn in this new area but it’s only possible to learn by creating. This is where I think electronics giants like Google, Samsung or Apple are winning the battle. swissinfo.ch: But are consumers ready for such products that some dismiss as mere gadgets? EM: The Apple Watch is by far the most attractive of the smartwatches. I would definitely wear it. Don’t forget that the early smartphones did not immediately replace conventional mobile phones. When the iPhone first launched, Blackberry was sure that consumers would notice the lack of a keyboard and Nokia was convinced that the big screen would put users off… swissinfo.ch: Should the Swiss watch industry fear the smartwatch invasion, as suggested by Apple’s chief designer Jonathan Ive? EM: Switzerland has already lost the wrist war. Only one of every 200 watches produced [worldwide] is a Swiss watch. However, the profit made on that one Swiss watch is greater than that of the other 199 combined. So, we’ve won the profit war. Swiss watchmaking has transformed a watch into mechanical jewellery that represents the ingenuity of manual craftsmanship. It has also excelled in design, marketing and communication. Smartwatches are not going to completely replace mechanical watches just like the Kalashnikov assault rifle is not going to make samurai swords any less desirable. On the other hand, Switzerland has missed a tremendous opportunity and it is shocking that the leaders of the watch industry do not find the smartwatch market a tempting prospect. This market could be worth $30 billion (CHF28 billion), assuming a realistic figure of 100 million smartwatches sold every year. This amount would benefit the entire Swiss watch industry. swissinfo.ch: Is Nick Hayek, head of the Swatch group, an example of this nonchalant attitude towards smartwatches? EM: Clearly! It’s understandable why [luxury brands] Breguet, Rolex, Cartier or Patek Philippe are disinterested. Swatch, on the other hand, should be taking a leading a role. Swiss watchmakers seem to have forgotten how they underestimated Japanese quartz watches in the 1970s as mere gadgets and not real watches. That mistake led to the near collapse of the watch industry. However, through Swatch, we eventually succeeded in creating a stylish quartz watch. But we then failed to follow up and re-conquer the global watch market through investment in industrialisation. Obsessed by short-term gains, the Swatch group did a complete U-turn towards luxury watches. Instead of investing in ideas, the group chose to invest in luxury watch brands and showrooms all over the world. swissinfo.ch: Does the Swiss watch industry lack diversity? EM: It is definitely a risk. The industry is beginning to resemble a Native American reservation. It has deliberately refused to be a part of recent changes, not through a lack of creativity or innovation, but due to strategic choice. Unfortunately, Switzerland lacks a Steve Jobs who can drag the watch industry into the future. It doesn’t necessarily mean the industry is on the wrong path, but it does mean that it has missed the boat as far as smartwatches are concerned
11 Settembre 2014
Why can’t men make part-time work?
Just over 14% of men work part-time in Switzerland, a country with the second highest rate of part-time workers out of all OECD nations. Nine out of ten men would like to reduce their hours at work, according to one study. So why don’t more make this a reality? “Lots of men feel responsible for their family’s financial security, they’re worried about their career being affected by their decision and they’re anxious about appearing unmotivated at work,” Jürg Wiler, co-leader of the ‘Teilzeitmann’ (Men Working Part-Time) campaign told swissinfo.ch Wiler is an advocate for men who want to achieve a bit more work-life balance and says that during the lunchtime events he organises to promote this way of working, he regularly talks to men who “fear stigma in their business and social environment” and who have questions about a “loss of status”. The campaign, which is a project by männer.ch, the Swiss association of men’s and father’s groups, carried out a study in canton St Gallen in 2011. They spoke to 1,200 men from all walks of life and found that 90% of them wanted to work part-time. In 2012 they started making role models available – ordinary men who just happened to work part-time, and were happy to speak about their experience to others. Thomas Stucki is one of them. He’s been in part-time employment since he retrained and studied for a second degree, in social sciences, at the age of 30. “When I started my university studies, I had to work part-time to earn the money I needed. And from that time on, after the degree and after having studied, I never got back to a full-time job because I saw that this was a good thing for me.” By the time Stucki neared the end of his course, his wife was expecting their first child. “We didn’t even question that I would work part-time. I wanted it this way and she did too. So, as a couple, we decided to try it.” Läs mera på www.swissinfo.ch/eng/why….
18 Agosto 2014
Italian EU presidency unlikely to favour Swiss
Corporate tax, the automatic exchange of banking information and free movement of people: three major conflicts between Bern and Brussels that are unlikely to be helped by Italy’s presidency of the European Union (EU) in the coming months. “For its presidency of the EU, the Italian government proposes accelerating political cohesion in Europe, addressing the host of asylum problems and promoting an economic policy that can strengthen growth and employment,” said Claudio Micheloni, an Italian Senator who lives in Switzerland representing the interests of Italians living abroad. As a non-member of the EU, Switzerland clearly does not feature high on the list of priorities. But during his six months holding the EU presidency, the government of Matteo Renzi will also have to make room for Swiss issues. Three thorny issues remain unresolved in the second half of this year. Corporate tax An agreement is in sight on the differences over corporate tax. On July 1 the Swiss government initialed a joint declaration which should lead to an agreement to end special tax breaks granted by the cantons to international companies – holding, mixed and management companies – whose main business takes place abroad and who only have administrative activities in Switzerland. These companies’ revenues are taxed at much lower levels than those of companies active in Switzerland. Brussels considers that these tax regimes violate the free exchange agreement of 1972. But following the agreement reached at the beginning of the month, the EU has announced it will forego retaliation measures planned against Swiss companies. “On an international level, this joint declaration is a good thing. In effect, for years Switzerland tried to fend off pressure and opposition from the EU so that these tax regimes could distort free competition,” Sergio Rossi, an economics professor at the University of Fribourg, told swissinfo.ch. “However on a national level we will have to see now which measures the cantons will take to hold on to those companies after the tax breaks have disappeared. Several cantons are tempted to bring down corporate tax for all companies, which risks exacerbating fiscal competition inside the country.” Fortsättning på: www.swissinfo.ch/eng/italian-eu….
18 Agosto 2014
E-voting wins ground despite risks and setbacks
The majority of registered Swiss expatriates will be able to use electronic voting in next year’s parliamentary elections, but the Organisation of the Swiss Abroad (OSA) failed to win access to e-vote for the whole diaspora. Swiss expats registered in 14 of the country’s 26 cantons will be able to participate in the 2015 elections to the House of Representatives. In 12 cantons they can also help choose the members of the Senate. “139 of the 200 seat in house will be affected,” says Thomas Kalau, a senior official in the foreign ministry. The result falls short set by the OSA to ensure that all the registered 155,000 Swiss expatriates can take part. OSA President Jacques-Simon Eggly deplores the fact that the aim was only partially met. “Without our efforts even fewer expats would be able to use e-voting,” he says. At the last elections in 2011 only four cantons had introduced e-voting for their expatriates as part of ongoing trials with the technology. Eggly was speaking on the sidelines of the Congress of the Swiss Abroad in Baden on Saturday. The introduction of e-voting suffered a setback last year when technical loopholes were found. Security concerns, including attacks by hackers and verification issues, prompted some cantonal authorities temporarily suspended their efforts. Keynote speakers and discussion panels at the two-day annual event focused on hopes and risks of information technology for the expatriate community.
15 Luglio 2014
The Interlaken of China
The Chinese imagine the Swiss as people who like watches, geraniums and bears and enjoy eating chocolate as well as travelling on steam trains. That's the caricature presented by the Bernese Oberland tourist destination of Interlaken. And that destination has been re-created in a section of a Chinese theme park near the booming city of Shenzhen in Guangdong province, which lies just across a river from Hong Kong. The "miniature Interlaken" was opened in 2007 and consists of several streets with stores, a train station and a replica of the Hotel Victoria Jungfrau. The houses are a mix of styles from the Tirol, Engadin and Schwarzwald regions, and watches or bears bearing the Chinese, Swiss or Bernese flags are ubiquitous. Chinese tourists can have their pictures taken on the "Interlaken bridge," a copy of the famous Kappelbrücke in Lucerne. Bagpipers appear, along with a clown that performs to the tunes of Swiss pop star DJ Bobo. The Interlaken replica is also good advertising for the real place in the Bernese Oberland and a good alternative to expensive trips abroad for the Chinese. (Photos: Simon Tanner, Keystone)
9 Luglio 2014
Will free trade help quench China’s thirst for milk?
A Swiss-Chinese free trade agreement is making exporting to China more attractive for Swiss milk producers, but exporters and farmers – one of whom runs two Chinese stores – say it’s harder than it seems to gain a foothold in such a huge market where uncertainty remains. The farmer On his farm among the verdant hills of Switzerland’s Appenzell region, Robert Bischofberger recalls the upheaval when it all began: in 2002, a competitor moved into the area, putting the milk buyer for him and 700 other farmers out of business overnight. Suddenly, they had nowhere to send their supply. Worldwide, the demand for milk is higher than what’s being produced, so to outside observers, the solution seems obvious: with Swiss farmers generally producing 30% more milk than the country can consume, why not follow the lead of countries like the Netherlands and New Zealand and sell to a place like China, where milk consumption has quadrupled since 2000? Läs mera på: www.swissinfo.ch/eng/news
9 Luglio 2014
New ‘Iron Curtain’ in Europe fights illegal migration
On a trip to the Evros river at the outermost edge of Europe, swissinfo.ch saw first-hand how Greece is working to stem the flow of unwanted immigrants into the European Union (EU). Frontex, the external border security agency of the EU, provides support to Greece in this immense task. Non-EU member Switzerland also takes part in Frontex operations – and not entirely for altruistic reasons. Daniela Looser, a 27-year-old Swiss border guard, sits together with her Romanian counterparts in the Frontex office in Kipi, an official Greek border crossing with Turkey. Two kilometres to the east, across the Evros, is the Turkish border post. At a length of 185 kilometres, the Evros forms almost the entire border between Greece and Turkey. The area is a magnet for would-be migrants to the EU. Läs mera på: www.swissinfo.ch/eng/news
9 Giugno 2014
Coming soon to a battlefield near you?
by Simon Bradley, swissinfo.ch June 9, 2014 - 11:00 Machines are starting to slowly replace humans on the battlefield. It’s believed fully autonomous weapons may be ready in 20-30 years. And Switzerland is moving ahead with its own research into mobile robot technology. LAWS Some 87 countries out of the 117 that have signed up to the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW) attended the meeting of experts on lethal autonomous weapons systems (LAWS) at the United Nations in Geneva from13-16 May, 2014. The aim was to start to define the limits and responsibilities of LAWS. At their next annual meeting on 14 November CCW members will decide whether to continue the process. Campaign groups are calling for a pre-emptive ban on such future weapons. They put forward the example of blinding lasers, which the international community banned by adopting an international protocol in 1995 before they could be used. Switzerland was one of 87 countries trying to start to define the limits and responsibilities of LAWS, fully autonomous weapons that could select and engage targets without further human intervention. So far only five states, including Cuba and Pakistan, have joined activists calling for a ban on LAWS. Many others, including France and Britain, highlighted in Geneva the need to keep meaningful human control over targeting and attack decisions. The United States said there should be “appropriate” human control over autonomy in weapons systems, while Israel talked about the desirability of autonomous systems. Läs mera på www.swissinfo.ch/eng/politics
9 Giugno 2014
Coming soon to a battlefield near you?
by Simon Bradley, swissinfo.ch June 9, 2014 - 11:00 Machines are starting to slowly replace humans on the battlefield. It’s believed fully autonomous weapons may be ready in 20-30 years. And Switzerland is moving ahead with its own research into mobile robot technology. LAWS Some 87 countries out of the 117 that have signed up to the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW) attended the meeting of experts on lethal autonomous weapons systems (LAWS) at the United Nations in Geneva from13-16 May, 2014. The aim was to start to define the limits and responsibilities of LAWS. At their next annual meeting on 14 November CCW members will decide whether to continue the process. Campaign groups are calling for a pre-emptive ban on such future weapons. They put forward the example of blinding lasers, which the international community banned by adopting an international protocol in 1995 before they could be used. Switzerland was one of 87 countries trying to start to define the limits and responsibilities of LAWS, fully autonomous weapons that could select and engage targets without further human intervention. So far only five states, including Cuba and Pakistan, have joined activists calling for a ban on LAWS. Many others, including France and Britain, highlighted in Geneva the need to keep meaningful human control over targeting and attack decisions. The United States said there should be “appropriate” human control over autonomy in weapons systems, while Israel talked about the desirability of autonomous systems. Läs mera på www.swissinfo.ch/eng/politics
6 Giugno 2014
‘Advancing EU sceptics’ affect us all, say papers
Newspapers in non-EU Switzerland have reacted with concern to Eurosceptic nationalists who scored stunning victories in European Parliament elections in France and Britain on Sunday. Critics of the European Union more than doubled their seats in a continent-wide protest vote against austerity and unemployment. “In a democracy, results at the ballot box should be taken very seriously for the bigger message they send. The fact is, the European Union still divides its citizens more than it unifies them and is not a convincing answer to people’s hopes,” said Le Temps in Geneva. Anti-establishment parties of the far right and hard left, their scores amplified by low turnout, made gains in many countries, although in Germany, the EU’s biggest member state with the largest number of seats, and in Italy, the pro-European centre ground held firm. “Is this an irrevocable failure of the European ideal?” Le Temps continued. “This serious verdict on Europe, delivered by a significant portion of voters, is reversible. Europe falls between two stools: it is a power halfway along a political road that merits being debated more intensively by its members.” It said the evolution of European governance needed to speed up because history would not wait. “War on its borders, the urgency of strong responses to immigration, the challenges posed by the competiveness of large regional powers – all require greater strategic choices by the European Union. Europe is only at the beginning of its history. This concerns us all.” 'Wrangling' The Neue Zürcher Zeitung, which devoted more space to Petro Poroshenko, a billionaire chocolate manufacturer who claimed the Ukrainian presidency on Sunday, focused on the “earthquake” victory by Marine Le Pen’s anti-immigration, anti-euro National Front in France, one of the EU’s founding nations. In a vote that raised more doubts about Britain’s long-term future in the EU, Nigel Farage’s UK Independence Party, which advocates immediate withdrawal, comfortably led the opposition Labour party and Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservatives with almost half the results declared. “Now the wrangling begins,” was the headline of the editorial in Zurich’s Tages-Anzeiger. “It’s the hour of spin doctors, campaign managers and party spokespeople,” it continued. Their job – which started more or less as soon as the booths closed and the first results started trickling in – is to win the race for the interpretation of the votes and to dictate the headlines for the next few days. “Europe’s transnational democracy experiment is still untested – there’s plenty of room for possible interpretation.” Läs meta pa www.swissinfo.ch/eng7politics
6 Giugno 2014
Do billionaires just want homes away from home?
A court decision last month ordering Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev to cede half of his worth to his wife highlighted some high-priced properties the couple accumulated in Switzerland, and elsewhere. How are such homes acquired by ultra-wealthy foreigners, and are the buyers always in line with the law? Donald Trump’s Maison de l’Amitié, a Florida mansion, estimated at $78 million (CHF70 million) and sold for $100 million was one property owned by a trust in the name of Rybolovlev and his daughter Ekaterina. A $88 million apartment in New York, the highest price ever paid for a home in the city, another. The family had other properties in Hawaii, Greece, France and Monaco, in addition to two homes worth $135 million in the Swiss alpine resort of Gstaad, and yet a couple more outside of Geneva, including a 20,000 m2 building site, now frozen, known as the “hole of Cologny”. While wealthy foreigners have always been drawn to Swiss real estate, in recent years a steep hike in prices, particularly on the Lake Geneva shores, has continued to find buyers from abroad. In addition to the benefit of lump-sum taxation, Joachim Wrang-Widen, regional director at Christies’ Real Estate identified Switzerland’s central geographic location, its lifestyle, respect for privacy and security, as some of the country’s other draws for affluent individuals looking for a home in this country. “You can wear your expensive watch and expensive jewellery and not be concerned about it being stolen at knife- or gunpoint… and you don’t have paparazzi or anyone else harassing people who have a face with a known name,” he said. Läs gärna mer på www.swissinfo.ch/eng/business
28 Maggio 2014
Swiss-Indian trade deal: bitter pill to swallow
Who has the high ground in the intellectual property (IP) rights talks between Switzerland and India? Differences between the two countries on this issue are one of the key reasons negotiations have stalled on a free trade agreement. Talks between India and EFTA (Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein) began in 2007. As recently as last month, Swiss Economics Minister Johann Schneider-Ammann expressed hopes the two sides were getting close to an agreement after so many years of negotiations. However, on Sunday, the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) said Switzerland had been informed by the Indian side that a deal was unlikely in the last week of February. From the beginning of March, a date will be set for Indian elections meaning the current government will no longer have the authority to take such an important decision. Negotiations are expected to continue on a technical level. A large sticking point in the talks up to now has been the pressure on India to provide stronger patent protection that could make or break a deal. Swiss pharmaceuticals are keen on an agreement with India on terms favourable to their industry. Observers speak of intense lobbying recently by the Swiss firms. Thomas Braunschweig, who oversees trade policy matters at the non-governmental organisation, Berne Declaration, told swissinfo.ch that “they have asked the government to make more efforts to secure their interests citing that the pharma sector offers a significant number of jobs in Switzerland”. Swiss demands There are two specific demands from the Swiss pharmaceutical industry that are being resisted by New Delhi. One is the call to do away with the Indian rule against patent ‘evergreening’ - when companies apply for patents on obvious modifications and ‘new use’ of existing medicines. This was at the heart of the case against Novartis in India where the Indian Supreme Court denied a patent on a new version of the anti-cancer drug Glivec. Second, Switzerland’s Big Pharma wants to introduce the provision of so-called data exclusivity that undermines the registration of generic versions of even off patent drugs. This would oblige generic companies to repeat clinical trials and also gives rise to monopolies that can keep prices high. Both these demands have so far been rejected by the Indian side since they go beyond what has been accepted multilaterally under the World Trade Organisation (WTO) system in an agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property (TRIPS). Läs meta på www.swissinfo.ch/eng/business
28 Maggio 2014
How sweet are Swiss companies on Modi?
