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How to speak football

Swissinfo EN - Thu, 01/04/2018 - 18:00
Tama Vakeesan was born in Switzerland to Tamil parents from Sri Lanka. This week Tama pulls on her soccer boots and joins SC Wipkingen, an international team of female players in the Zurich suburbs. She finds out from team members how football contributes to integration. (SRF Kulturplatz/swissinfo.ch)
Categories: News EN

Becoming Swiss: ‘Where do I sign?’

Swissinfo EN - Thu, 01/04/2018 - 15:21
Swiss citizenship is highly sought after – and correspondingly hard to get. After changes introduced on January 1, we've updated an article on how to get the naturalisation ball rolling, who is eligible for the fast track and how much it could all cost. I want to become Swiss. I’m free for an interview next week. It’s not quite as easy at that. There are basically three ways of becoming Swiss: from birth (having a Swiss parent), marrying a Swiss (after you have lived in Switzerland for at least five years, more below) or living in Switzerland for at least ten years (prior to January 1 this was 12 years, more below). Note that being born in Switzerland doesn’t mean you automatically become Swiss. Neither of my parents is Swiss and I’m not married. Then you’ve got to live here for ten years. Did you spend any time in Switzerland between the ages of eight and 18? No. Shame. Those years count double. Anyway, after you’ve done your time and you apply for citizenship, your ...
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Autopilot routes give Swiss air rescue a lift

Swissinfo EN - Thu, 01/04/2018 - 12:00
The Swiss air rescue service Rega, is to start using a new autopilot mode that will allow its helicopters to fly more safely in bad weather conditions. (SRF, swissinfo.ch) Rega helicopters have been given authorisation to operate the Low Flight Network (LFN), a system that enables aircraft to fly in autopilot mode on predetermined routes stored on the onboard computer.  Since the end of December, the helicopters have been able to follow a countrywide network of flight routes linking together airports, hospitals and Rega helicopter bases in Switzerland. This offers considerable benefits in terms of safety especially when visibility is poor due to fog, for example. Rega, together with the Swiss Air Force, the air navigation service Skyguide and the Federal Office of Civil Aviation (FOCA) have been working together for a number of years to set up the Low Flight Network .  Founded in 1952, Swiss air rescue service Rega is a privately-run, non-profit foundation. It is funded by ...
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How many hours do you work a week?

Swissinfo EN - Thu, 01/04/2018 - 12:00
More than 41 hours and 10 minutes? That’s the average in Switzerland for people with full-time jobs – relatively few compared with most developed countries. How did Switzerland get to this seemingly happy situation, and why are unions and business associations getting all worked up?  After the General Strike of 1918 (in which over 250,000 workers downed tools, resulting in the troops being sent in), a 48-hour week for workers on contracts was introduced in Switzerland in 1920.  The current labour law – with weekly maximums of 45 or 50 hours, depending on the sector – dates back to 1966.  A popular initiative to lower this to 40 hours was launched in 1971. The Federal Council came out against it – Economics Minister Ernst Brugger described it as “formally and legally impossible and unimplementable to boot”. In 1976, almost four out of five voters agreed with him.  At present, a 41-hour week is the norm across Switzerland (excluding the self-employed), according to the Federal ...
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Washington exhibition showcases Swiss painter

Swissinfo EN - Wed, 01/03/2018 - 14:43
Ferdinand Hodler is one of the best-known Swiss painters of the 19th century. Now one of his works is the centrepiece of an exhibition running until November 12, 2018 at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C.  “Portraits of the World: Switzerland” is the title of this inaugural exhibition in a series “highlighting the global context of American portraiture”, according to the gallery. It features Hodler’s Femme en Extase (woman in ecstasy), a portrait of the Italian dancer Giulia Leonardi on loan from the Museum of Art and History in Geneva.  Gallery curator Robyn Asleson explains in this video the importance of Hodler and of his  Femme en Extase: The gallery says that Femme en Extase “embodies the Swiss modernist approach to expressing emotion through movements of the body — a theory known as eurhythmics — which had an international impact”. The Hodler painting will be complemented by works from the Portrait Gallery’s collection showing American dancers influenced ...
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Every three months, a revolution