Swiss companies are waiting with bated breath for details of the highly anticipated economic agenda from the new Indian government led by Narendra Modi. But how fast can Modi move to liberalise the economy, tackle corruption and revive talks on a free trade accord? India is viewed as one of the most exciting markets in the world by many Swiss companies, but one that has not lived up to its true potential. Economic growth has dipped in the last two years while inflation has risen amid mixed messages about reforms that could open up the country further to foreign investment. Having enjoyed several boom years, Switzerland’s exports to India sank 11% in 2012 and a further 24% last year as rapid Indian economic growth ran out of steam (see infobox). But Modi has caught the eye of Swiss companies operating in India after transforming Gujarat into a foreign business-friendly market during his time as chief minister of the state. “Given the work Modi has done in Gujarat, there are high expectations from the business community that he can revive the national economy,” Mohinder Nayyer, a Delhi-based economic advisor to Swiss businesses at Switzerland Global Enterprise (s-ge), told swissinfo.ch. Indians also have high expectations and have been moved to post-election levels of “euphoria”, an audience of business leaders at the Swiss-Indian Chamber of Commerce heard at a recent presentation in Zurich. But former Swiss ambassador to India Philippe Welti warned attendees that despite the landslide victory for Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) “it could be very difficult to put forward a liberal economic programme” that is expected to be unveiled in July. Reinvigorating India’s stalled economy will necessitate tough reforms affecting agricultural workers, the welfare system and the country’s bloated bureaucratic cadre. “People don’t often live with sacrifices imposed on them for the sake of long-term benefits,” Welti said. But even a few modest changes could make a big difference for foreign companies investing in India, according to g-se’s Nayyar. Swiss firms will be keeping a close eye on corporate tax reforms and raising ownership restrictions on local companies during takeovers. “Generally speaking, foreign direct investment is not restricted but it faces more of a problem of implementation. For example, acquiring land is very complicated,” said Nayyer. “The challenge for the new government is to improve the implementation phase to make the country more attractive for foreign investors.” Hold-ups at border customs offices and other red tape delays can also prove frustrating to exporters. “Our products are highly specialized and technical,” Conrad Sonderegger, sales director at Kistler - a Swiss firm that makes sensors and measuring systems - told swissinfo.ch. “If they need maintenance it is sometimes better to bring them back to Switzerland, but the paperwork involved is not always straightforward.” The three Indian elephants sitting in the room for Swiss firms are the issues of corruption, the failed free trade agreement (FTA) and an unresolved tax evasion spat with the previous government. Much of the talk on the sidelines of the Swiss-Indian Chamber of Commerce meeting centred on how Modi will tackle a culture of petty corruption that extends from politicians to local official all the way to ordinary people on the street. None of the audience was under any illusion that the problem could be sorted out straight away. “If you know what form corruption takes and how pervasive it is, you can find ways of dealing with it,” one executive, who did not want to be named, told swissinfo.ch. “The real problem is when corruption changes and suddenly manifests itself in a different form.” “Modi should tackle the problem from the top down,” said another. “If the government can be seen as incorruptible it would send a good message down the chain to others.” Given the size and scope of issues that the new government now faces – from building up the transport infrastructure to fixing a disconnect between power stations and coal supplies and keeping a lid on a potentially volatile mix of religions – some observers feel that India will push the FTA to the side for the time being. Their concerns about tax evasion were addressed by Modi’s new government earlier this week when it set up a new investigation team to “bring back black money,” according to Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad. At present there are no obvious signs that the FTA between India and Switzerland, together with the other European Free Trade Association (EFTA) states of Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway, will be revived after stalling earlier this year. “Both governments keep saying the FTA will be concluded by the end of the year, but they never say which year,” quipped former ambassador Welti at the chamber of commerce meeting. Sudhir Kapadia of Ernst & Young India told the gathered executives that the new Indian administration was unlikely to immediately take up the cudgels of the previous government which had vociferously called on Switzerland to hand over the names of tax cheats in the build-up to the recent election. Läs mera på www.swissinfo.ch/eng/politics
5 Maggio 2014
Burkhalter to meet Putin on Ukraine
Swiss Foreign Minister Didier Burkhalter, who currently chairs the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), plans to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday to discuss the Ukrainian crisis, according to his ministry. Burkhalter will meet Putin on Wednesday in Moscow to discuss diplomatic means to stop the violence in Ukraine. The OSCE is convinced that efforts to implement the Geneva agreement must be strengthened and that the top meeting on May 7 is part of that strategy. The meeting was the main subject of a telephone conversation between Putin and German chancellor Angela Merkel on Sunday. They talked about establishing round-table talks under the auspices of the OSCE to facilitate dialogue ahead of the elections in Ukraine on May 25. Merkel also expressed her relief about the release of persons who were detained by a separatist group. Putin and Merkel stressed the importance of effective international action to reduce tensions, according to the Russian government. They also discussed Russian gas deliveries and transport routes.
5 Maggio 2014
SNSF invests record CHF819 million in research
The Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) invested a record CHF819 million ($933 million) in basic research in 2013 on higher demand for the financing of long-term medical studies, research infrastructures and the promotion of young scientists. The SNSF approved more than 3,400 research proposals involving about 14,000 researchers. Projects in biology and medicine received 40% of the funding, while mathematics, natural and engineering sciences were granted 33% and the humanities and social sciences 27%, the foundation said in its annual report, which was published on Monday. The SNSF has a government mandate and gets its income from Swiss state contributions. In 2013, it invested more than half of its funds in research projects. The number of applications for this type of funding increased by 37% between 2005 and 2011. With the remaining funds, the foundation also supported 4,500 PhD students and 2,500 postdocs via projects and programmes and spent CHF180 million on career funding schemes to support 1100 young researchers in pursuing an academic career. In 2013, the SNSF implemented various measures aimed at improving conditions for young researchers in Switzerland. These included return grants in the case of fellowships abroad, family support measures and a 7% increase in the salaries of doctoral students. The SNSF said it plans to focus on further promoting young researchers over the coming years. “The SNSF can look back on a very successful year, but a lot remains to be done, particularly with regard to the promotion of young researchers,” said Martin Vetterli, President of the SNSF’s National Research Council. “We must persuade young talents to become researchers and ensure that the conditions for them are right.” www.swissinfo.ch
10 Aprile 2014
Court ruling underlines university mobility
Switzerland’s Supreme Court has sided with a foreign student who says he should have been accepted to Lucerne University, thereby establishing that all Swiss universities must operate under the same model when accepting students from elsewhere with equivalent qualifications. Currently, each Swiss university decides individually which foreign qualifications it will accept to allow non-Swiss students to gain admission. The Federal Court’s decision establishes that going forward, the universities must all adhere to the terms of the Convention on the Recognition of Qualifications concerning Higher Education in the European Region, the so-called Lisbon Agreement. That agreement, which Switzerland signed in 1999, guarantees that students can only be denied access to universities in participating countries if there is an “essential difference” between the admission requirements in the desired country of study and the qualifications achieved in the student’s country of origin. The German student whose case came before the Federal Court was denied entry into the University of Lucerne’s Bachelors programme in law because he had not had continuous instruction in physics during his final three years in school. He had, however, had two years of instruction in biology, chemistry and physics. The court ruled that the University of Lucerne had been too strict in its demands for qualification in this case. It also ruled that universities in Switzerland can only deny a foreign student entrance if they can prove in individual cases that his or her qualifications are not equivalent to the Swiss baccalaureate. The court wrote that universities may not use "overly stringent criteria that would make the meaning and purpose of higher education mobility in Europe difficult". Zurich’s Neue Zürcher Zeitung newspaper concluded that Monday’s verdict would lead to questions over whether to make the Swiss baccalaureate more difficult to achieve, as many have advocated. Swiss students, the paper said, will have a harder time meeting the requirements for university than foreigners if universities must always prove their adherence to the terms of the Lisbon agreement. swissinfo.ch
10 Aprile 2014
Swiss startups get help with US market breakthrough
Switzerland’s entrepreneurs who want to go global have trouble finding local markets and support, so they’re increasingly seeking fertile ground in the United States. Now, the largest-ever startup support programme has come calling in Bern to boost Swiss-American business relationships. For Carlos Ruiz, it all started with a tortilla – or, more specifically, the lack thereof in his adopted home city of Zurich. The native Mexican came to Switzerland to study political science and was working on a master’s degree when he realised he wanted to take his business idea – a tortilla and bread maker that functioned with instant capsules, much like a Nespresso coffee machine – and turn it into reality. Because of the global nature of his idea – “every culture has a kind of flatbread,” he says – Ruiz knew he had to break into the US market to have a shot at success with his company, called Flatev for “flatbread evolution”. But how? That’s where MassChallenge – a so-called “startup accelerator” based in Boston that’s the largest of its kind – came in. Amir Eldad, who’s in charge of boosting MassChallenge’s global participation, recently presented the project to a handful of journalists at the American Embassy in Bern to boost its visibility and point out that despite the name, the programme reaches far beyond the borders of Massachusetts – it currently has a hub in Israel, one planned for London and is looking to expand further. Eldad says Switzerland “has the potential” to maybe become one of those global hubs someday. But what’s the advantage of focusing on a small European country with only eight million inhabitants? “In Switzerland and in other countries, the venture capital element of the ecosystem is not as strong as it should be, so we can help with that,” Eldad explains. “There’s a lot of effort being invested in the technology side, but not as much in the business side – we need to reach a better balance between technology creation and business support.” Switzerland is great in invention, but sometimes not so great in innovation,” says Professor Rico Baldegger of the School of Management Fribourg, a MassChallenge partner. “From the region of Fribourg and Bern we hope to have four or five applicants to MassChallenge this year.” On the positive side, as Ruiz points out, Switzerland has a lot of attractive things to offer: his investors wanted him to keep the company incorporated in Zurich since they would not be subject to capital gains tax, and his collaborators on the technology were all trained at Zurich’s renowned Federal Institute of Technology (ETHZ). MassChallenge: the details Any early-stage startup, for-profit or non-profit, from any place and any industry can apply to MassChallenge. Thousands apply, but only 128 make it through two rounds of judging where they’re asked to present their pitches to the final programme with 128 finalists. For four months, those finalists re-locate to the MassChallenge offices in Boston where they’re matched with a mentor and work to build business connections and plans for expansion. MassChallenge doesn’t take any equity from companies who go through the programme and is funded by support from a host of corporate partners. While the startup programmes available from Swissnex to bring companies to the US are meant only for Swiss-based startups, MassChallenge is open to the whole world and is therefore quite competitive. Of the 3,547 applicants to last year’s programme from 58 countries, just three were from Switzerland and only one – Ruiz’s Flatev – got accepted to the final pool of 128 finalists. Läs gärna mer på www.swissinfo.ch/eng/business/
13 Marzo 2014
Cabinet offers stopgap for EU research funding
The government is preparing interim solutions for Swiss researchers and students following the European Union’s decision to suspend Switzerland from educational projects in the wake of a controversial immigration vote in February. Education Minister Johann Schneider-Ammann said the aim was to keep the doors open for scientists and projects to continue their research before Switzerland can eventually rejoin EU the Horizon 2020 and Erasmus+ programmes. Schneider-Ammann stressed the importance of an interim solution and a participation in the European programme not only for financial reasons, but also to allow Swiss researchers and students to gain experience at an international level. He said Brussels had signaled it was prepared to review its decision last month to block cooperation with Switzerland once the government presents plans to break an impasse over access to the Swiss labour market to citizens from Croatia. As a result of the February vote, which calls for an end to the free movement of people accord with the 28-nation bloc, the Swiss government announced it was putting on ice an extension to the accord to the latest EU member Croatia. Non-EU member Switzerland says it will put forward a proposal next month. In the meantime a Swiss delegation of senior officials in the education ministry and leaders of federal technical institutes as well as the National Science Foundation have held talks in Zagreb to boost cooperation with Croatia. However, Schneider-Ammann told journalists on Friday the meeting was not part of the plan to break the political impasse. Student exchanges Schneider-Ammann also rejected reports that the EU had already threatened to break off cooperation on the student exchange programme before the February 9 vote. He insisted that Brussels had presented its demands for a tripling of the Swiss financial contribution in the Erasmus+ scheme during negotiations last December and January. The suspension of the exchange and research schemes has caused an outcry in the academic world. Schneider-Ammann encouraged Swiss researchers and students to continue to apply for EU programmes. His ministry has been mandated to prepare a funding plan for Swiss institutes, similar to a scheme in place before 2011. Swissinfo
13 Marzo 2014
Cabinet to boost security staff at Swiss embassies
swissinfo.ch and agencies March 13, 2014 - 10:07 Parliament has given the go-ahead for up to three unarmed civilian security staff to protect Swiss embassies in fragile states around the world. The mandate is limited to the end of 2016. The House of Representatives on Thursday confirmed a decision by the Senate last week. It allows the government to decide on such a measure without preliminary approval by parliament over the next few years. As part of a legal reform to come into force in 2017, the cabinet hopes to be granted the right for dispatching military personnel. In February, the cabinet agreed to send one expert to the Swiss embassy in the Egyptian capital, Cairo, for up to 12 months. The defence ministry says the task of security staff is advise embassy personnel and examine specific situations on the ground. Last year, parliament extended a mandate for up to 20 elite soldiers of the Swiss Army to protect the Swiss embassy to Libya. The commando had been stationed in Tripoli since the beginning of 2012 and replaced a private security firm.
3 Marzo 2014
Winter, winter disappear…
… come again another year! That’s the idea behind the Chalandamarz, a festival in the Romansh-speaking part of eastern Switzerland when children walk through the streets on March 1, singing, cracking whips and ringing cowbells. The aim is to banish winter from wells, houses and fields and to wake up spring. The children pictured here are making a racket in the village of Ardez in the Engadin Valley (Chalanda means “first day“ in old Romansh). Chalandamarz dates back to when southeastern Switzerland was part of the Roman Empire, and therefore the tradition is probably older than Christianity.
19 Febbraio 2014
Mobile academics – brain drain or circulation?
Scholarships for international students from less well-off nations allow Switzerland to attract some of the best minds to its universities. Some of these scholars never go back home. A “brain drain”? A Zurich study aims to give some answers. When Meghali Randive arrived at the University of Zurich from India to take up her scholarship for German studies in 2008, she had a bit of a culture shock. “I did not realise how different Swiss German was to the High German I had learned in India,” she recalled. Six years on, and working towards a PhD, she has integrated well and is not necessarily intending to go back home. Togo veterinarian Bassirou Bonfoh, who came over to Basel and Zurich for post-doctoral study, is now back in West Africa. The director general of the Swiss Centre for Scientific Research in the Ivory Coast, he is known as “the Swiss” due to his Helvetic approach to problem solving. A joint study by the Federal Institute of Technology Zurich and the University of Zurich -presented in January and the first of its kind in Switzerland - looked into the impact of five types of university scholarships, including federal government ones, on the career paths of international students. Researchers found both Randive and Bonfoh’s cases to be fairly typical. Of the 304 people surveyed from developing and transition countries, only around half of the grant students had returned home after their studies at the two institutions. Networking .. fortsättning på www.swissinfo.ch/eng/swiss/_news
10 Febbraio 2014
Apple gör gigantiskt återköp av aktier
Elektronikföretaget Apple, tillverkaren av Iphone och Mac-datorer, har återköpt aktier för 14 miljarder dollar (cirka 91 miljarder kronor) sedan bokslutet för två veckor sedan, rapporterar The Wall Street Journal med hänvisning till Apples koncernchef Tim Cook. Detta innebär att bolaget på ett år har återköpt 40 miljarder dollar, vilket enligt Cook är historiskt rekord för återköpsprogram. Återköpen är en form av utdelning till ägarna, då det ökar värdet på utestående aktier. Cook utlovar uppdateringar av hur återköpsprogrammet går under våren.
10 Febbraio 2014
Högern jublar över resultat i Schweiz
Invandringsfientliga högerpartier runt om i Europa är belåtna med utfallet i den schweiziska folkomröstningen om att begränsa invandringen från EU. – Det här är underbara nyheter för nationell suveränitet och frihetsälskare i hela Europa, säger ledaren för brittiska UK Independence Party (UKIP) Nigel Farage, som själv sitter i EU-parlamentet. Det franska extremhögerpartiet Nationella fronten välkomnar det schweiziska folkets ställningstagande och manar till ett stopp för "massinvandring" också i Frankrike. Lega Nord kräver en liknande folkomröstning i Italien och österrikiska FPÖ säger att även österrikarna skulle rösta för att begränsa invandringen om chansen gavs. I Schweiz segrade jasidan med 50,3 procent av rösterna i söndagens folkomröstning. Den tyska tidningen Tagesspiegel skriver att folkomröstningen ökar sannolikheten för att EU-kritiska partier blir den största gruppen i EU-parlamentet, med en fjärdedel av ledamöterna, efter EU-valet i maj. El País i Spanien skriver att resultatet speglar den "populistiska och främlingsfientliga agitation" som sveper över Europa, mindre än tre månader före EU-valet. Enligt Le Soir i Belgien kommer "hela byggställningen med Schweiz bilaterala avtal med EU garanterat att kollapsa". Den franska affärstidningen Les Echoes konstaterar att resultatet får "ekonomiska konsekvenser som är svåra att förutse". Resultatet i omröstningen är "oroande", enligt Frankrikes utrikesminister Laurent Fabius som säger att EU:s relationer med Schweiz nu måste omvärderas. – Enligt min åsikt är det dåliga nyheter både för Europa och för schweizarna därför att Schweiz kommer att straffas (ekonomiskt) om det drar sig undan, säger Fabius enligt Reuters. Tysklands finansminister Wolfgang Schäuble anser att resultatet kommer att "skapa en massa problem för Schweiz på en rad områden". Men Schäuble framhåller enligt AFP också att resultatet i folkomröstningen är ett varningstecken som visar på rädsla i Europa för globaliseringen. Läs mer: www.dn.se/nyheter/världen
15 Novembre 2013
The cleanest house in Europe
The first non-allergenic block of flats opens outside Zurich next month. That's good news for sufferers of Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS), for whom the smallest amount of chemicals in the air can trigger asthma attacks, skin disorders or depression. Christian Schifferle opens the door of his car, a Japanese model with many kilometres on the clock and visible signs of wear and tear. He asks me how I came to our appointment. When he learns that I travelled by train, he immediately lays an old rug on the passenger seat and explains: "I am doing this so the smell of perfume which some people use isn’t left on the seat.” The steering wheel is protected by a plastic cover. "My hands are very sensitive." The 59-year-old Swiss is suffering from MCS. He is extremely sensitive to pesticides, perfumes, deodorants, lotions, detergents, dyes, cigarette smoke, flavourings, carpets… and so the list goes on. But his suffering is not limited to chemicals. He also cannot tolerate the electromagnetic waves of mobile phones and the smells of electrical appliances such as televisions or computers. The consequences are a life spent in social isolation. "Since my childhood, I have reacted strongly to a variety of fragrances. I suffered from chronic fatigue," says Schifferle and remembers how he was rejected by his family and treated as mentally ill. Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS) About 5,000 people are believed to suffer from MSC in Switzerland, but the disease has not yet been officially recognised. While some doctors doubt its existence, others maintain that chemical substances in the environment really can lead to serious health problems. "Even if the causes have not been fully explained scientifically, these people and their suffering are real," says Roger Waeber from the Federal Office of Public Health. MCS - chemical intolerance, environmental illness or chemical sensitivity - is a rare allergy, which causes eye irritation, a runny nose, breathing difficulties and headaches when the person is exposed to chemicals in everyday life. These can include new clothes, the smell of cosmetics, car fumes and alcohol. The main cause is the interior pollution of buildings. The sensitivity is exacerbated by the presence of chemicals in the air, which come from dyes in the walls and furniture as well as detergents and computers. Exposure to light and moisture promotes the growth of micro-organisms. The immune system of those affected is in a constant state of alert and every time they are exposed to a new chemical substance, this leads to a chronic allergic reaction that often renders them incapable of working. Fortsätt gärna på www.swissinfo.ch/eng/science_technology
4 Novembre 2013
Computer scientists struggle to get e-voting right
Fully automated, secure systems for electronic voting are technically feasible, but implementing them remains a challenge. Security breaches have resulted in a lot of scepticism. For the moment a completely paperless system is not on, computer experts say. “Systems currently used in Switzerland do not allow voters any way to check what has happened with their vote. They have no option but to trust the system,” says Rolf Haenni, a professor of computer science at the Research Institute for Security in the Information Society (RISIS) of Bern Technical College, based in the town of Biel. "Great importance has been attached to some of the security aspects,” explains Haenni's colleague, RISIS director Eric Dubuis. “But the first-generation systems lack a feature which we have been calling for for years – verifiability – that is, the option for the voter to check whether his vote has really been cast in the way he intended.” Putting it very simply, an electronic voting system consists of a central computer, which counts votes, and the personal computers used by the voters. In theory, an election result could be manipulated by a hacker attack on the main computer or by infecting the individual voters’ computers with malware. Malware could bring it about that the unsuspecting voter enters a “yes” on the screen, but the central computer registers a “no”. fortsättning på www.swissinfo.ch/eng/swiss_news
25 Settembre 2013
Geneva to host Iran nuclear conference
A top-level conference on Iran’s nuclear programme will be held in Geneva “from October”, according to Foreign Minister Didier Burkhalter, speaking during the United Nations General Assembly in New York. Burkhalter told Swiss public radio, RTS, on Tuesday that he had been in contact with his Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Javad Zarif, and that the dialogue would continue in Geneva “at chief negotiator level”. The meeting is still to be confirmed. He described Switzerland as a “communication channel” in this “exercise in rapprochement”. US President Barack Obama on Tuesday cautiously embraced overtures from Iran’s new president, Hassan Rouhani, as the basis for a possible nuclear deal, but a failed effort to arrange a simple handshake between the two leaders underscored entrenched distrust that will be hard to overcome. In his speech to the UN, Obama said he was determined to test Rouhani’s recent diplomatic gestures and challenged him to take concrete steps toward resolving Iran’s long-running nuclear dispute with the West. Hours later, Rouhani used his debut at the world body to pledge Iran’s willingness to engage immediately in “time-bound” talks on the nuclear issue, but he offered no new concessions and repeated many of Iran’s grievances against the United States and Washington’s key Middle East ally, Israel. ‘City of human rights’ For his part, Swiss President Ueli Maurer complained in his speech at the General Assembly about the self-serving policies of many large countries. Maurer, who holds the rotating Swiss presidency for one year, said that “as the representative of a neutral country with a long humanitarian tradition”, he was concerned about the return of power politics, a form of international relations in which countries protect their interests by threatening each other with military, economic or political aggression. “Smaller countries are increasingly less accepted as partners,” he said, adding that he hoped this trend would reverse. He also stressed the importance of sovereign countries choosing their own constitution and economic system, adding that “no countries is allowed to force its law onto another”. Problems, he said, could be solved only through negotiation. “Sovereignty and equal rights guarantee peace, stability and good relations between all nations.” On Tuesday, Maurer met UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and discussed Geneva as an international location. “Geneva is the humanitarian capital and the city of human rights,” he declared. swissinfo.ch and agencies
25 Settembre 2013
Swiss voters endorse army conscription
Switzerland will remain one of the last countries in western Europe with mandatory military service after voters overwhelmingly rejected a pacifist initiative to scrap conscription. The vote is a resounding victory for the government. Defence Minister Ueli Maurer said the defeat of the proposal by the pacifist Switzerland without an Army group to end conscription and introduce a professional army of volunteers was a vote of confidence in the current militia system. “It is a yes to the army and to more security,” he told a news conference on Sunday. He said he was now cautiously optimistic about a vote next year on the purchase of 22 Gripen fighter jets from Sweden, given the 73 per cent majority in favour of conscription. Christophe Darbellay, a parliamentarian for the centre-right Christian Democratic Party and leading member of pro-army committee, said the result was a slap in the face of the pacifist group. The group, which had collected enough signatures for the ballot on conscription, said the disappointing outcome of the vote was to be expected. “The army is obviously part of Switzerland’s identity. Emotions held the upper hand over facts,” Nikolai Prawdzic said. The pacifists had argued the current army was outdated and too expensive. The Social Democratic Party, which supported the initiative, said Sunday’s result must not be taken as a blanket approval of the army. It said reforms remained necessary to adapt the structure of the armed forces and reduce their size and costs. On the wane For his part, political scientist Claude Longchamp of the GfS Bern research and polling institute says the allure of the pacifist group might wane. It is the third time in 25 years that voters have rejected similar proposals by the pacifist group. The vote in Switzerland comes on the back of a non-binding ballot in neighbouring Austria in January, which endorsed conscription. However, most other European states have scrapped or suspended mandatory military service in recent years. Under the Swiss constitution every able-bodied male Swiss citizen has to serve in the Swiss militia army from the age of 18. Exceptions are allowed for those opting to do civilian service. But the army will remain high on the political agenda. Voters are likely to have the final say next year on the purchase of 22 fighter jets, and parliament and the government are at odds over the army budget. Results September 22 vote Abolition of conscription 26.8% yes 73.2% no Amendment epidemics law 59.9% yes 40.1% no Opening hours petrol station shops 55.8% yes 44.2% no Turnout: 46.4% Shop opening hours Swiss voters also cast ballots on two other issues on Sunday, approving all-night shopping at some petrol stations and granting the government greater control over vaccination programmes. Nearly 66 per cent voted in favour of the revised labour law relaxing restrictions on nighttime shopping at petrol station shops on motorways and busy roads in urban areas. Under the current law, certain goods had to be locked away between 1am and 5am.
25 Settembre 2013
Swiss voters endorse army conscription
Switzerland will remain one of the last countries in western Europe with mandatory military service after voters overwhelmingly rejected a pacifist initiative to scrap conscription. The vote is a resounding victory for the government. Defence Minister Ueli Maurer said the defeat of the proposal by the pacifist Switzerland without an Army group to end conscription and introduce a professional army of volunteers was a vote of confidence in the current militia system. “It is a yes to the army and to more security,” he told a news conference on Sunday. He said he was now cautiously optimistic about a vote next year on the purchase of 22 Gripen fighter jets from Sweden, given the 73 per cent majority in favour of conscription. Christophe Darbellay, a parliamentarian for the centre-right Christian Democratic Party and leading member of pro-army committee, said the result was a slap in the face of the pacifist group. The group, which had collected enough signatures for the ballot on conscription, said the disappointing outcome of the vote was to be expected. “The army is obviously part of Switzerland’s identity. Emotions held the upper hand over facts,” Nikolai Prawdzic said. The pacifists had argued the current army was outdated and too expensive. The Social Democratic Party, which supported the initiative, said Sunday’s result must not be taken as a blanket approval of the army. It said reforms remained necessary to adapt the structure of the armed forces and reduce their size and costs. On the wane For his part, political scientist Claude Longchamp of the GfS Bern research and polling institute says the allure of the pacifist group might wane. It is the third time in 25 years that voters have rejected similar proposals by the pacifist group. The vote in Switzerland comes on the back of a non-binding ballot in neighbouring Austria in January, which endorsed conscription. However, most other European states have scrapped or suspended mandatory military service in recent years. Under the Swiss constitution every able-bodied male Swiss citizen has to serve in the Swiss militia army from the age of 18. Exceptions are allowed for those opting to do civilian service. But the army will remain high on the political agenda. Voters are likely to have the final say next year on the purchase of 22 fighter jets, and parliament and the government are at odds over the army budget. Results September 22 vote Abolition of conscription 26.8% yes 73.2% no Amendment epidemics law 59.9% yes 40.1% no Opening hours petrol station shops 55.8% yes 44.2% no Turnout: 46.4% Shop opening hours Swiss voters also cast ballots on two other issues on Sunday, approving all-night shopping at some petrol stations and granting the government greater control over vaccination programmes. Nearly 66 per cent voted in favour of the revised labour law relaxing restrictions on nighttime shopping at petrol station shops on motorways and busy roads in urban areas. Under the current law, certain goods had to be locked away between 1am and 5am.
13 Settembre 2013
The Federal Assembly
Swiss system INFO The Federal Assembly, which is the Swiss parliament, is made up of two chambers, namely the National Council and the Council of States, which have the same powers. It is the supreme authority of the Swiss Confederation subject to the rights of the people and the cantons. The National Council and the Council of States sit separately; decisions taken by the Federal Assembly must be approved by both chambers. On average, members of both chambers devote around 60% of their working hours to their parliamentary duties; most of them have a career not related to parliament.
13 Settembre 2013
Apple drops Swiss Railways clock
The iconic Swiss Federal Railways clock is no longer featured in the new Apple operating system i0S7 or on the US computer company’s newest iPad and iPhone devices, presented to the public on Tuesday. The clock was the subject of a patent dispute which the railways settled with Apple in October 2012 for a widely reported but unofficial sum of CHF20 million ($21.5 million). Details of the arrangement remained otherwise confidential. Apple had used the Swiss station clock design without permission for its mobile operating system iOS6, released in September last year. At the time, the railways had said it was happy that the computer firm had adopted the clock, confirming its design status, but could not ignore the illegal usage. As the owner of the clock’s trademark and copyrights, the transport company promised to take legal action. The railway clock was created in 1944 by Swiss electrical engineer and designer Hans Hilfiker. The red second hand is in the shape of the disc which controllers previously used to signal to train drivers that they could leave. The clock was lauded by the Design Museum in London and the Museum of Modern Art in New York as an example of outstanding 20th-Century design. Swiss watchmaker Mondaine has been licensed to make wall clocks, desk models and wristwatches based on the design since 1986. swissinfo.ch
7 Settembre 2013
The men who jump off Swiss cliffs
What makes people risk their lives jumping off tall cliffs? swissinfo.ch goes to the cliff's edge with the elite – and relative newcomers – to find out if they know their limits to the "dark side of the sport". The tall orange-and-black bat-like figure shuffles to the edge of the cliff. Perched on the grassy precipice high above Lake Walensee in eastern Switzerland, Michael ‘Michi’ Schwery goes through some last-minute rehearsals. He switches his two GoPro helmet cameras on, flaps the wings of his suit, and practices reaching behind his back for his parachute release. “Three, two, one…see ya!” Suddenly he is gone, leaping off the cliff with arms outstretched, plummeting into the void. One moment we are laughing and joking on the 2,300-metre-high Hinterrugg peak. The next I’m alone. Squinting hard I nervously scan the valley below, but there is no sight of him. I daren’t look too far over the edge. My heart is pounding. Eventually I spot a tiny winged figure speeding into the distance at what I learn is 200km per hour, hugging the mountain contours north of Walenstadt. Then, one minute after leaping off the mountain, he pulls his canopy and floats down safely into a farmer’s field. I breathe a sigh of relief.
7 Settembre 2013
New Swiss negotiator to defend with ‘firmness’
Switzerland has named a replacement for its top diplomat in ongoing international tax and banking talks: Jacques de Watteville, the current ambassador to China. He replaces Michael Ambühl, who stepped down in August. De Watteville was appointed State Secretary for International Financial and Tax Matters in the finance ministry on Wednesday. The 62-year-old succeeds Ambühl, who led lengthy banking and tax evasion talks with the United States and negotiations with the European Union, and who left his post to become a professor at Zurich’s Federal Institute of Technology. De Watteville has a busy agenda ahead of him: talks with France, Germany, Italy and the European Union are expected, as well as dealing with pressures from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the G20 and the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) inter-governmental body. He told reporters in Bern that he would defend Switzerland’s interests with “determination and firmness”. Finance Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf described the career diplomat as an “independent-minded” man with clear opinions and loyal. The search for Ambühl’s successor was coordinated with the foreign ministry. “It is important that the foreign and finance ministries cooperate well,” De Watteville said. Globe trotter De Watteville began his diplomatic career in 1982 after obtaining his doctorate in law studies, working as a delegate of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and passing the bar exam. He has also worked in London, Brussels and Beijing among other places. As head of the Economic and Financial Affairs Division of the foreign ministry between 1997 and 2003, he participated in numerous international negotiations with the EU, the OECD and the United States, and was involved in the development of Switzerland’s international financial and tax policies. Before being sent to Beijing in September 2012, De Watteville was an ambassador and Head of the Swiss Mission to the European Union in Brussels (2007-2012) and ambassador to Syria (2003-2007). swissinfo.ch and agencies
17 Luglio 2013
The latter, an international city and the crossroads and melting pot of European culture, constitutes one of the most interesting regions to be discovered. The city is open and welcoming and offers thousands of value added possibilities typical of a united and constantly open Switzerland, a sort of gate to Europe. Lugano, the largest town in the holiday region of Ticino, is not only Switzerland's third most important financial centre and a conference, banking and business centre, but also a town of parks and flowers, villas and sacred buildings. With Mediterranean flair, Lugano offers all the advantages of a world-class city, combined with the cachet of a small town. How to reach Lugano Lugano is extremely easy to reach with several means of public transportation (the railroad, the regional Lugano-Airport) and also by means of private transport (the A2 motorway). In the near future, it’s going to be one of the stations served by Alp Transit. Lugano is situated in Ticino, an alpine Canton which is completely included within the perimeter of the territory of application of the Convention of the Alps; Lugano is, furthermore, in a strategic, geographic position which makes a wide range of very important alpine passes along the South –North axis easily accessible; these include: the Novena, the S. Gottardo, the Lucomagno, the S. Bernardino, the Spluga and the Maloia passes. Moreover, Ticino has another very important prerogative and that is that of bordering on Lombardy, which is one of the Italian regions among the most important in Europe from an industrial standpoint and which counts nine million inhabitants. Another advantage is that of being connected on line with Milan, a financial metropolis and a cultural capital that may be conveniently reached in 45 minutes by motorway or in one hour by train. Välkomna !
3 Luglio 2013
How competitive are competitiveness rankings?
Conventional wisdom is that the IMD World Competitiveness Centre’s annual rankings are a key indicator of a country’s economic fortunes. But with powerhouses like China outside the top ten, some experts question how influential such rankings are. After a quarter of a century, the Swiss-based IMD’s competitiveness list has become a coveted prize for countries around the world that view the top spot as the business world’s equivalent of an Oscar. A move in the right direction could persuade firms to invest in a country. This ritual was again on display with the recent release of the 2013 list. Countries such as Ireland, the United Arab Emirates and Ukraine celebrated their improved rankings, while those that slipped a few spots found themselves the subject of much hand wringing in the local media. Simon Evenett, a professor of international trade and economic development at the University of St Gallen, urged caution when considering the rankings. “No one agrees with what constitutes national competitiveness,” he told swissinfo.ch. “When you look into the IMD’s rankings, you’re buying into a certain view about what drives competitiveness, which other people might not agree with.” Changing times Since its debut, the competitiveness list from the business school has expanded from 32 countries in 1989 to the 60 that make up this year’s report. The list is based on 333 criteria, with two thirds involving data from international organizations and private institutions and another third from executive surveys. “At that time, everybody was thinking about the competitiveness of enterprises,” explained Stephane Garelli, director and founder of the IMD’s World Competitiveness Center. “The concept of competitiveness of nations was not really established.” The way IMD defines competitiveness is as a “tool for prosperity”, Garelli explains. “How countries manage everything to be more wealthy.” IMD World Competitiveness Center The IMD World Competitiveness Center’s “IMD World Competitiveness Yearbook” is in its 25th year. In 2013 it assessed 60 countries based on 333 criteria. Two-thirds of these are derived from statistical indicators and one-third from the perceptions of opinion leaders. Switzerland climbed to second place, its best ever performance. The United States regained the top spot. Only two other European countries (Sweden, fourth; Germany, ninth) made the top ten. The economic downturn saw countries like Swiss neighbour Italy (44) and Spain (45) fall several places in the overall ranking. Fortsättning på www.swissinfo.ch/eng/business
3 Luglio 2013
Spying fears highlight worth of data centres
The granite grey slab of the Swisscom data centre outside Bern can protect its clients’ most valuable assets from bombs, earthquakes and even a direct aircraft hit. It’s only one of the reasons why there’s growing interest in such hubs. The centre’s stark concrete vaults also protect the highly sensitive information of banks and other clients from the prying eyes of governments or economic spies. ‘Trust’ is the watchword of the expanding Swiss data storage industry as it quietly carves out a highly lucrative global niche. Recent revelations of United States intelligence agency spying, coupled with ongoing reports of espionage emanating from China, may have raised public consciousness of the dangers to data but the industry has known about it for years. At the Swisscom centre in Zollikofen, canton Bern, no stone has been left unturned to protect its valuable cargo from any form of threat. Six powerful diesel-powered generators are kept permanently warmed, ready to kick into life within 15 seconds and able to power the entire centre’s operations in the event of total power failure. Thousands of video, heat and infra-red sensors would detect anyone who managed to get past the strict entrance security controls. Staffing is kept to a minimum, leaving the ranks of servers unmolested. Enquiries related to encryption techniques and other measures to prevent cyber intrusion are met with a polite but firm “no comment”. Political stability, a tradition of confidentiality and strong data protection laws have all added to Switzerland’s growing reputation as an international data safe house. Unlike in the US, even the Swiss government would need a court to approve each request for data. “Clients increasingly want to entrust their data to a jurisdiction where there is legal certainty,” Bruno Messmer, head of sourcing consulting at Swisscom, told swissinfo.ch. “This will be one of Switzerland’s many strong selling points in the future.” titta in på www.swissinfo.ch/eng/business
2 Maggio 2013
Why some residents choose not to become Swiss
The Swiss National Bank (SNB) has lifted a long-kept secret: most of its gold reserved are held domestically. A rightwing initiative wants the bank to repatriate all its gold from abroad. SNB president Thomas Jordan disclosed on Friday that 70 per cent of the 1,040 tons of gold are stored in Switzerland. Another 20 per cent are with the Bank of England and ten per cent at the Bank of Canada, according to a speech given at the bank’s annual general meeting in the Swiss capital Bern. Jordan said a number of criteria, including regional diversification and market access, determined the choice of the central bank. He said the SNB hoped to satisfy demands for greater transparency and put an end to speculation and false ideas circulating in the public. The SNB’s gold holdings are the target of an initiative by the rightwing Swiss People’s Party, the far-right Swiss Democrats and the Lega dei Ticinesi movement. They demand that at least 20 per cent of the central bank’s assets be in the form of gold. They also want all gold reserves to be kept in Switzerland.