Swissinfo EN - Wed, 01/03/2018 - 12:00
The people’s initiative is a powerful tool in the hands of Swiss voters enabling them to effect change from below against the will of parliament and government. Most initiatives are defeated at the polls. Yet they often have a real influence on politics. On November 26, 1989, Swiss politicians got a shock. The people were voting on a proposal to abolish the army.  In the end, the proposal from a citizens’ group was turned down. There was consternation and indignation, however, about the amount of support the initiative proposal received in spite of the radical nature of the proposal: 36% of voters came out in favour of getting rid of the Swiss army altogether. It seems to be paradoxical. A 64% rejection for an initiative means a drubbing for the promoters of the proposal, you could argue. But not in this case. To the military and political elites, it felt like a drubbing for them that over a third of the voters wanted to get rid of the army. The result had consequences, too:
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The local club as a school of democracy

Swissinfo EN - Tue, 01/02/2018 - 12:00
There are tens of thousands of them, all around the country: clubs and associations. Often these are very local groups. The classic example is the village rabbit-breeders’ club. In Switzerland these groups are important for learning democracy, says Fanni Dahinden of the Vitamin B centre in Zurich, which advises and supports volunteer boards and knows what the issues for clubs and associations are. Its name is based on a slang expression in German for the power of networking. #Dear Democracy This text is part of #DearDemocracy, a platform on direct democracy issues, by swissinfo.ch. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of swissinfo.ch. Clubs and associations affect people’s lives in Switzerland from cradle to grave: from the birthing centre to the playgroup, from the choir and the sports club to, finally, the Panther Club for seniors – behind everything there seems to be an organised group. Even when we ...
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Telling the world about historic peacekeeping efforts

Swissinfo EN - Mon, 01/01/2018 - 18:00
On 1 January, 1942, a document was signed by 26 states, coining the term "United Nations". The Declaration of the United Nations  pledged that their governments would continue fighting together against the Axis Powers. Swiss Public Television, RTS, takes a closer look at attempts to make historic documents like these available to a wider public. (RTS/swissinfo.ch) The Geneva archives are testament to efforts to establish peace through diplomacy. The League of Nations was the predecessor of the United Nations, and was the first international organisation that set out to achieve world peace. The 26 years of the League's history are summed up in 15 million pages.  These documents will soon be available on the Internet, thanks partly to students at the University of Geneva. They are busy deciphering and indexing the documents with the help of thousands of Internet users via an online research platform. The project is part of a crowdsourcing project and it's like a social media site ...
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Youngest Swiss president in 84 years takes office

Swissinfo EN - Mon, 01/01/2018 - 12:00
At 45, Alain Berset is the youngest politician to become Swiss president since 1934. He holds the rotating post for 2018. In an interview with swissinfo.ch, Berset remains cautious about a change in Swiss-EU relations and talks about whether Switzerland is experiencing its own ballot box protests.    swissinfo.ch: A few days after you were elected president, you wrote to an unhappy naturalisation candidate in Nyon, canton Vaud, to express your support. Why did you do that?   Alain Berset: I can’t imagine being involved in politics without emotion. Co-existence, mutual respect, dialogue and human contact are integral to the political action I’ve been engaged with for the past 15 years.  Alain Berset Alain Berset became one of the youngest cabinet ministers in history when he was elected to the cabinet in 2011 at the age of 39. He has since headed the Home Affairs ministry, where he is responsible for health, social insurance and culture. He is a member of the leftwing Social ...
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How Swiss direct democracy marked 2017

Swissinfo EN - Sun, 12/31/2017 - 16:00
Health matters were top of the list of people’s concerns in Switzerland over the past 12 months, as an overview of political efforts outside parliament shows. Under the country’s political system of direct democracy, legislation is not a privilege of the elected representatives and the government. Citizens have the right to challenge laws in referendums and they can propose changes to the constitution by collecting at least 100,000 signatures over 18 months to force a nationwide vote on an issue.  + What is a people’s initiative + How to challenge a law to referendum Looking back over the past year, a few facts stand out. No initiative came to a nationwide vote, but the democratic tool has again gained in popularity. Reversing a trend of the two previous years, 2017 saw a growing number of people’s initiatives, ten in total, being launched at a nationwide level. It is striking that four of them focus on health issues: health premiums, the role of health insurance companies in ...
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A young president and the cost of Swiss meat revealed