2 Maggio 2013
Why some residents choose not to become Swiss
The Swiss National Bank (SNB) has lifted a long-kept secret: most of its gold reserved are held domestically. A rightwing initiative wants the bank to repatriate all its gold from abroad. SNB president Thomas Jordan disclosed on Friday that 70 per cent of the 1,040 tons of gold are stored in Switzerland. Another 20 per cent are with the Bank of England and ten per cent at the Bank of Canada, according to a speech given at the bank’s annual general meeting in the Swiss capital Bern. Jordan said a number of criteria, including regional diversification and market access, determined the choice of the central bank. He said the SNB hoped to satisfy demands for greater transparency and put an end to speculation and false ideas circulating in the public. The SNB’s gold holdings are the target of an initiative by the rightwing Swiss People’s Party, the far-right Swiss Democrats and the Lega dei Ticinesi movement. They demand that at least 20 per cent of the central bank’s assets be in the form of gold. They also want all gold reserves to be kept in Switzerland.
20 Marzo 2013
Swiss know-how helps fight Beijing smog
by Alain Arnaud in Beijing, swissinfo.ch Mar 18, 2013 - 11:00 In January 2013 Beijing experienced the worst air pollution in its history – but while it clogged the lungs of many Chinese people, it helped open their eyes to the seriousness of the problem. And Swiss companies are jumping in to help. “The government isn’t doing enough to reduce pollution. There is too much black smoke, too many exhaust fumes,” says Mr Ma, a Beijing pensioner who, along with his granddaughter, is taking advantage of a brief interval of clear sky to get some fresh air into his lungs. “I have lung cancer, I can hardly breathe,” complains Mrs Li, another pensioner, who says she never goes out when the air is too polluted. The Chinese capital was blanketed in smog for 25 days. The concentration of fine particles (PM 2.5 – i.e. those of a diameter smaller than 2.5 micrometres, small enough to get into the lungs) stood at nearly 1000 micrograms per cubic metre of air; the guidelines set by the World Health Organization (WHO) suggest a limit of 20. Last year ordinary people were still playing down the impact of the smog. Today they are aware of the danger, mainly because the authorities and the media have been transparent about it, and put out warnings – which is a first. Pure air from Swiss companies The city authorities are promising clean air by 2030. “That’s far too long!” says Zhou Rong, of Beijing Greenpeace. She points out that half the coal burned in the world every year is burned in China. The cure is a long way off, so what is urgent now is prevention, and this is where Switzerland is playing a very visible role. The Swiss cross is all over the internet in China, most notably in advertisements containing the logo “IQAir”. Business is flourishing for IQAir, a manufacturer of air purifiers based in canton St Gallen. These upmarket devices with their somewhat austere design enjoy a reputation for excellence. They are selling like hot cakes in Beijing. “Sales have gone up by two and a half or three times since pollution peaked in January,” Mike Murphy, the head of IQAir China, told swissinfo.ch. Waiting lists are long, and the buyers are not just expatriates, but also – and more and more - Chinese.
18 Febbraio 2013
Franc cap remains “valid” policy
The president of the Swiss National Bank (SNB) has reaffirmed the central bank’s determination to keep the Swiss franc cap in place for as long as needed. Thomas Jordan said he expected the currency to continue easing against the euro in 2013. The franc may have weakened since the start of the year against the euro, but keeping a lid on the franc at 1.20 per euro remains the appropriate monetary policy instrument to maintain price stability, Jordan told reporters in Geneva on Tuesday. “The motives for the introduction of the cap are still valid,” he said. “The franc remains a very strong overvalued currency, although we expect it to continue to fall and weaken. The risk of an extreme change in the exchange rate remains as long as budgetary problems in the euro zone are not resolved.” The SNB would maintain the peg “with the utmost determination” and, if necessary, take additional measures to achieve its aims, he added. In September 2011, the SNB fixed a minimum exchange rate of SFr1.20 to the euro to check the franc’s strong gains versus the euro zone currency when it reached almost parity and to prevent Switzerland sliding into a cycle of deflation and recession. The central bank has intervened heavily to defend the 1.20 limit, building up foreign currency reserves of over SFr427 billion in December and making it the world’s biggest foreign exchange-rate manager in 2012, overtaking China. But it has done less since September as an easing of the euro zone crisis took the heat off the franc.
27 Gennaio 2013
Striden om Storbritanniens krisande ekonomi
LONDON. Den brittiska ekonomin backade med 0,3 procent under förra årets sista kvartal, visar BNP-statistik som presenterades på fredagen. Är regeringens sparpolitik rätt medicin i kristider? Åsikterna går isär. Den brittiske finansministern George Osborne tänker inte ändra på åtstramningspolitiken, trots gårdagens negativa tillväxtsiffror. – Vi har den riktiga planen för att minska våra skulder, vi har den riktiga planen för att öka vår konkurrenskraft, säger Osborne till BBC. Se DN
27 Gennaio 2013
Världsbankschefen som vurmar för klimatet
DAVOS. Ingen som tänker på sina barn kan bortse från den globala uppvärmningen! Så svarar Världsbankens chef Jim Yong Kim på kritik mot att han har gett sig in i klimatfrågorna. Särskilt i USA är detta kontroversiellt. Det märks när Världsbankschefen frågas ut av en tv-reporter vid ett möte som ska sändas till amerikansk publik. Jim Yong Kim är i praktiken utsedd av president Barack Obama som står för en annan syn på den globala uppvärmningen än många på den republikanska sidan. Men vid Davosmötet ska det inte handla om amerikansk partipolitik och Jim Yong Kim är noga med att påpeka sin forskarbakgrund. Den rapport om konsekvenserna av en temperaturhöjning med fyra grader som Världsbanken har publicerat är, enligt honom, en naturlig utvidgning av dess uppdrag att bekämpa fattigdomen. (Se DN under Ekonomi
3 Gennaio 2013
President stresses Swiss unity but EU separation
Switzerland should not allow itself to be put under pressure by the European Union, Swiss President Ueli Maurer has told swissinfo.ch in a New Year interview. Maurer admits he may be more “blunt” in his opinion of EU-Swiss ties than his fellow cabinet members but he is “not fundamentally different” when it comes to the will to secure the best possible bilateral accords for Switzerland. swissinfo.ch: One of your tasks on a national level is to improve national solidarity. What concretely do you want to do there? U.M.: There are many different interests represented in this country, but we are all citizens of the same Switzerland at the end of the day. We have to strengthen this togetherness; we also have a lot more that connects us than that separates us. As president I have the opportunity to stress these ties at events. The Winter Olympics might be such a great Swiss project in which, independent of interests, language region or party, people are able to come together to commit to a common goal. But we still have to be realistic. In one year as president, not much can be changed, either in Switzerland or the world. I also don’t have much negotiating room left in my schedule - the diary is already almost full. swissinfo.ch: Recently in a speech you seemed in a roundabout way to question the bilateral accords with the EU. How do you imagine things should proceed with Switzerland and the EU? U.M.: I think the bilateral approach is the only way. We have to take time for ourselves to pursue this bilateral approach and shouldn’t allow ourselves to be pressured. The closer the relationship to the EU, the more care has to be taken in examining the accords. In my opinion we have never been under such great time pressure that we have had to rush something through. The most important motto for me is to retain as much freedom to negotiate as possible. I don’t think I am fundamentally different from my cabinet colleagues in this respect, because nobody wants to join the EU. They all want good agreements for Switzerland. Perhaps I have a slightly more blunt opinion. But there is no basic difference between the stance of the government and the political majority in the country. swissinfo.ch: Exporting companies have a vital interest in the EU internal market. With your party’s immigration initiative you are bringing the free movement of people between the EU and Switzerland into play. Are you not afraid of sanctions and the possible economic consequences? U.M.: No. In the economy, the strongest will prevail. The EU’s interests in Switzerland are just as concrete as the other way round. Imagine, purely theoretically, that the EU would limit access to its market and that we, in response would impose limitations in the area of transport. That wouldn’t work. Those are merely hypothetical games. We are closely tied to one another and continually have to find common solutions and we will do so.
15 Novembre 2012
Kinesiska ståljätten stoppar produktionen
På grund av vikande priser har det kinesiska stålbolaget Baosteel stoppat produktionen vid ett stålbruk som producerar 3 miljoner ton om året. Det skriver Reuters. Baosteel är ett av de första stora kinesiska stålbolagen som aviserar att det stoppat produktionen. Med Kinas sviktande ekonomi och bankernas minskade utlåning till branschen förväntas dock fler produktionsstopp vara i antågande. I ett försök att stötta upp landets ekonomi har Kinas regering aviserat omfattande infrastruktursatsningar, men det finns tvivel på hur mycket detta kommer att gynna stålefterfrågan. "Regeringens infrastrukturprojekt kan komma att enbart förbättra sentimentet. Jag förväntar mig inte ett stort lyft för stålefterfrågan", sade Zhang Dianbo, biträdande ordförande i Baosteel, på en industrikonferens i Dalian. På samma konferens sade Liu Xiaoliang, vice generalsekreterare vid Metallurgical Mines Association of China, att cirka 40 procent av landets järnmalmsgruvor står stilla. De vikande priserna har gjort att bruken vid nuvarande nivå förlorar pengar. Liu Xiaoliang spår att järnmalmspriserna kommer att ligga mellan 90-110 dollar per ton under de kommande två åren. Världens största järnmalmsproducent, brasilianska Vale, spådde å sin sida priser om 100-120 dollar per ton och sade att de fortsatte att utveckla sina egna gruvexpansionsprojekt. Av: Direkt / Affärsvärlden Mejla reportern
15 Novembre 2012
"Vi är inte emot utdelningar"
Svenska banker får naturligtvis ge utdelning till aktieägarna om de har riskvikter på sina bostadslån som överensstämmer med vad Riksbanken och Finansinspektionen anser vara tillräckligt. Det sade finansminister Anders Borg till journalister på tisdagen på väg in till ekofinmötet. "Vi är inte emot utdelningar. Men det måste ha som utgångspunkt riktiga riskvikter", sade han. Men det blir fel om bankerna delar ut pengar på basis av en kapitaltäckning som bygger på för lågt beräknade riskvikter, sade han. Enligt Anders Borg har Sverige starka banker på grund av tuffare regler, hårdare tillsyn och att "vi är mer besvärliga mot våra banker". Han menade att Socialdemokraterna står på bankernas sida i denna fråga och regeringen står på skattebetalarnas sida. Affärsvärden
22 Ottobre 2012
Schweiz och Sverige
Schweiz är en av Sveriges 20 största handelspartners; den svenska exporten uppgår till ca 10 mdr SEK och importen ligger på ca 9 mdr SEK . Sveriges export gick ned under det sista kvartalet 2008 och hela 2009, men vände uppåt igen under det första kvartalet 2010. Sverige exporterar främst maskiner, obehandlade metaller, papper och bilar till Schweiz. Handelsflödet från Schweiz har visat på samma trend under de senaste åren; följande varugrupper är de största: maskiner, läkemedel, obehandlade metaller och optiska instrument. Den schweiziska turismen till Sverige har ökat under senare år och är omfattande (10 plats i antal gästnätter) och den svenska turismen i Schweiz ligger på ungefär samma nivå. Nivån på direktinvesteringar har också varit hög; 2008 uppgick de schweiziska investeringarna i Sverige till ca 28 mdr SEK och motsvarande siffror för Schweiz var ca 22 mdr SEK. De flesta större svenska företag är representerade i Schweiz. Bland de ca 100 svenska dotterbolagen är de allra flesta försäljningskontor och de tillverkande företagen är relativt få. Viktiga exempel på svensk-schweiziskt samarbete är ABB som har huvudkontor i Zürich och Tetrapak i Lausanne. IKEA öppnade sitt första utomnordiska varuhus i Schweiz och har efter de senaste årens öppningar totalt åtta varuhus i landet. H&M har ett drygt fyrtiotal butiker i Schweiz. Volvo har en relativt betydande försäljning med marknadsandelar som ligger klart över europeiskt snitt. Tillsammans med franska Rafale och Eurofighter är Saab Gripen kandidat i den schweiziska upphandlingen av nya stridsflygplan. Beslut från schweizisk sida förväntas ske senast 2015.
22 Ottobre 2012
Switzerland seeks to confirm top research spot
Switzerland tops all major research and innovation rankings worldwide, largely thanks to generous funding and a clear separation between public and private research, as well as academic freedom that attracts some of the brightest minds. The country boasts the world's highest number of scientific publications per capita and the second highest for citations, the State Secretariat for Education and Research (SER) said in 2011. The OECD Factbook also shows that in 2009 the country registered the most patents per head, an indicator for innovation. “In all rankings and in all indicator lists you will find Switzerland on one of the first five places,” said David Bohmert, the head of SwissCore, which represents the interests of the Swiss National Science Foundation, the SER and the Federal Office for Professional Education and Technology at the European Union in Brussels. As a nation, Switzerland is highly respected as research location by its European partners and is often considered as an example to follow according to Bohmert. “Most European countries lose their researchers to the United States once they complete their taxpayer-funded education,” he stated. “We are one of the few countries worldwide, which attracts more researchers from the US than it loses to them.” Switzerland is “the country with the most marked migration of top researchers within Europe”, the EU Commission commented about a ranking of international cooperation in research and innovation. “On a global scale, it is second behind Japan.” “In most European countries the balance is negative, reflecting the brain drain those nations are suffering from.” Switzerland is also attractive for students seeking higher education, the commission said. “Austria, Luxembourg, Switzerland, the UK, Australia and New Zealand have the highest percentages of foreign students,” it added. fortsättning www.swissinfo.ch/eng/science_technology/
16 Settembre 2012
Protesters demonstrate at Swiss embassy in Iran
Switzerland has represented American interests in Iran since 1980, after the United States formally severed ties with Iran in the wake of the 1979 hostage crisis. The protest, organised by a radical Islamist student group, resulted in the precautionary evacuation of embassy employees and the involvement of more than 200 police and fire personnel who prevented some 500 protesters from reaching the embassy gates. Cries of “death to America” and “death to Israel” were meant to denounce an American-made film called “The Innocence of Muslims” which commanded the Muslim world’s attention after its trailer was dubbed in Arabic and posted on YouTube. Protesters reacted to the film’s depiction of the Prophet Mohammed in a negative light. The film was the impetus behind recent protests at the American embassy in Benghazi, Libya, which claimed the lives of American ambassador Chris Stevens and three others. Stevens' was the first death of a US ambassador abroad since 1979. It remains unclear whether the embassy was attacked amid spontaneous protests against the film or if it was a calculated act of terrorism. American officials suspect it may have been carried out by a pro al-Qaeda group. American embassies in Cairo and Yemen were also the sites of violent protests on Thursday in reaction to the film. Swiss on alert Foreign minister Didier Burkhalter told Swiss radio on Thursday that he had written to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to express Switzerland's condolences for the death of Ambassador Stevens. "We are watching the situation very closely," Burkhalter said, adding that the Swiss embassy in Tripoli was guarded by the Swiss army. "So we have already, if you like, taken the necessary measures. But if necessary, we will intensify the security measures." Swiss officials told swissinfo.ch that precautions are in place to ensure Swiss diplomats in other parts of the world remain safe. The Swiss were among the first to open a humanitarian aid unit in Benghazi after violent anti-government unrest broke out early in 2011. The office was closed in October of that year, when following the death of former dictator Moammar Gaddafi, the Swiss re-opened their embassy in Tripoli. “All Swiss diplomatic branches have security details,” Stefan von Below, a spokesman for the foreign ministry, told swissinfo.ch. “These are constantly reviewed, adapted to local conditions and risk situations and can adapt quickly to new developments.” The Swiss-based International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC) has also been the target of numerous attacks on its offices in Libya in the past year, the most recent of which occurred in Misrata and Benghazi on August 5. Following the attack on the American embassy, the ICRC reiterated its concern about the security situation in Libya. “It’s a major concern for us as a humanitarian organisation,” an ICRC spokesperson told swissinfo.ch. “Having good security allows us to have access to those in need and carry out our work, which is the whole reason for our presence in these countries.” Veronica DeVore, swissinfo.ch
16 Settembre 2012
Switzerland comes clean on its obsession
Cleanliness is commonly considered a Swiss trait, but is Switzerland really as clean as it seems? On a day in early autumn, tourists meander through Bern’s old town. A man cleans a storefront window. A rubbish truck bumps over cobblestones. Tourists seem impressed. “Yes, it’s definitely clean,” says Craig Oddie of Manchester, Britain, who is visiting the city’s bear park with his family. “Just walking around the public areas you don’t see any litter. The public transport’s always clean. It’s massively better here than it is in England.” Barbara Cunningham of Canada agrees. “Oh, I think it’s absolutely clean. Absolutely. We came down from the [Klein] Matterhorn, and as the gondola came in there’s a part underneath it—even that was clean. It didn’t have garbage there, it didn’t have grease, dried grass. Nothing. Spectacularly clean.” “We know for a fact that Switzerland is perceived as a clean country,” says Veronique Kanel, spokeswoman for Switzerland Tourism. In 2010 the marketing organisation, which receives 60 per cent of its funds from the Swiss government, surveyed 9,000 tourists from 110 countries about their perceptions of Switzerland. “Cleanliness is spontaneously mentioned as a strength by four per cent of tourists,” says Kanel. That “might not seem very high, but this comes very close to culture and history, which was mentioned by 4.7 per cent of interviewees.” Switzerland’s greatest strength as a destination was nature, spontaneously mentioned by 20 per cent. Marketing Swiss cleanliness Switzerland Tourism capitalises on that perception in its most recent advertising campaign, “Switzerland—Summer Holiday”. The television spot, created by Zurich advertising agency Spillmann/Felser/Leo Burnett, takes a humorous approach to that reputation. Two retired gentlemen are shown in a variety of idyllic Swiss locations, polishing stones, removing an old boot from a pristine lake, cutting blades of grass on their knees. The ad, with the theme “We do everything for your perfect summer holiday,” was running worldwide from April to October (see link). But does a country’s level of cleanliness have a positive effect on tourism? Not exactly, according to Christian Laesser, professor of tourism and service management at St Gallen University. Tourists are not “thrilled” by a clean destination; rather, they are “definitely not happy when it’s not clean”, Laesser tells swissinfo.ch. Laesser also refers to the “relativity of cleanliness”. “With what are you comparing? If I compare Switzerland to, for example, Singapore, I would perceive Switzerland not as very clean, just as okay clean, but not really especially clean. If you take some other countries then I definitely would perceive this country as clean.”
2 Settembre 2012
Strong SMEs key to Switzerland’s economic success
As many western countries struggle to stay afloat amidst powerful economic storms, Switzerland sails on largely impervious to the pain. Economist Stéphane Garelli reveals the secrets of its success, but warns of dark clouds on the horizon. The Swiss economy has continued to grow despite the three-year-old European debt crisis that began in Ireland and Greece and spread to Italy and Spain. For the past six years, the Swiss government has run budget surpluses, even while suffering a recession during the financial crisis in 2008 when it was forced to bail out UBS, the country’s leading bank. Switzerland's economy has so far avoided the worst effects of the strong franc, with better-than-expected economic growth of two per cent year-on-year in the first three months of 2012, while the jobless rate held at 2.7 per cent in July. And although economic growth is forecast to slow to about 1.5 per cent this year from about 2.5 per cent in 2011, the government still expects to book a surplus of SFr1.5 billion ($1.56 billion) for 2012, down from SFr2 billion last year. Meanwhile, the 17-country eurozone appears headed for its second recession in three years. swissinfo.ch: Is the situation in Switzerland really that exceptional? Germany and Nordic countries also seem to be weathering the economic storm quite well, don’t they? Stéphane Garelli: Every possible indicator – unemployment, public finance, growth rates and inflation – is extremely positive for Switzerland. Very few other countries are managing to produce such major economic indicators and such results. So, yes, Switzerland really is in quite an exceptional situation. swissinfo.ch: What’s your explanation for this? S.G.: Firstly, Switzerland’s economy is very much focused on the rest of the world. This is an unexpected consequence of its refusal to join the European Economic Area (EEA) in 1992. Many businesses at the time began to diversify their export markets instead of concentrating solely on Europe. Export sectors were very quick to focus on emerging markets with strong growth potential. Second, Switzerland has many highly efficient small- and medium-sized companies (SME). In most countries, even in places like Mongolia, you find large, very competitive multinationals. But an economy only really starts to stand out thanks to its SMEs – firms of between 100 - 1,000 employees that own their own technologies and have a global outlook. Thirdly, the Swiss economy is incredibly diversified. We produce everything except perhaps cars. Also, for over a decade Switzerland has managed to introduce a debt brake that everyone is now talking about in Europe. This has enabled us to keep public finances under control. Stéphane Garelli (garelli.ch) swissinfo.ch: People often talk about the positive influence of its high-quality education system and close collaboration between the academic and economic worlds. How true is that? S.G.: Very much so. This is all the more important as it has an impact on SMEs. Unlike big multinationals, SMEs really need collaboration with the academic world, and access to laboratories, research centres and special skills. This is extremely important as it strengthens medium-sized firms that export homemade products. swissinfo.ch: Despite the diversification of markets, Europe remains Switzerland’s main export partner. What are the risks if the continent’s economic situation continues to worsen? S.G.: Indeed I think the negative side of the Swiss model is its vulnerability. It’s vulnerable as it is the object of everyone’s desire. We can see that with our German and French “friends”. They look at us in a funny way and try to impose quite difficult conditions, especially financial. This vulnerability is due to the fact that Switzerland is a relatively important economic power but is small-fry politically. We depend on Europe for two-thirds of our economic activity and we depend on the United States as we are traditionally close to it through business activities. We have tried to diversify markets but it’s true that most business continues to be done with Europe and the US. And right now we must admit that relations with them are tense. swissinfo.ch: And we mustn’t forget the handicap of the strong Swiss franc… S.G.: The big question is how long the Swiss National Bank will be able to maintain the SFr1.2 to the euro cap. I must say that I have some doubts about this. Given the speed with which the SNB is building up exchange reserves, people say it cannot continue for ever at that pace. At the same time it’s in the Europeans’ interest to keep the value of the euro low. The only way for them to work their way through their austerity policies is to export to high-growth countries. So if they want to do that it’s better for them to keep a weak euro. swissinfo.ch: Swiss business circles have often pleaded in favour of joining the European Union. In view of the current problems, aren’t we better off outside? S.G.: Right now not being an EU member is an advantage. Switzerland doesn’t have to suffer the impact and slowness of European decisions. What strikes me most is the time needed to take decisions which are pretty obvious from an economic perspective. It’s been roughly two years that leaders have known what needed to be done to save the Greek economy. But sooner or later we’ll have to find a modus vivendi with Europe as Switzerland is in an extremely vulnerable position. We can see that with Germany. The Germans can do what they want, like buying CDs of stolen Swiss bank data, without us being able to do a thing. It’s the same with the Americans.
3 Agosto 2012
Relying on innovation to boost economy
Switzerland is a world leader when it comes to innovation, thanks to a model education system, creativity and a flexible labour market. But this added value is not always to be found in the most obvious places. It’s without a doubt one of the most widely agreed upon policy principles among decision makers and economists in Switzerland today: to remain competitive at the international level, Swiss companies have to focus on innovation. The innovation mantra is even more popular in the context of a particularly challenging global economic environment. The eurozone’s public debt crisis has emphasised the Swiss franc’s role as a safe-haven, upping prices on already expensive Swiss products. Meanwhile, the European Union wants to slow the flow of multinationals setting up shop in Switzerland to benefit from favourable tax deals. Läs mera på: www.swissinfo.ch/eng/business
22 Luglio 2012
Switzerland shapes accord with China
After a series of high-level talks in Beijing, Swiss Economics Minister Johann Schneider-Ammann says he hopes that Switzerland and China can sign a free trade agreement by the end of the year. “There are still many problems and challenges, but I'm very confident that we can find a solution before the end of the year,” Schneider-Ammann said. The economics minister’s entourage includes 25 captains of industry, a dozen officials and several journalists. In Beijing, the Swiss organised the Sino-Swiss Economic Forum, which brought together 300 Swiss and Chinese business people. “The Swiss mission has a strong symbolic aspect, allowing us to get to get to know our partners better. It is crucial to develop a positive relationship,” said Stéphane Graber of the Swiss-Chinese Chamber of Commerce. High hopes “We expect benefits for our industry and financial sectors,” said Gerold Bührer about the prospects of a free trade agreement. Bührer, president of the Swiss business federation, economiesuisse, added that a bilateral accord better protecting Swiss investments and reducing tariffs would save jobs in Switzerland. For Alexandre Jetzer, a consultant for pharmaceutical giant Novartis, the agreement would allow goods to be imported into China at zero duty. “Currently, the taxes we pay are a heavy burden, as is the red tape. We lose a lot of time, and Chinese patients pay the price for that.” Geneva-based manufacturer LEM is very active in China. LEM president and CEO Gabella Francis said Switzerland had a "unique opportunity to strengthen its presence” in the country. One example is the jeweller Gübelin. President Thomas Gübelin said a free trade agreement could lead the family-run business to establish itself in China. “There will be much greater security than there is now,” he said. And Patrick Hofer-Noser, president of Cleantech Switzerland, said he believed an accord would make it easier to export Swiss expertise in sustainable technologies.
22 Luglio 2012
Valtellina: lost piece of the Swiss puzzle
This summer marks the 500th anniversary of the conquest of an alpine valley that – if it hadn’t been for Napoleon – would have made the Switzerland of today a bigger and “more beautiful” country. In June 1512, the forces of Graubünden, now a Swiss canton but then an independent republic, marched into the Valtellina, its southern neighbour. For nearly three centuries thereafter, Graubünden ruled the Valtellina as a subject territory. Yet the locals were never really happy being ruled by self-interested and often corrupt officials from Chur. In 1797, when Napoleon conquered Switzerland and the northern regions of modern Italy, he gave the Valtellinesi the option to join the new “Cisalpine” (Italian) Republic. They went with their Italian neighbours. The Valtellina has basically been Italian ever since. The 500th anniversary of the conquest was marked recently by a conference of historians in Tirano, now on the Italian side of the border, and Poschiavo, on the Swiss side. Valtellina’s Guglielmo Scaramellini, a professor at Milan University was pleased by recent discoveries of documents in Italian and Swiss archives which “will be useful for shedding light on the events of 1512 and the years that followed.” “We want to shed more light on the initial phase of the Graubünden regime,” agreed Florian Hitz, a Swiss historian. “That time has been completely overshadowed by the period of crisis and warfare that followed in the 17th century. Looking back, people have portrayed the relationship between the Graubünden overlords and their Valtellina subjects far too pessimistically, at least as regards the early decades.” He sees the historians as having to change people’s awareness. “The rule of Graubünden in the Valtellina is still weighed down with prejudices in the public mind. It was not as bad as it is made out to be.” Yet the people of the Valtellina ended the connection with Graubünden as soon as they got the chance. Would it have been a good thing for us - or for them - if they had stayed? “Probably a Swiss Valtellina would not have stayed with Graubünden for long, but would have formed a canton of its own”, thinks Hitz. “That would not have done any harm to Graubünden, and been only a plus for Switzerland. The country would just have been bigger and more beautiful.” Scaramellini archly suggests another scenario: if the Three Leagues (as the Graubünden federal state was called) had persuaded the Valtellina to stay with them as an equal “fourth league”, Graubünden would probably not have joined the Swiss Confederation, “so that still today there would be a Republic of the Four Leagues, independent and sovereign. Another miniature Switzerland - but competing with the original!”
11 Giugno 2012
The people’s rights in an era of globalisation
Conservatives want every major international treaty to be put to a popular vote before being signed by the government. They are worried that Switzerland is relinquishing too much power over sovereign issues. In Switzerland, the government is answerable for foreign policy decisions not only to parliament, but also to the people and the cantons. All international treaties with important implications for the country, such as the enactment of new laws, can be put to a nationwide vote if at least 50,000 citizens or eight cantons so demand it. A referendum is automatically triggered where the treaty involves joining a supra-national organisation or a security partnership. But these instruments of direct democracy do not go far enough for conservatives. Supported by the Swiss People’s Party, the lobby group Campaign for a Neutral and Independent Switzerland launched an initiative in 2009 to “strengthen the people’s rights as regards foreign policy”. The text, to be put to a vote on June 17, demands that all treaties of a specified level of importance should be automatically submitted to referendum (see sidebar). Fortsättning www.swissinfo.ch/eng/swiss_news
23 Maggio 2012
Massive Zurich building slides to new location
In the largest undertaking its kind in Europe, a 6,200-tonne building is being shifted in one piece 60 metres westward. The old management building of the former machine factory Oerlikon in Zurich has to make way for some new railway tracks. The brick building is 123 years old and is the last relic of Oerlikon’s 19th century industrial zone. In 1876 the Oerlikon machine factory “Maschinenfabrik Oerlikon (MFO)” began manufacturing tool machinery, weapons and electric locomotives. When its recent owner ABB announced plans to tear it down, the public handed in a petition to save it, emphasising its cultural importance for the region. Together with the new owner Swiss Prime Site and the Swiss Federal Railways, ABB came up with the alternative plan to have the 6200-tonne building moved in one piece. Preparation on the site started ten months ago (as shown in animation in video). Supporting basement walls had to be replaced by steel pillars. A concrete plate with tracks on top was constructed under the building. Finally the building was placed on special carriages. On May 22 the moving began at 11.00 a.m. Via hydraulic presses it is being moved by four metres per hour. On Wednesday evening the 80-metre long building will have reached its new location. (SF/Swiss Prime Site/swissinfo.ch)
23 Maggio 2012
Glencore head responds to criticism against firm
Ivan Glasenberg, the CEO of Swiss-based commodities giant Glencore, insists his company is doing a lot to help the people in the places where it operates – and that it would be willing to do more. “We’d be happy to work with aid organisations,” Glasenberg told the German-language Tages-Anzeiger and Bund newspapers in an in-depth interview published on Wednesday. It was Glasenberg’s first major interview in the Swiss press since a report released last month accused Glencore subsidies of violating human and environmental rights. Glasenberg dismissed these accusations, arguing that his company had strict environmental and social standards. “We’re convinced that we’re doing good in the countries where we’re active,” Glasenberg said. He criticised non-governmental organisations for publishing reports on Glencore activities without soliciting feedback from the commodities firm. As an example, he cited the Democratic Republic of Congo, where he said Glencore would, by the end of the year, invest $3.5 billion (SFr3.3 billion) in developing new mines while providing electricity and building roads, schools and hospitals. Asked whether Glencore was in fact some sort of development aid organisation, Glasenberg said: “We’re in these countries to make a profit for our shareholders, but we also contribute to development work. It’s in our interest to contribute to the welfare of the population through taxes and the creation of jobs.” Glasenberg also downplayed the issue of corruption in poor countries. “The problem of corruption in connection with multinationals is exaggerated.” The CEO said the planned merger of Glencore with the Swiss-British mining firm Xstrata was making progress and that both sides would profit. Glencore had a turnover of $186.2 billion last year, making a profit of $4.3 billion. swissinfo.ch and agencies
18 Maggio 2012
Swiss airline raises fares and tightens belt
Raising ticket and fuel surcharge prices and reshuffling ground staff are some of the measures being considered by Swiss International Air Lines to stave off tough competition and ever rising costs. Despite being the star performer of the Lufthansa Group, the Swiss carrier has been ordered by its German owners to save SFr100 million ($107 million) by 2015. The efficiency drive is part of an ambitious €1.5 billion (SFr1.8 billion, $1.9 billion) cost saving programme – called Synergies, Costs, Organisation, Revenue, Execution (SCORE) – announced by Lufthansa earlier this year. The reasons for the cost savings are obvious: Swiss enjoyed a stellar year in 2011 when it booked a SFr306 million ($327) operating profit. But this impressive figure still fell 17 per cent below the 2010 figure while the first quarter of this year saw a SFr4 million loss. The main culprit was fuel price inflation, but extra costs are also on the horizon in the shape of a new European Union emissions trading charge that is expected to hit the airline with an additional SFr90 million bill this year, according to observers. Fortsättning pà www.swissinfo.ch/eng/business
16 Maggio 2012
Cannes showcases Swiss “cries for freedom”
From the dreams of young Swiss revolutionaries in the 1970s to the fantasies of a 50-year-old Lisbon dockworker who wants to run away to Sweden, two very different Swiss films are up for an award in Cannes this year. Opération Libertad (Operation freedom), a feature film by Nicolas Wadimoff, and Os Vivos Tambien Choram (The living also cry), a short film by Basil da Cunha, have been selected for the Directors’ Fortnight, which runs from May 17-27. The Fortnight, which runs parallel to the other Cannes screenings and awards, aims to uncover young talent and aid more independent filmmakers. Since it was launched in 1969, it has showcased first works by directors such as Werner Herzog, Martin Scorsese, Ken Loach, Jim Jarmusch and Spike Lee. This is the third year in a row that Swiss films have been selected for the prestigious award. In 2010, the section showcased Cleveland vs. Wall Street, Swiss director Jean-Stéphane Bron’s film about a mock tribunal in Ohio in which small-town victims of the subprime crisis in the United States fight it out with bankers. And this is not the first appearance for da Cunha, a young Geneva-based director of Portuguese origins, whose short film Nuvem-Le Poisson Lune (Sunfish) missed out on an award last year. The artistic director of the Directors’ Fortnight, Edouard Waintrop, is not at all surprised that Swiss directors have featured in three successive Cannes programmes. “No, it’s justified,” said Waintrop, adding that it was a sign of the excellent health of Swiss cinema, “one of the most personalised in Europe”. se fortsättning www.swissinfo.ch
16 Maggio 2012
Eurostar eyes line to Geneva
Eurostar, operator of the Channel Tunnel passenger train services, plans to expand its network out of London by adding as many as ten destinations in four European countries – including Switzerland – over the next five years. Eurostar Chief Executive Nicolas Petrovic told the Financial Times on Monday he wanted his company, which currently carries 9.7m passengers a year, to pose a competitive challenge for airlines. Petrovic said he aimed to use the creeping liberalisation of European rail markets to launch services across western European cities like Geneva, Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Cologne, Lyon and Marseille. “By 2016 and 2017 we would like people when they are thinking about travelling to these cities to consider taking Eurostar rather than flying,” he said. Swiss travellers who want to go by train to London currently have to board Eurostar in Paris or Brussels, with non-stop trains taking two hours 15 minutes and one hour 51 minutes respectively. swissinfo.ch
9 Maggio 2012
Bern and Rome return to negotiating table
Switzerland says neighbouring Italy has agreed to resume negotiations on a comprehensive fiscal accord, including a crackdown on tax cheats. The move is part of Swiss efforts to get rid of its image as a haven for hidden assets. Finance Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf said she would travel to Rome for talks with Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti. However, she refused to give a date. At a news conference on Wednesday, Widmer-Schlumpf welcomed the breakthrough, but warned of too much euphoria. “Italy showed its willingness and we will see what the negotiations will yield. I’m confident that we can make progress,” she explained. Widmer-Schlumpf said negotiations would cover a broad range of fiscal issues, including a withholding tax but also a controversial blacklist of Swiss companies and people compiled by Italy 20 years ago. Bilateral relations with Italy have been strained for years not only over tax issues, but also about easing access for Swiss companies to the Italian market and a dispute over a 1974 accord on cross-border workers from the Lombardy and Piedmont regions with two Swiss cantons of Ticino and Valais. The announcement about negotiations with Italy comes in the wake of tax agreements with Germany, Britain and Austria earlier this year. These deals still need approval by the respective parliaments. Observers point out that France might be interested in following suit to try to get hold of additional revenue from its tax payers who have stashed away assets in off-shore accounts in Switzerland.