Swissinfo EN - Sun, 12/31/2017 - 13:00
Here is a selection of stories we're looking ahead to in the week of January 1, 2018. Monday Is direct democracy hindering Switzerland's progress? Why hasn't any money from Arab Spring dictators made its way back to the people of the countries affected? Can the Swiss-EU deadlock be resolved in 2018? These are just some of the questions we put to Alain Berset, home affairs minister and Swiss president for 2018.  Tuesday The organised group of rabbit-breeders is just one of tens of thousands of clubs and associations in Switzerland. We hear from a person who believes joining a club is an important lesson in democracy. Wednesday You can lose the battle but still win the war – or at least a partial victory. That's the conclusion of political scientist Lukas Leuzinger, who looks at the long-term impact of initiatives that were defeated at the ballot box.   Thursday Forty-one hours and ten minutes. We've done the maths to reveal how much the average ...
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Everything’s a question of perspective

Swissinfo EN - Sun, 12/31/2017 - 12:00
Some stumbled, others reached new heights. The past 12 months in Switzerland have been filled with impressive images and odd scenes – from sport and traditional customs to political events. swissinfo.ch looks back at 2017 in pictures. Things always get wild in canton Valais on the last weekend of August – that’s when up to 1,000 sheep are driven from their summer pastures over the Aletsch glacier to Belalp. The Schafscheid (sheep-sorting) then returns the sheep to their owners. Every year on St Martin’s Day (November 11) a curious – and rather gruesome – tradition in the village of Sursee near Lucerne attracts locals and visitors: the “Gansabhauet”. A dead goose is suspended and participants – blindfolded by a pointed cap and a golden sun mask and wearing a red cloak – try to sever its neck with a blunt sabre. Whoever manages to do this can keep the mangled bird. Some regions also host the “Räbeliechtli”, a night-time procession of lanterns made from turnips. In Fribourg, the ...
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Reaching the peak of 2017

Swissinfo EN - Sun, 12/31/2017 - 10:00
​​​​​​​ Looking into the New Year? Not quite: ski tourers take in the Alpine world around them after making it to the top of the Bishorn, in this image by Swiss photographers, Dan and Janine Patitucci. The Bishorn is one of the Alps easiest 4,000 metre peaks to climb. What makes it easy for climbers makes it ideal for ski tourers, and that is a very long, evenly angled approach.  The summit is a quick scramble up steep snow with an impressive view of the Weisshorn’s North Face.  Here, Bruno Schaub and Stefano Girolimetto enjoy the rewards of a very long day. At work and play We are fortunate to call the mountains our workplace and still marvel at what we get to do on any given work day, be it in the Alps or Himalaya.  After all these years, the passion we have for life as mountain sport athletes and photographers hasn't faded. Experiencing the Alps on so many levels keeps us motivated for what comes next. Grandiose landscapes Each week over the next few months, ...
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Does limiting urban sprawl mean bad architecture?

Swissinfo EN - Sat, 12/30/2017 - 18:00
The town of Schwyz recently tore down some medieval buildings with beautiful wall paintings in order to create space for some multi-storey buildings. According to the 2014 federal zoning law, Swiss municipalities are obliged to limit urban sprawl. However, building new, incongruous structures in historic town centres can often change the local character. (SRF/swissinfo.ch) Free space is getting scarcer in Switzerland. The equivalent of eight football pitches is covered with new buildings every day. In order to prevent green spaces from disappearing, the Swiss government revised the federal zoning law in 2014. Since then, communities have been obliged to limit urban sprawl. + Learning how to improve life in the suburbs However, the ruling has sparked a debate over the quality of modern architecture. Some new multi-storey buildings are significantly changing the appearance of traditional villages. The Swiss Heritage Society is asking for more consideration when planning new units ...
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How biomass could help Switzerland reach its energy goals

Swissinfo EN - Sat, 12/30/2017 - 12:00
There is vast energy potential locked up in biomass – like wood, farm manure and food waste – all over Switzerland. But accessing it will take more than just technological innovation. Currently, biomass is Switzerland’s second-most-important source of domestic renewable energy (the first being hydropower). Biomass – meaning plant or other organic matter – can be used for energy in a variety of ways: for example, wood can be burned to produce heat, plant residues can be chemically processed to produce liquid biofuels, and even farm manure can be digested by bacteria to release biogas, which in turn can be used to generate electricity. Now, researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research (WSL) say that the amount of sustainable energy obtained from biomass could be twice what it is today. Their argument is based on the first comprehensive calculation of potential energy from all types of Swiss biomass – whether it’s wood from the forest, manure ...
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Is there hope for diplomacy in 2018?