30 Aprile 2012
Varför har inte euron kollapsat? Och varför lämnar inte Tyskland EMU? JP Morgan ger svaret på de mest frekvent makrofrågorna.
Varför har varken Grekland eller Tyskland lämnat EMU? Och varför gick de över huvud taget med? Svaret som ges är att krisen har visat vad det kostar för ett land att potentiellt ge upp sin valuta. En upplösning skulle kräva deflation och enormt stöd från unionens starka länder. Från början var den monetära unionen tänkt som en politisk union, ett US of E, vilket också var skälet till att länder gick med. Kostnaden som det innebär att överge EMU går inte att ställa i rimliga proportioner till den kapitalflykt en upplösning skulle innebära. Inte heller är det proportionellt sett till kostnaden för att skapa en ny valuta. Dessutom skulle en upplösning, enligt JPM, innebära en slopning av europeisk integration och vi skulle förflytta oss bakåt i tiden, tillbaka till en än mer splittrat och grälsjukt Europa. Därför tror JPM att EMU:s medlemmar kommer gör allt de kan för att hålla unionen intakt. Detta med kommande kriser i åtanke som kommer skapa ytterligare konflikter. Varför har inte euron kollapsat givet recession och risken för upplösning av valutaunionen? De perifera euroländerna kan inte devalvera valutan trots att en nedgång i euron skulle gynna dessa ekonomier. Valutor ska ses som relativa priser, enligt JP Morgan. Och läget i USA, Storbritannien och Japan anses vara minst lika dåligt som i eurozonen. Alla dessa fyra ekonomiers valutor har rasat i jämförelse med de mindre G10-länderna som är i klart bättre form. Särskilt i jämförelse med Kanadas, Norges, Schweiz och Australiens valutor. JP Morgan gör alltså den återkommande poängen att krisen är en valutakris och de andra problemen som råder är en konsekvens av att bland annat de perifera euroländerna inte kan devalvera sin valuta. Det kan USA, Japan och Storbritannien. Det kan även vi i Sverige som i folkomröstningen röstade nej till euron. Då röstade 42 procent för ett införande och närmare 56 procent emot. Moderaterna, Folkpartiet, Kristdemokraterna och Socialdemokraterna stödde ja-sidan. På nej-sidan stod Centerpartiet, Miljöpartiet och Vänsterpartiet.
27 Febbraio 2012
Recession-hit nations owe pharma firms billions
As austerity measures across Europe lead to healthcare spending cuts, hospitals in Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain are delaying paying for drugs by up to three years. Swiss pharmaceutical giants Roche and Novartis are examining whether to limit supplies to some of the worst culprits. While European finance ministers shuttle between crisis meetings, the consequences of the debt problems continue to extend across the eurozone. “The on-going financial crisis and its resultant drag on economic growth continues to impact the debt burden of many economies, most notably in Europe, where Greece is facing possible default of its sovereign debt obligations, and countries such as Spain and Italy have had their sovereign debt obligations downgraded,” said Novartis spokeswoman Isabel Guerra. The debt crisis has also given rise to concerns that some countries may not be able to pay for Novartis’ products, she added. Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece and Spain – the so-called PIIGS nations which face similar economic challenges – have agreed with Brussels to implement draconian austerity programmes to lower public debt, requiring the elimination of all non-essential expenditure. “If you have cutbacks in the public sector, one way to save is not to pay or to delay payment of your bills,” Peter Zweifel, an economics professor at Zurich University who specialises in health matters, told swissinfo.ch. “But if you do that in the medical field, there will be a political backlash. It is assumed that international pharma companies have deep pockets.” This view is shared by Ignazio Cassis, vice-president of the Swiss Medical Association, and a centre-right Radical parliamentarian. “For the past two or three years the situation has become more dramatic as the debt levels of some countries have become unsustainable. A number of public hospitals and state insurance schemes are close to bankruptcy. But before being unable to pay staff salaries they stop paying suppliers,” he explained. According to the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA), European states owe €12-15 billion (SFr14.4-18 billion) to the pharma industry, which includes groups like Roche and Novartis. “On December 31, 2011, the group’s combined trade accounts receivable with public customers in southern Europe [Spain, Italy, Greece and Portugal] was equivalent to SFr2.1 billion,” Roche spokeswoman Claudia Schmitt told swissinfo.ch. The number of unpaid bills from Spain, Portugal and Italy increased last year, while those from Greece fell as a result of ‘zero coupon bonds’ issued by Athens, she explained. Contin. www.swissinfo.ch/eng/business....
31 Gennaio 2012
Rich Greeks balk at financial aid for homeland
Wealthy Greeks living abroad, including in Switzerland, are extremely wary about investing in their cash-strapped homeland to help create jobs and boost the economy. Switzerland is home to several ultra-rich Greeks, like the granddaughter of the legendary shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis, billionaire Spiros Latsis, who made his money through oil, housing and banking, and the heirs to shipping tycoon Stavros Niarchos. The Stavros Niarchos Foundation funds a number of social programmes in Greece, including food aid schemes, to help people hit by the financial crisis. But few rich Greeks living abroad are rushing to invest in their homeland. George Koukis, a successful software entrepreneur who lives on the shores of Lake Geneva, told German television he was proud to be Greek but he was not considering investing in his country. “Why should I give my money to people I consider useless? Others here think like me, although they might not say so,” he said. No place to invest “It’s an honest answer,” Greek lawyer Ilias Bissias, an expert in cross-border legal cases between Switzerland and Greece, told swissinfo.ch. He is also the legal advisor to the Swiss embassy in Athens, and works in Zurich. “Maybe rich Greeks living in Switzerland should feel morally obliged to help their country. But at the moment there is a great deal of suspicion and caution over every investment project,” he said. Harris Dellas, who has worked for 13 years at the Economics Institute at Bern University, said nobody was keen to invest in the current hostile environment. mera hittar du pà www.swissinfo.ch/eng/politics /internal
22 Gennaio 2012
Adventure Vacation Guide 2012: Interlaken Switzerland
Interlaken, Switzerland, is a hotspot on the backpacking circuit and is located in the beautiful Bernese Oberland. For those that like to spend their time jumping out of planes, diving into canyons, and hiking glaciers, Interlaken in Switzerland is your perfect destination. Surrounded by a diverse landscape of jagged peaks, roaring rivers, snow capped mountains, and lush greenery, it contains the ideal landscape for an array of adventure sports. The area is also world-renowned for its famous hiking trails in the Swiss Alps. And, starting in March of 2012, a brand new hostel will be open to Interlaken visitors. For those looking for an air-borne adventure, hanggliding, skydiving, and paragliding can all be experienced. If you want a thrill but would rather stay a little closer to Earth, Interlaken has bungy jumping, horseback riding, hiking, ice climbing, skiing, rock climbing, glacier trekking, ropes courses, and mountain biking. There is also a unique adventure sport called Via Ferrata which consists of traversing mountain passes equipped with fixed cables, steel ladders, and ziplines, and can only be done in a few unique regions. And for the water lovers, Interlaken gives you canyoning, kayaking, river rafting, and funyaking.
22 Gennaio 2012
Reinfeldt: tre kriser i en
Det sade statsminister Fredrik Reinfeldt i riksdagens partiledardebatt på onsdagen. — Vår kontinent, vårt Europa befinner sig i en samtidig finanskris, skuldkris och förtroendekris, sade han och påpekade att det även i de stora länderna i Europa som Tyskland, Storbritannien och Frankrike har växande statsskulder. Han sade att det betyder att Europa under många år framöver behöver föra en politik för att minska dessa skulder och att detta kommer att påverka exportlandet Sverige. — Det kommer i förlängningen att påverka svensk ekonomi, svenska hushåll och svenska jobb, sade statsministern. Han sade att vår ekonomi inte är tillräckligt stor för att vända läget, även om det är glädjande att svensk ekonomi går bättre än de flesta andra. Fredrik Reinfeldt sade också att fler nu kommit närmare arbetsmarknaden än då alliansregeringen tillträdde 2006. Enligt statsministern är fyra saker nu viktiga; att vara med och påverka utvecklingen i Europa, "anslut inte Sverige till skuldkrisen, utan var rädd om det som skiljer Sverige från de andra", värna vår arbetslinje och satsa på drivkrafter för arbete och för det fjärde att satsa på sammanhållning i svårare tider. Han sade att regeringen "har stått upp för att det ska löna sig att arbeta och vi kan också se att det blivit så till följd av våra insatser" och tillade att det samtidigt är viktigt att satsa på dem med små marginaler för att hålla samman Sverige. — Det bästa sättet att uppnå detta är genom eget arbete, enligt Fredrik Reinfeldt. Han sade även att det "inte finns någon samlad opposition i Sverige" nu. — Det finns inte heller hos de enskilda partierna förslag hur de ska ta ansvar för Sverige... det som finns hos oppositionen är ett högt tonläge, det ersätter ofta bristen på förslag. Så ser läget ut idag, sade statsministern. Han noterade att "den svenska vänstern" i dag diskuterar en arbetstidsförkortning, när arbetade timmar istället måste öka. Fortsättning www.affarsvarlden.se
12 Ottobre 2011
Till SALU en underbar och exclusiv vàning i Lugano-Collina d'Oro!
Med utsikt över hela staden, sjön och bergen säljer vi en absolut först klassisk vàning! 5 minuter fràn den Amerikanska skolan "Tassis" i Montagnola och 5 min. fràn Luganos centrum och 5 minuter fràn Luganos södra utfart till autostradan! Vàningen ligger pà översta plan och mäter 247m2 med 3 sàvrum, 2 omklädningsrum, 3 badrum, 1 gäst toalett, ett stort vardags och matrum, direkt entrée med hiss, en extra ingàng, privat tvättrum, stort modernt kök, 2 källare, 4 parkeringsplatser i garaget, swimmingpool, sauna och Wellness. 2 stora terrasser pà 66m2 tillhör. Ring gärna för mera information +41 (0)79 935 58 55
7 Ottobre 2011
Vi hyr ut vàning 5 min. fràn Lugano centrum!
Vi hyr ut en möblerad vàning 5 minuter fràn Lugano centrum. Du har direkt utgàng till terrassen och trädgàrden och swimmingpool, handikappvänlig, 3 sàvrum, 1 badrum, 1 duschrum, kök med sittplats och stort vardgs/matrum och 1 TV-rum. 1 garage och 1 parkeringsplats. Busshàllplats över gatan och affärer i närheten. Vàningen ligger i det gröna och har bergen som utsikt. Minst 1 mànads uthyrning! Ring gärna +41 (0)79 935 58 55.
10 Agosto 2011
Foreign firm strategy taxes cantons
One of the key questions for cantons competing to attract foreign firms is not just tax rates, but whether to join forces or go it alone with promotional campaigns. Just one year after joining a cantonal alliance, Fribourg is already wondering whether the expense of joint marketing is worth it. Aargau decided to exit a promotional bloc last year, but other cantons are reaping huge benefits. Marketing business locations in far flung countries is an expensive operation. Swiss cantons compete with many countries, that have sophisticated promotional platforms, to convince firms from China, India and the United States to set up regional headquarters inside their borders. The process requires permanent representation in the target countries and frequent visits from officials. It is little wonder that some cantons choose to pool know-how and financial clout to flex their muscles to greater effect around the world. The Greater Geneva and Bern Area (GBBA) economic development agency was set up at the start of 2010 to promote the wares of cantons Geneva, Bern, Valais, Vaud, Neuchâtel and Fribourg. Each canton contributes to a central fund worth SFr4 million ($4.3 million) a year. Unripe fruit After one year, the region attracted 54 new foreign companies – two thirds of which went to Geneva or Vaud, and only four to Fribourg. This had led to Fribourg threatening to exit the alliance. “We are not satisfied with the initial results,” cantonal economic director Beat Vonlanthen told Swiss public radio. “We must decide if, and how, to continue working [in the GBBA].” GBBA director Philippe Monnier said that Fribourg had a “legitimate complaint” but urged the canton to persevere rather than come to a hasty decision. The 54 firms that came to the area last year were not a result of GGBA’s activities, he said, which have not yet had time to bear real fruit. “We only started our promotional activities in the middle of 2010 and it will be a long term endeavour,” Monnier told swissinfo.ch. “It will take two or three years before we see concrete results.” Monnier agreed that his organisation should work to spread out the distribution of incoming companies. With this in mind it is targeting foreign nanotech and IT companies that would match the existing strengths of Fribourg. Fortsättning se: www.swissinfo.ch/eng/specials/.....
12 Luglio 2011
Lake dwellings make world heritage list
The prehistoric lake dwellings of the alpine region are to be added to the Unesco World Heritage List, as proposed by Switzerland and five other European countries. These sites provide a unique glimpse of life in the earliest agricultural settlements from 5,000 to 500 BC. They lie deep in lakes or buried in sand on lake shores. Yet for Unesco, they qualify as part of the cultural heritage of humanity: the pile-dwelling sites (as they are called) constitute some of the most important archaeological evidence of the ascent of man between the Neolithic and Bronze Ages. The water and the sand of the lakes have created exceptional conditions in which this immense record of prehistory has been preserved. The organic material used by our distant ancestors – wood, leather, bone, cloth and even left-over food – is preserved much better than anywhere else in this aquatic environment, protected as it is from exposure to air, inclement weather and the forces of human destructiveness. First discovered a century and a half ago, the pile-dwelling sites of the alpine region have provided specialists with a unique opportunity to reconstruct what life was like in early societies of farmers and herdsmen during the millennia before Christ. These sites point to the missing link in the chain between the hunter-gatherers of pre-history and the first European civilisations. Fortsättning pà www.swissinfo.ch/engl/special
9 Giugno 2011
Swiss ICT sector seeks Indian solutions
Swiss information and communication technology (ICT) firms are developing closer ties with Indian counterparts to boost trade and plug a skills gap in Switzerland. India’s rapidly growing ICT sector presents a potentially lucrative market for Swiss specialists, while Switzerland estimates it will face a shortfall of 32,000 skilled workers in the field by 2017. Companies and experts gathered in Zurich on Monday to explore ways of forging deeper links, with the umbrella bodies from both countries signing a memorandum of understanding to promote bilateral trade. The conference also heard of obstacles standing in the way of closer cooperation between the two countries. In Switzerland, the biggest hurdle is the paucity of work permits handed out to non-European Union workers. This year, the Swiss authorities will hand out just 8,500 visas to non-EU employees who want to work in Switzerland for more than a few months. With most visas restricted to just 90 days, Indian companies face the constant headache of allocating manpower resources to projects in Switzerland. Mera hittar du pà www.swissinfo.ch Swiss news
9 Giugno 2011
Swiss women celebrate 40 years of suffrage
Swiss women have come a long way since 1971, the year they were granted the right to vote at the federal level. Exactly 40 years after their first chance to do so, around 125 representatives of the Swiss political, social and economic scenes celebrated the milestone in Bern on Monday. On February 7, 1971, 66 per cent of Swiss men voted in favour of allowing women to vote as well. The first opportunity came on June 6 of that year – when nationwide issues included environmental protection and financial regulations. Many women who remember that momentous year were at the Bernerhof on Monday to reminisce and discuss what still needs to be done. “This is a very important event because we still have a number of problems and challenges in terms of equality. Some examples include equal pay for equal work and the glass ceiling,” said former parliamentarian Rosmarie Zapfl-Helbling, president of alliance F, an umbrella organisation for 140 women’s groups in Switzerland. “We know how difficult it is for women to advance to higher management positions in business and science,” she told swissinfo.ch. “This awareness is important, especially for young women who have no idea that this wasn’t even possible 40 years ago – and in Appenzell, just 20 years ago. It’s really a very short time. And despite that, we’ve really come a long way with four ministers in the cabinet. That’s certainly very special this year.” Mera hittar ni pà www.swissinfo.ch / swiss news
3 Maggio 2011
Till uthyrning: 5,5 rums vàning
i en av Luganos exklusivaste omràden, inbäddad i grönska och med blick pà de omgivande bergen, 5 minuter med bil till Lugano Centrum. Direkt tillgàng till gemensam swimmingpool och privat trädgàrd. Andelsfastigheten har endast 5 lägenheter och varje entré är separat. Lägenheten är handikappanpassad. Terass under tak, ett garage och en P-Plats. Stort ljust vardagsrum med öppen spis, 2 badrum, Tv-rum, 3 sovrum och kök. Totalt 120 m2. Ring gärna till +41 79 935 58 55 eller direkt till svensktalande ägare +41 76 37 37 941
29 Aprile 2011
Kate & William
Bruden anlände till Westminister Abbey vid lunchtid på fredag klädd i en vit skapelse med långa ärmar och slöja. Inne i kyrkan väntade den blivande maken prins William och 1 900 av de inbjudna gästerna. Förutom dem så tros 2 miljarder människor ha följt sändningen när Kate Middelton och prins William sa ja till varandra. Vi önskar dem all lycka!
29 Aprile 2011
Has hydroelectric hit its high water mark?
The development of Switzerland’s main renewable resource, hydroelectric power, seems to have reached its limit – not least for environmental reasons. The nuclear disaster in Japan last month has reopened the debate on the use of alternative energies, and Switzerland – which has five reactors – is now considering the possibility of abandoning atomic energy. The Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant has been leaking radiation after a March 11 earthquake and tsunami wrecked its power and cooling systems. Even the Swiss political parties traditionally favourable to atomic energy, such as the centre-right Radicals, have announced their intention of studying alternative solutions. It was reported in the Sunday press on April 17 that an inter-party alliance put together by the Radical parliamentarian Otto Ineichen is proposing a step-by-step exit from nuclear power by 2050. More on www.swissinfo.ch (SWISS NEWS)
16 Aprile 2011
SMEs need to be more innovative
The new director of the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs says priority should be given to improving business conditions abroad. Marie-Gabrielle Ineichen-Fleisch, who started in the job this month and is the first woman to hold the post, tells swissinfo.ch that this included creating better access to markets and more free trade agreements. Among those expected to benefit are small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), which form the backbone of Switzerland’s export economy. They must, however, keep up with the times by staying innovative and diversifying, she says. swissinfo.ch: What are your priorities? Marie-Gabrielle Ineichen-Fleisch: Seco has a wide range of tasks. After the economic crisis, we should give priority to improving the business environment abroad. That includes creating better access to markets and expanding the network of free trade agreements. The relationship with Europe will also be a priority. Located in the middle of Europe, we must further develop our relationship with our neighbours and with the EU. Läs mera pà www.swissinfo.ch (politics - Internal Affaairs)
16 Aprile 2011
Keeping pace with the population boom
A million more people will be living in Switzerland by 2035, all expecting to enjoy high standards of living, affordable housing and quality transport links. Federal and cantonal authorities are adopting new strategies to cope with the rising tide of residents, driven by increasing numbers of foreign workers, as house prices spiral upwards and complaints mount about crowded trains. Switzerland is hardly about to fall apart at the seams and has coped with large influxes of migrants in the past. But the latest batch of entrants, mainly taking advantage of open borders between Switzerland and the European Union, have sparked a debate about the merits of having so many people arrive at one time. One of the key words in the debate is “balance”: the balance of finding more living space without eroding green space, providing housing for all income groups, of serving business and leisure interests. Geneva has found itself at the sharp end of population growth, attracting large numbers of new businesses and workers to the city. Property prices have been driven up six-fold in the Lake Geneva region in the past 24 years while traffic jams have grown longer. Läs vidare pà www.swissinfo.ch/eng/swiss_news/
2 Aprile 2011
Romansh revels in language status
Why is Romansh - spoken by 0.5 per cent of the Swiss population - considered a language, whereas Swiss German, spoken by almost 64 per cent, is classed as a dialect? The answer lies not only in linguistics, but also in issues of culture, identity and politics. Swiss German is a German dialect used on an everyday basis by the majority of people in Switzerland. High, or standard, German is learned in schools and used as a written language. But it is so different to Swiss dialect that many pupils find it almost like learning a foreign language. It therefore seems strange that Romansh, which is only spoken in the southeastern canton of Graubünden, is classified a national and official language, while Swiss German is not. Romansh has a long history and has been considered a language by linguists since the mid 19th century. "Romansh kept the use of 's' in the plural, which is not the case in any Italian dialect," Romansh expert Chasper Pult told swissinfo. "This also applied in France and Spain, but Romansh was not in contact with these regions. So the linguistic criterion is pretty convincing here." Opposition Nevertheless, there was some opposition to Romansh being considered a language, and this came to a peak during the First World War and the fascist era in Italy. At the time Italian linguists regarded Romansh as a dialect close to Alpine Lombard, and therefore a relation of Italian. But even Italy found it hard to place Dolomitic Ladin and Friulian, Rhaeto-Romance variants from the north of the country and sister languages to Romansh. Yet linguistics alone was not enough to give Romansh its language status. "Once linguists had prepared the ground by noting the linguistic specifics of Romansh, there was a cultural renaissance, a movement which led to the recognition of Romansh as the fourth national language in 1938," said Pult. Added to this was the fact that the five different variants of Romansh that developed in Graubünden were already standardised through translations of the Bible, literature and schoolbooks, says Georges Lüdi, a professor of languages at Basel University. "The problem was that these standardised variants covered a territory that was far too small to be really viable. Therefore the variants were recognised as one whole language, but it was accepted that each variant had its own spelling and pronunciation." The slogan, in dialect, of a Bernese hockey club (bernernordfront) The slogan, in dialect, of a Bernese hockey club (bernernordfront) () Swiss German Could not these criteria also be applied to Swiss German, especially as the differences between Germany and Switzerland are not only linguistic but also cultural? "In the German-speaking area, the standardisation process started during the Reformation. Luther and Zwingli were the driving forces behind this, so that everyone could read the Bible," Lüdi told swissinfo. "There was therefore a movement towards a homogenisation of written German. German-speaking Switzerland participated in this and a consensus was established from north to south. "In the 17th century, the Germans started speaking this variant but Switzerland did not. This effectively means the Germans started to speak as they wrote, while the Swiss started to speak and write differently." Dutch is essentially a German dialect which has become the national language of the Netherlands. Could a similar thing happen with the Swiss German dialects? "The Swiss German identity comes from the fact that people from Lucerne or Bern speak differently and that therefore there is a Lucerne or Bern identity but not really a Swiss German one," said Lüdi. "To have something like Dutch, you'd have to standardise these dialects, and nobody wants that." Lüdi added that Swiss German dialects were in no way comparable to the Romansh idioms. "There used to be five standard Romansh languages, but no standard written form, whereas for Swiss Germans, German is the standard written version." In this context, the recent creation of a standardised Romansh - Rumantsch Grischun - may prove to be for the five Romansh variants what German is to the Swiss German dialects. swissinfo, Bernard Léchot
18 Marzo 2011
Yawning drivers urged to power nap
Driving while tired is as dangerous as drink-driving, campaign organisers said on Thursday, ahead of the first “turbo siesta” day in Switzerland on March 14. Up to 20 per cent of accidents are believed to be caused by drivers drifting off while at the wheel, according to the Swiss Council for Accident Prevention. The Council has teamed up with motoring and road safety organisations for a three-year campaign to make people think twice about driving when tired. To launch the campaign a national day of turbo siestas has been declared, with drivers urged to powernap for 15 minutes. “Tiredness is not an easy subject to tackle as everyone knows it’s dangerous to drive while tired, but it’s not always clear at what degree of fatigue we shouldn’t take the wheel,” Magali Dubois, spokeswoman for the Council, told swissinfo.ch. “We’ve launched this campaign because it’s a priority that hasn’t been addressed yet. We’ve talked about alcohol and other issues, but not about fatigue.” In a media blitz during the campaign’s first year, comical television advertisements are being rolled out showing a driver napping in unusual places – in the middle of a football pitch or a skate park. Later on, businesses with staff working irregular hours will be targeted, as well as young people and the elderly. Tiredness is dangerous at different times of day, depending on people’s ages. Most accidents during the weekend or at night involve drivers under the age of 40, whereas for people aged over 40 the afternoons are more problematic. But the warning signs are the same for all: sore eyes, heavy eyelids, constant yawning, blurred vision, shaking, body jolts. Mera kan du läsa pà www.swissinfo.ch
18 Marzo 2011
Raw materials trade takes off in Switzerland
The well established commodities industry in Switzerland is reaching new heights with rising prices and an influx of new foreign companies, particularly in Geneva. Geneva is fast becoming the raw materials distribution hub in the world, dominating the market in coffee, sugar, cotton and grains and oil seeds and set to overtake London as the number one oil trading centre, according to insiders. In addition to Geneva, oil, gas and metal traders have a large presence in Zug. Zurich, Ticino and other outlying areas are also represented to a lesser degree. The success of these areas has recently persuaded Russia’s biggest oil giant Rosneft to set up trading operations in Geneva and compatriot oil producer Bashneft to set up shop in Zurich. The mighty oil concern Trafigura is also rumoured to be moving its traders from London to Geneva. “Twenty years ago when I started in the commodities industry it was a rather sleepy business that did not operate at the speed it does today,” Credit Suisse head of commodity finance Konrad Wälti told swissinfo.ch. “The business has developed upwards enormously in the last ten years.” Mera kan ni läsa pà www.swissinfo.ch
3 Marzo 2011
Dags att ompröva handelspolitiken i Mellanöstern Carl Bildts uttalande om protestvågen som sköljer över Nordafrika och Mellanöstern vittnar om osäkerhet och ambivalens. Sverige har aktivt hjälpt Gaddafi att bygga sin grymma regim. Det skriver Ulf Bjereld, Broderskapsrörelsen, och Faraj Abuiseifan, SSU. titta vidare pà www.svd.se/opinion
3 Marzo 2011
Höjdpunkterna på Genève-salongen Bilmässan i Genève bjöd på två stora trender. Den ena är att elbilarna lanseras här och nu. Den andra att sportbilar stod som spön i backen. Men den största överraskningen bjöd Saab på. Visst. Alla anade att Saabs nya konceptbil skulle bli vågad, men inte att den skulle få så dramatiska linjer. Reaktionerna blev i huvudsak positiva. Presskonferensen var välbesökt och för Saab var det otroligt viktigt att kunna visa en ny bil som sjöd av självförtroende. För tro mig det gör den. Jag fick provsitta och invändigt hade den ännu mer Saabkänsla med rena linjer och förarvända instrument. Det bästa satt ändå under skalet – bottenplattan med bland annat ny femlänkad bakaxel som ska sitta i den nya 9-3 och redan nu provas i hemliga testbilar i Norrland. Och nej, nya 9-3 som kommer nästa år kommer inte att se ut så här, men åtskilliga drag ska komma igen. Bilen är viktig för att bygga Saabs varumärke, men ännu viktigare för att öka försäljningen var att Saab kunde lansera nya 9-5 kombi och den ansiktslyfta 9-3:an som nu också finns som miljöbil med snål dieselmotor. Häng med på de röda mattorna mellan de larmiga montrarna i Genève här är höjdpunkterna. Upp • ROLIGAST 1: VW Bulli Concept En liten klok folkabuss med retrovibbar till 50-talet så starka att de dunkar i tinningarna. Och med urstort VW-märke i grillen, tvåfärgsstinn och en design lika ren som krispig blir man glad när man ser den. Och så drivs den av el. Vill du ha fler skäl?
3 Febbraio 2011
Romansh revels in language status
Why is Romansh - spoken by 0.5 per cent of the Swiss population - considered a language, whereas Swiss German, spoken by almost 64 per cent, is classed as a dialect? The answer lies not only in linguistics, but also in issues of culture, identity and politics. Swiss German is a German dialect used on an everyday basis by the majority of people in Switzerland. High, or standard, German is learned in schools and used as a written language. But it is so different to Swiss dialect that many pupils find it almost like learning a foreign language. It therefore seems strange that Romansh, which is only spoken in the southeastern canton of Graubünden, is classified a national and official language, while Swiss German is not. Romansh has a long history and has been considered a language by linguists since the mid 19th century. "Romansh kept the use of 's' in the plural, which is not the case in any Italian dialect," Romansh expert Chasper Pult told swissinfo. "This also applied in France and Spain, but Romansh was not in contact with these regions. So the linguistic criterion is pretty convincing here." titta in pà www.swissinfo.ch
29 Gennaio 2011
Negotiations between Switzerland and China
Free Trade negotiations between Switzerland and China officially launched Bern, 28.01.2011 - Federal Councillor Johann N. Schneider-Ammann, Head of the Federal Department of Economic Affairs, met today at the World Economic Forum in Davos with the Chinese Minister of Commerce Chen Deming to officially launch negotiations between Switzerland and the People's Republic of China in view of concluding a Free Trade Agreement, and to discuss other issues of common interest. During their meeting, Federal Councillor Johann N. Schneider-Ammann and Minister of Commerce Chen Deming signed a Memorandum of Understanding officially launching the negotiations on a Switzerland-China Free Trade Agreement with a broad scope. Within weeks, negotiating teams from the two countries will convene to conduct the negotiations. At the press conference, both Ministers expressed their belief that the Free Trade Agreement will provide mutually beneficial framework conditions, contribute to increased bilateral trade and economic exchanges, and reinforce cooperation in a variety of areas. They also underlined their wish to see the negotiations proceed swiftly. Federal Councillor Schneider-Ammann stated that the negotiations are foreseen to cover trade in goods, trade in services and other relevant issues and areas of cooperation such as intellectual property rights and the promotion of investments, with a view to enhance bilateral relations and promote sustainable development. Besides launching the negotiations, the two Ministers reviewed bilateral economic relations and discussed issues of common interest. China is since 2002 the most important trading partner of Switzerland in Asia and trade between Switzerland and the People's Republic of China is growing faster than overall Swiss external trade. In the first eleven months of 2010, Switzerland has exported 6,7 billion CHF worth of goods to China (+ 34%) and has imported in the same period 5,6 billion CHF (+ 18%). Switzerland is one of the few Western countries to enjoy a positive trade balance with the People's Republic of China. se vidare pà www.ch.ch
26 Gennaio 2011
Sverige hyllas just nu runt om i Eu
Sverige hyllas just nu på bred front runt om i Europa. Den här veckan står de starka svenska finanserna i Fokus när världens ekonomiska makthavare möts i schweiziska Alperna. När den ekonomiska och politiska eliten samlas i schweiziska Davos, där Världsekonomiskt forums möte inleds i dag, är Sverige och de nordiska länderna en av huvudattraktionerna. Statsminister Fredrik Reinfeldt får möjlighet att skryta om hur bra det går, samtidigt som många andra västländer brottas med svåra underskott. Så sent som i förra veckan sade OECD:s generalsekreterare Angel Gurria att den svenska ekonomin är lika stark som Pippi Långstrump. Inflytelserika internationella finansmedier har stämt in i hyllningskören. Wall Street Journal har liknat Sverige vid ”ett nordiskt Schweiz”. Se www.dn.se/ekonomi/davos
26 Gennaio 2011
Swiss seek Davos boost for China trade talks
Switzerland will use this week’s World Economic Forum annual meeting to help move along Free Trade Agreement (FTA) talks with China during behind the scenes talks. Swiss Economics Minister Johann Schneider-Ammann said he will meet China’s trade minister, Chen Deming, on Friday as Switzerland seeks to beat the European Union to a lucrative deal with the fastest growing world economy. “The chances are good that we can conclude a free trade agreement with China before the EU,” Schneider-Ammann said. “This would present Switzerland with a big competitive advantage.” A feasibility study published last year suggested that Switzerland’s gross domestic product (GDP) could be boosted by 0.23 per cent while firms could make annual savings of SFr290 million ($304 million) per year if trade barriers are lifted. China is Switzerland’s third-biggest export market after the EU and the United States, with some 300 Swiss firms located in the Asian powerhouse economy among a total of 700 companies that are active there. Talks to bring about an FTA with China have been going on for several years and a framework for formal negotiations was established during a visit by former Swiss Economics Minister Doris Leuthard in August of last year. Both sides will begin thrashing out specific details this year. Se vidare pà www.swissinfo.ch
31 Dicembre 2010
Gott Nytt Ar!
29 Dicembre 2010
Switzerland is again "an island of stability"!
As 2010 draws to a close, it’s a time to ask how far events of the past year may impact on the year - and years - to come. Paolo Dardanelli lectures in European and Comparative Politics at the University of Kent in Britain, and is a close observer of the Swiss scene. He looked back on the year for swissinfo.ch. The economic turmoil that shook Europe and much of the rest of world has left its mark and isn’t over yet. Dardanelli says Switzerland has proved resilient partly because the country is seen as a safe haven and partly because of the diversity of its economy. Dardanelli also discusses Switzerland’s reputation for human rights and says it cannot be seen as a shining example to the world. swissinfo.ch: What immediately springs to mind when you think of Switzerland in 2010? Paolo Dardanelli: What has struck me in particular is how Switzerland has performed economically in the current crisis. It has emerged again as an island of stability, and that’s very remarkable. From here [Britain] the main story has been the competition coming from Switzerland in terms of being a more welcoming environment for financial activities. Some financial companies have moved from London to Geneva. I think people in the financial industry in the City of London are worried. The general feeling that people have in this particular industry is that the regulatory environment here will be less accommodating that it was in the past, and Switzerland then becomes more attractive. swissinfo.ch
29 Dicembre 2010
Stop violence!
Switzerland’s equality chief leaves her post on December 31. On her successor’s to-do list are the continuing female-male wage gap and the problem of domestic violence. After 16 years at the helm of the Federal Gender Equality Office, Patricia Schulz is taking up a job at the United Nations. She will be replaced by canton Vaud’s head of equality, Sylvie Durrer, on March 1. Ahead of her departure, Schulz told swissinfo.ch that gender equality in Switzerland had improved over the past two decades. In particular, “great progress” had been made against domestic violence following the creation in 2003 of a specially dedicated service under the Equality Office. In Switzerland 9,761 people were victims of domestic violence in 2009, of which 771 were children. Domestic violence is the most widespread human rights violation, according to the international campaign, “16 days against violence against women”, held earlier this month. Schulz said legislative changes at the federal level meant domestic violence was now more commonly prosecuted and offenders could be removed from joint homes. "What used to be a private concern has become a public and political theme and much less taboo," she said, noting that the state now recognised it as a phenomenon that should be addressed. "Statistics are finally available, police have been trained, nearly all cantons have structures in place for dealing with victims and offenders.” The cabinet is also currently implementing a series of new measures against domestic violence. But Schulz warns the problem will continue for a long time because it is “deeply rooted” in a lack of equality. “The spiral of violence is a relationship mechanism rooted mainly in a desire for domination,” she said. In her new job, Schulz will become the first Swiss to be appointed as one of 23 members on the UN Committee on the Elimination of the Discrimination against Women, which oversees implementation of the 1981 convention of the same name. swissinfo.ch
7 Dicembre 2010
USA har chansen
Polariseringen i Washington har ekonomiska skadeverkningar. Men det finns förslag som visar vägen bort från budgetkrisen – och kanske det politiska dödläget. På förhand såg budgetkommissionen ut att ha ungefär samma chanser som en snöboll i helvetet. Men president Barack Obamas blocköverskridande skapelse har redan överraskat två gånger. Dels har den hittat förslag som tar ned USA:s gigantiska budgetunderskott till rimliga nivåer, dels har en majoritet i panelen ställt sig bakom dem. Finanskrisen blåste upp det federala budgetunderskottet till nästan 10 procent av BNP. Statsskulden har passerat 60-procentsnivån och är i rask takt på väg mot 100 procent inom ett decennium, om inget görs. Även amerikanerna blir allt äldre, vilket ökar både pensions- och sjukvårdskostnader. Budgetkommissionens plan innehåller besparingar och skatteförändringar som ger 4.000 miljarder dollar över tio år. Underskottet skulle vara nere i 2 procent 2015 och statsskulden tillbaka på 60 procent av BNP 2023. Lagom till helgen hade 11 av de 18 ledamöterna sagt ja till utkastet. Och av de 11 är 5 demokrater och 5 republikaner, en samsyn över partigränserna som annars är nästan utdöd i det hopplöst polariserade Washington. Dessvärre ingick det i förutsättningarna att 14 medlemmar måste stödja planen för att den ska skickas till kongressen. Republikansk stelbenthet om skatter och demokratisk dito om sociala förmåner kan sänka alltihop. Det fina med förslagen är att de borde ha genomförts ändå, även om inte finanskrisen hade borrat hål i statskassan. Pensionssystemet reformeras och pensionsåldern ökar gradvis till 69 år. Arbetsgivaravgifter höjs för att finansiera systemet, rika pensionärer får mindre och fattiga lite mer. Rabatter och kryphål i skattesystemet värda 1 000 miljarder dollar tas bort. Ränteavdragen för bostadslån reduceras, bensinskatten höjs. Samtidigt kan inkomst- och bolagsskatter sänkas. Resultatet blir ett effektivare system som gynnar sysselsättning och företagande, och som inte kräver en armé av skatterådgivare. Försvarsanslagen skärs ned, liksom många federala myndigheter. Jordbrukssubventionerna hamnar där de hör hemma, i soptunnan. Kritiker säger att budgetkommissionen försöker göra för mycket på en gång. Men det är en fördel att visa att allt hänger ihop, och att det inte räcker med en nagelfil för att trimma underskottet på lång sikt. I bakgrunden lämnar den amerikanska ekonomin motsägelsefulla besked. En del siffror är positiva, men arbetslösheten steg i november. Planen föreslås inte heller träda i kraft förrän 2012, för att återhämtningen inte ska kvävas. Samtidigt rör sig Washington mot ett avgörande om de stora skattesänkningarna från George W Bushs tid som president. Av en händelse handlar de om samma belopp som budgetkommissionens plan: 4.000 miljarder dollar på tio år. Vid nyår löper skattesänkningarna ut, om inte kongressen förlänger dem. Obama och Demokraterna vill sätta en gräns så att välbeställda får höjd skatt. Republikanerna vill förlänga rubbet. Skattesänkningarna är givetvis rena giftet för budgetunderskottet. Men Obama har knappast råd att låta dem upphöra den 1 januari. Det vore otroligt impopulärt och i dagsläget ekonomiskt farligt att höja skatten för alla. Därför pekar allt mot en uppgörelse, som också kan innehålla förlängt arbetslöshetsunderstöd för två miljoner amerikaner. Debatterna om underskottet och skatterna är livsviktiga för USA. Sakpolitiken är en sak. Dessutom kommer de att ge signaler om klimatet i Washington. Presidenten, kongressen och de båda stora partierna måste hitta sätt att kompromissa i ett läge där makten delas. Budgetkommissionen har visat att det går. DN 6/12 2010
7 Dicembre 2010
Smakrikt och billigt i Milano
Milano är perfekt för en kort semester, som inte nödvändigtvis behöver bli dyr. Det finns gott om billiga flyg hit. Restaurangerna är dyra, men DN tipsar om fenomenet aperitivo alla milanese, som innebär att du äter middag för under 100 kronor med vin. En weekend ger mersmak, inte minst nu när Zlatan Ibrahimovic är tillbaka i stan efter en spansk parentes. Staden är ingen omedelbar italiensk kärlek. Därtill har Milano kanske ett alltför nordeuropeiskt klimat. Men staden har en unik puls; en mix av trender, mode, design och underbar mat. Vidare i DN
30 Novembre 2010
Schweiz röstar!