Swissinfo EN - Fri, 12/29/2017 - 16:00
“One year ago I said I thought this year had to get better, and I thought it would. But I was wrong. In many respects 2017 got even worse.”   These were the words of Jan Egeland, the chair of the UN’s humanitarian taskforce for Syria, just before Christmas. Emerging from a taskforce meeting he said he has asked key UN member states (the US, Russia, China, Egypt, Turkey, the UK and half a dozen more) to do more. “I think…they should be able to have influence commensurate with their military and economic investment in Syria and at times I wonder really why isn’t there more influence?” It’s a very good question, and one many are asking. What has happened to traditional diplomacy? How has the brutal conflict in Syria been allowed to drag on for seven long years? Vacuum where influence should be  A key issue may not be a genuine lack of influence, but a lack of interest in using it. The United States, once the world’s chief proponent of 'soft power', is mostly diplomatically absent ...
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Switzerland in motion: 2017 in review

Swissinfo EN - Fri, 12/29/2017 - 12:00
Looking back, 2017 has been a year of motion. Technology has put movement into the economy, heat has created disturbances in nature, and the country has been shaken by cases of sexual abuse. Politics is the only area to have remained calm: progress has stalled on some major issues. Politics: Big projects shelved Health insurance premiums are rising again, the pensions system is still a work in progress, and corporate tax reform remains blocked. 2017 has been a lost year for Swiss politics. Well, almost – there is also some new energy. The political right logged its first defeat of the year with plans to reform corporate taxes. Switzerland must tax its companies in line with international standards. But if Swiss taxes on companies that operate internationally are too punishing, these businesses will move elsewhere, taking jobs with them, the advocates of the tax reform proposal argued. Yet if taxes are too low, small and medium-sized companies will end up bearing the brunt of the ...
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What’s being done to bring down high drug costs?

Swissinfo EN - Thu, 12/28/2017 - 18:00
If you compare pharmaceutical costs across countries, you, no doubt, will experience a bit of sticker shock without understanding how prices are determined. In this article, we try to unravel the tangled web of players and factors that influence costs. Let’s start with some examples: if you needed a 30-day supply of a drug called Xarelto to prevent or treat blood clots, you’d shell out about CHF100 ($102) in Switzerland. In the United States you’d be out an average $292. Or maybe you’re prescribed the painkiller Oxycontin. In Switzerland a 30-day supply costs $95, and in the US it would be $265. (Also, this is a drug with a controversial history.)  Swiss per capita spending on drugs is among the highest in Europe, but not nearly as high as in the US, which spends roughly double the amount that Switzerland does, and more than any other country, based on the latest OECD data.  A major factor behind these astronomical costs is price, but that’s not all. Why are prices so high?  ...
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Gays and lesbians can now adopt stepchildren

Swissinfo EN - Thu, 12/28/2017 - 15:00
From January 1, same-sex couples and de facto spouses may adopt stepchildren in Switzerland. In addition, the secrecy surrounding adoption will be loosened so adopted children and their biological parents will be able to get in contact more easily.  Until now, only married people have been able to adopt their spouses’ children from a previous relationship. In Switzerland, homosexuals have been able to enter into a civil partnership since 2007, but gay marriage is not recognised. From 2018, however, adoption of stepchildren will be possible for anyone in a civil partnership or a longterm relationship.  Swiss law will thus align itself closer to that of other western European countries and the rulings of the European Court of Human Rights.  + Rainbow families start to colour Swiss media That said, a couple in a civil partnership will still be unable to adopt a child who is biologically unrelated to both parents. This means a gay person can adopt if single, but not when in a civil ...
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‘Town hall meetings are the archetype of democracy’

Swissinfo EN - Thu, 12/28/2017 - 12:00
The Swiss comedian and actor Mike Müller is touring Switzerland with a show devoted to town hall meetings. In his stage performance, he displays his fascination for how the Swiss govern themselves on a local level, but he also says it’s scandalous that some people can vote on who gets naturalised.  A few times a year, the locals of some small and medium-sized Swiss communities get together to discuss the community’s budget, the annual accounts, tax rates, a new school building or anything else that’s going on. The discussions are often heated, and afterwards the people cast their votes by raising their hands.  + How can communities improve the appeal of town hall meetings? Four-fifths of Switzerland’s communities still have this tool of direct democracy which forms the legislative arm instead of having a parliament.  In his comedy “Town Hall Meetings Today”, Müller turns these gatherings into an entertaining and full-length evening performance. Who’s Mike Müller? Mike Müller ...
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