SCHWEIZ Ja- och nejsidan har påbörjat sina kampanjer inför omröstningen den 28 november där schweizarna ska ta ställning till två förslag som går ut på i stort sett samma sak – utvisning av invandrare som begår grova brott. En form av direkt demokrati vi aldrig lär se röken av här hemma. Bakom initiativet står Schweizerische Volkspartei, ett konservativt högerparti, som vill se att invandrare som gör sig skyldiga till något av följande brott utvisas automatiskt: Mord Våldtäkt Andra sexualbrott Väpnat rån Droghandel Människohandel Inbrott Bedrägeri kopplat till sociala förmåner Motförslaget från regeringen går ut på att listan bantas ned något och utvisningen vägs mot hur pass väl integrerad i det schweiziska samhället personen ifråga är. Förslaget presenterades första gången för tre år sen i samband med förra parlamentsvalet 2007 då man samlade in mer än 210 000 underskrifter. Fem veckor innan omröstningen ska äga rum har respektive sida lanserat sina kampanjer inför vad som väntas bli en intensiv debatt om en fråga med bred folklig förankring i såväl Schweiz som utomlands. Adrian Amstutz, vice ordförande för Schweizerische Volkspartei, säger att det är hög tid för Schweiz att sätta upp klara regler och att detta meddelande ska sändas ut så det förstås på alla världens språk. Han hävdar också att cirka 50 procent av brotten i Schweiz begås av invandrare samt att partiet inte är emot invandrare utan brottslighet. Justitieminister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf, tillhörande konservativa Bürgerlich-Demokratische Partei Schweiz, argumenterar mot förslaget men säger att kampen mot brottslighet är en stor fråga för det schweiziska folket och att en bättre integration motverkar brott. Officiella siffror från 2009 talar dock sitt tydliga språk. Av 6 084 fångar i de schweiziska fängelserna är 70,2 procent invandrare.
22 Novembre 2010
Swiss grandmas keep New Yorkers warm
As the grey, cold, darks days of winter begin to take hold, the time for warm sweaters, scarves, and hats is drawing near. For fashion-conscious New Yorkers eager to look hot even when the weather is cool, the Swiss company Ikou Tschüss has an unconventional solution – high fashion hand knitted by Swiss Omas. “We work with Swiss grandmothers because they know how to knit really well. I can't knit the way a grandmother can,” Carmen D'Apollonio, a co-founder of Ikou Tschüss, told swissinfo.ch. D'Apollonio has just set up shop in the trendy Nolita section of New York City with hopes of cracking the American market. The store, designed by the Swiss artist Urs Fischer, is as colourful as the yarns that D’Apollonio quickly knits together as she speaks. She started the fashion label Ikou Tschüss, which specialises in handmade knitwear and crochet, as well as hand-printed garments, with her longtime friend Guya Marini in 2007. For the duo, stitching together the unlikely combination of avant garde fashion and Swiss Omas was entirely design: “Swiss grandmothers know exactly how a pattern works and their quality is the best,” D'Apollonio said. www.swissinfo.ch
20 Novembre 2010
Swiss dreamagain of hosting Winter Olympics
Switzerland, home of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), is once again thinking of holding a Winter Olympics – something it hasn’t done in more than 60 years. It has two Games to its name, in 1928 and 1948, as well as several bid rejections. Officials, who are discussing the issue on Friday, are hoping the latest plans – for 2022 at the earliest – will this time strike lucky. Both times the Winter Olympics were held in the luxury resort of St Moritz. But bids by Valais in 1976, 2002 and 2006 failed. Anger and disappointment were particularly high when the 2006 games went to Turin in neighbouring Italy. Swiss Olympic, the umbrella association of Swiss sport organisations, has now decided it is time to revive the dream. The general assembly met on Friday and decided by 381 votes to two abstentions to “mandate the executive council to work towards presenting an eventual candidacy”. Jörg Schild, the president of Swiss Olympic, told swissinfo.ch before the vote that it was the end of the first phase. “If there is a yes for preparing a bid then we will prepare a concrete project which would be put to vote at the end of 2011,” he said. Switzerland must put its name forward, he believes. “We can’t keep wanting to win medals but always let others organise the Games.” www.swissinfo.ch
20 Novembre 2010
Temperatures rise as rich face tax vote
The impending nationwide vote on forcing cantons to set minimum income tax rates for high earners has descended into a war of threats and stinging rebukes. The centre-left Social Democratic Party launched its “fair tax” initiative to help level the playing field for all income earners. But the government and business leaders fear a yes vote on November 28 will damage the Swiss economy. A recent poll by the gfs.bern institute predicting that 58 per cent of voters will support the initiative has clearly rattled the business community. Continuation www.swissinfo.ch
15 Novembre 2010
Retail scene changes as Coop overtakes Migros
Switzerland’s supermarket landscape is shifting, with Coop nudging ahead of its only rival Migros for the first time. But what does this mean for consumers? Retail experts discuss the main challenges for Swiss supermarkets expanding abroad and explain not only why Swiss consumers have to pay more than their neighbours but also why the “thrifty is nifty” mentality in Germany hasn’t taken off in Switzerland. Last week Coop, which together with Migros accounts for about 70 per cent of the market share for food and drinks in Switzerland, announced it had bought out transGourmet, a European wholesaler, for an undisclosed sum. As a result, the Coop Group’s turnover jumped some SFr8 billion ($8.25 billion) to just under SFr27 billion, almost SFr2 billion more than Migros (see box). “People eat everywhere!” said Coop CEO Hansueli Loosli, eying the rapidly growing purchasing power of eastern Europe, where transGourmet is active. Loosli, who stands down in the spring to become head of telecoms provider Swisscom, said there was a pent-up demand in the eastern bloc states which promised high growth. www.swissinfo.ch
10 Novembre 2010
G20 to tackle discordant financial plans
The world’s most influential economies will gather in Seoul this week to thrash out a common path towards making the financial system more secure. Switzerland is planning to introduce new measures to reduce the risk of big banks bringing down the economy if they go bust. But there is a lack of harmony on how to tackle the problem on a global scale. With many countries introducing a range of different remedies for the same issue, there are fears that it may prove difficult to produce coordinated regulation of a financial system that knows no national boundaries. In such an event, Swiss banks – already committed to beefing up their capital reserves against risk – may find themselves at a competitive disadvantage to international peers. UBS and Credit Suisse banks have been told to apply the Basel III global regulations plus extra safeguards, known as the Swiss Finish, by 2018. Some other countries, including the United States, have introduced their own measures. But it is not yet known how many countries will implement Basel III, to what timescale and exactly what qualifies as top-quality capital reserves. “International standards are not as strong as we would like,” Mario Tuor, spokesman for the Swiss State Secretariat for International Financial Matters (Sif) told swissinfo.ch. “Being the first to implement regulations is only an advantage if others follow suit. If not everyone agrees to implementation, then it could turn into a disadvantage.” www.swissinfo.ch
10 Novembre 2010
Swiss plan to splash out at Christmas
While most Europeans will be cutting costs this Christmas, retail studies have shown the Swiss will be spending more than last year. Swiss consumers are set to spend around 1.2 per cent more than last year on gifts, food and going out at Christmas. The biggest spenders, however, are the Luxembourgers, who will fork out 2.4 per cent more than last year. According to a French study by accountancy firm Deloitte, their budget on end of year celebrations is €1,200 (SFr1,605) per person. In a parallel study, Ernst&Young show the Swiss budget for presents only is now SFr301 ($310) per head, 13 per cent more than last year (SFr267). Most European countries are expected to cut costs where Christmas is concerned. The Deloitte study showed the French would reduce their spending by about 4.4 per cent, while the worst hit by recession, the Greeks, will reduce expenses by 21 per cent, with a budget of just €420 a head. According to Ernst&Young, this year the most popular presents are expected to be vouchers and money, followed by books, clothes and food or chocolate. www.swissinfo.ch
1 Novembre 2010
Has Switzerland saved banking secrecy?
Barely two years ago Swiss banking secrecy appeared to be on the rocks with little prospect of it surviving a battering from the United States and Europe. The impending negotiations of tax accords with Britain and Germany now appear to have lifted the pressure from the Swiss financial centre’s most prized asset. But to what extent has the threat really been lifted? Konrad Hummler, head of Switzerland’s oldest private bank Wegelin, believes that talks with the two powerful countries – which centre on withholding tax as opposed to an automatic exchange of tax information – will leave banking secrecy intact. “The protection of privacy through banking secrecy has been strictly separated from the issue of taxation,” he told the Tages-Anzeiger newspaper. “Banking secrecy has therefore been strengthened because it is no longer under suspicion of protecting injustice.” The perceived injustice was that the anonymity of Swiss banking clients was preventing Britain, Germany and other countries from obtaining information from Switzerland during tax evasion investigations. Now the German and British authorities appear to accept Swiss banks collecting back-dated and future taxes from offshore accounts and self-policing tax evasion in Switzerland, instead of offering the names and data of such clients. www.swissonfo.ch
1 Novembre 2010
Military bunkers face their Waterloo
Switzerland’s secret military bunkers should be closed since they no longer correspond to threats the country faces today, according to Defence Minister Ueli Maurer. But not everyone thinks spending a billion francs on shutting down a modern defence system makes sense. “The nature of the military threat has changed,” Maurer told the 10vor10 television news programme on Thursday. “The bunkers are in the wrong place and the weapons will only last for another ten to 20 years. It’s not worth maintaining something that you’re not going to need in the future. Plus we no longer have the money.” Switzerland’s bunker system is found all along the border and at key positions inland. A secret construction programme of 100 high-tech bunkers with mortar cannon, which cost a billion francs, was completed only in 2003. Maurer admitted that while it would be expensive to keep the bunkers open, it would be even more expensive to close them. “We’re talking about hundreds of millions of francs – the amount could well cross the billion mark,” he said. “But [keeping them open] would just delay the problem,” he said, calling for “an honest debate” on the issue. For environmental reasons the doors can’t just be locked and then forgotten about – the bunkers have to be rebuilt. Maurer said it was perfectly possible that a private organisation could get involved. Indeed, some bunkers already serve as high-security data storage centres for banks or other financial organisations or as vaults or even hotels (see related story). www.swissinfo.ch
25 Ottobre 2010
Leuthard calls Francophone talks "fruitful"
Swiss Economics Minister Doris Leuthard says the work of the Francophone summit in Montreux has been “fruitful” and that a final declaration “fulfilled expectations”. She was speaking in the Lake Geneva resort on Sunday after two days of meetings in which about 70 delegations from French-speaking countries took part. The declaration deals with the challenges and visions for the future of the Francophone countries in three areas. One is their role at the international level and in world governance, the second treats sustainable development and the third deals with the French language in education in a globalised world. A Swiss foreign ministry statement at the end of the meeting said that Switzerland welcomed the “concrete and constructive results” achieved in Montreux. It was a summit that had also opened doors for people to see literary and cultural achievements in the French language. Joseph Kabila, president of the Democratic Republic of Congo that will host the next summit in Kinshasa in 2012, said the Montreux meeting had been “one of the most memorable” in the history of the International Francophone Organisation. The secretary-general of the organisation, Abdou Diouf, thanked the heads of state and government for re-electing him to a third term in office. www.swissinfo.ch
19 Ottobre 2010
World's highest lighthouse shines in the Alps
The Swiss have just set two world records: they have built the longest rail tunnel, and above it they have erected the highest lighthouse. A lighthouse isn’t what visitors expect to see on a mountain pass – and that’s exactly why it’s there. The Disentis-Sedrun tourist office, which covers the Oberalp area, wants it to be a talking point. The Oberalp pass, 2,046 metres above sea level, which links the central Swiss tourist resort of Andermatt with the Surselva region of canton Graubünden, lies close to the source of the Rhine, and locals are keen to make the most of it. “People drive over the pass and they probably don’t have the faintest idea that this is where the Rhine’s catchment area begins,” Andreas Pfister, head of the building department of the local commune of Tujetsch, explained to swissinfo.ch. “This lighthouse is supposed to send a message, so people will stop and wonder: What do they need a lighthouse here for? They probably don’t get a lot of ships.” www.swissinfo.ch
14 Ottobre 2010
Russian energy shift encourages Swiss firms
Swiss firms could profit from Russia’s drive to upgrade its energy infrastructure and diversify into clean-tech alternatives, a business conference has heard. Russia has embarked on a push to upgrade its electricity grid and its oil- and gas-dependent energy infrastructure. The 2014 Winter Olympics project and the creation of a Silicon Valley near Moscow could also offer lucrative contracts. Trade between Russia and Switzerland has nearly tripled in the past five years, reaching SFr2.8 billion ($2.9 billion) in 2009. The two countries signed a new three-year trade deal in August to boost economic links. Business Network Switzerland (Osec), the government organisation that promotes Swiss exports, brought together Swiss and Russian business leaders in Zurich on Thursday. Uwe Krüger, president of Osec’s Cleantech Switzerland export platform, believes Switzerland’s cutting-edge technology in the field of alternative energies, particularly photovoltaics, will be in high demand. “There is an enormous drive currently to invest more in clean technology, specifically in the high-tech segment. Swiss companies – big and small – can make a significant contribution in a wide range of technologies,” he told swissinfo.ch.
7 Ottobre 2010
Solar boat heads into the sunset
The first-ever round-the-world voyage by a boat powered only by solar panels – which is travelling under a Swiss flag – is now underway. The MS TÛRANOR PlanetSolar left the port of Monaco on Monday. The project is aimed at raising awareness of solar mobility and renewable energies. Swiss project founder and crew member, Raphaël Domjan, told swissinfo.ch from onboard the catamaran that the boat was making excellent progress. “On the whole, after six years of work, it is hard to find words to explain the feeling of finally sailing. Let me point out it feels great to be sailing at night with the energy of the sun,” he said in email comments. The boat is driven by a silent, pollution-free electrical engine, using only the sun’s energy. www.swissinfo.ch
7 Ottobre 2010
Treasures from Ancient Greece
Basel’s Antikenmuseum is exhibiting unique Greek treasures whose discovery owes a lot to Swiss archaeologists. Swiss archaeologists have been in Eretria since 1946, when the co-founder of the Antikenmuseum Basel und Sammlung Ludwig was first involved in the excavations at the Ancient Greek city on the island of Euboea.. The exhibition Cité sous terre (Underground city) presents stunning objects in a setting composed of real-size images allowing you, for instance, to walk on “real” Eretrian soil without dirtying your shoes or step on a fourth century BC mosaic with a clear conscience. Eretria was an international centre where the Greeks developed their alphabet. It was recently shown to be the birthplace of the myth of Narcissus. www.swissinfo.ch
29 Settembre 2010
Women hail feminine cabinet majority
After the “extraordinary” election of a first female majority in the Swiss cabinet, women’s rights campaigners hope it will resonate in areas where inequality remains. Parliament’s choice on Wednesday of 50-year-old consumer advocate and Social Democrat Simonetta Sommaruga as the fourth woman in the seven-seat cabinet tipped the gender balance in women’s favour for the first time in Swiss history. The result has been hailed as a symbolic moment for women’s rights in a country that only gave women the vote in 1971 – long after Afghanistan, Syria and Iran had done so. Switzerland now becomes only the fifth country in the world to have a female majority in government, along with Norway, Spain, Finland and Cap Verde. www.swissinfo.ch
29 Settembre 2010
Heading to university in retirement
In Switzerland, like across Europe, an ever-greying population is creating greater demand for late adult education. Courses for the over-60s in the country, which are run by the University of the Third Age (U3A), have been receiving record numbers of applications. Typically attached to established universities, Switzerland has nine such institutions. Each offers a programme of around 30 lectures spread over the academic year. At Bern University’s German branch of the U3A, applications have nearly doubled in the past ten years. There were 950 applicants for the 2010-2011 academic year. www.swissinfo.ch

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