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How a micro-nation was inspired by Switzerland

Swissinfo EN - Sun, 06/11/2017 - 11:00
The newly emerged micro-nation Liberland wants to take the concept of political self-determination for citizens a few stages further than the Swiss form of direct democracy. The seven square kilometres of land sandwiched between Croatia and Serbia was proclaimed an independent republic by Czech politician Jit Jedlička in 2015. It appears that neither Croatia nor Serbia had officially claimed this small patch of territory following the conflict in the region, making it one of the rare slices of no-man’s-land on the globe. “We want Liberland to act as an example of good governance to all the other countries of the world,” Jedlička tells swissinfo.ch. “In Liberland, citizens will not suffer any unnecessary interference or repression from the state.” Liberland will not impose taxes, state education, marriage laws, welfare (both domestic and foreign aid), a physical banking system or laws saying what citizens can grow in their gardens. Jedlička was invited by University of St ...
Categories: News EN

The alphorn maker

Swissinfo EN - Sat, 06/10/2017 - 11:00
Thomas Eichenberger started playing an alphorn in 1996. Its natural tones fascinated him; soon he dreamt of making one himself. In 2012, the trained cabinetmaker had the opportunity to learn the art from retired alphorn maker Walter Lussi. The alphorn was for a long time a tool for shepherds, who used it to call for the cows to return from the pasture to the stable when it was time for milking.  The Alphorn was first mentioned in writing in 1527. It was played for an evening prayer, a practice mainly seen in Protestant cantons, while in the Catholic cantons of central Switzerland it was accompanied by a song for prayer. Its main function, however, was for communication between people living up in the Alps and those farther down the valley. In the 18th century, the alphorn almost fell into oblivion. Impoverished shepherds played in the cities and the instrument fell into disrepute, mocked as something only used by beggars. But the romance of the instrument and the tourists ...
Categories: News EN

The alphorn maker

Swissinfo EN - Sat, 06/10/2017 - 11:00
Thomas Eichenberger started playing an alphorn in 1996. Its natural tones fascinated him; soon he dreamt of making one himself. In 2012, the trained cabinetmaker had the opportunity to learn the art from retired alphorn maker Walter Lussi. The alphorn was for a long time a tool for shepherds, who used it to call for the cows to return from the pasture to the stable when it was time for milking.  The Alphorn was first mentioned in writing in 1527. It was played for an evening prayer, a practice mainly seen in Protestant cantons, while in the Catholic cantons of central Switzerland it was accompanied by a song for prayer. Its main function, however, was for communication between people living up in the Alps and those farther down the valley. In the 18th century, the alphorn almost fell into oblivion. Impoverished shepherds played in the cities and the instrument fell into disrepute, mocked as something only used by beggars. But the romance of the instrument and the tourists ...
Categories: News EN

Swiss aid brings clean water to North Korea

Swissinfo EN - Fri, 06/09/2017 - 15:00
North Korea's totalitarian regime has made it one of the most secretive societies in the world. However, Switzerland is one of just a few humanitarian aid-providers who have been granted access to the state. (SRF, swissinfo.ch) The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) has been working with North Korea in this respect for more than 20 years. One project involved bringing drinking water to thousands of households, while another promoted sustainable food production and protection against soil erosion on the slopes of hilly farmlands.  The Swiss also distribute milk powder through the United Nations World Food Programme. The SDC's humanitarian efforts in North Korea started in 1995 in response to the famine that affected the local population in the 1990’s. 
Categories: News EN

Swiss aid brings clean water to North Korea

Swissinfo EN - Fri, 06/09/2017 - 15:00
North Korea's totalitarian regime has made it one of the most secretive societies in the world. However, Switzerland is one of just a few humanitarian aid-providers who have been granted access to the state. (SRF, swissinfo.ch) The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) has been working with North Korea in this respect for more than 20 years. One project involved bringing drinking water to thousands of households, while another promoted sustainable food production and protection against soil erosion on the slopes of hilly farmlands.  The Swiss also distribute milk powder through the United Nations World Food Programme. The SDC's humanitarian efforts in North Korea started in 1995 in response to the famine that affected the local population in the 1990’s. 
Categories: News EN

‘The UK is now ungovernable’

Swissinfo EN - Fri, 06/09/2017 - 11:03
Prime Minister Theresa May’s decision to hold a snap election to strengthen her hand in Brexit talks has been disastrous, leaving the country in unchartered territory, Swiss-based observers say.  On Thursday, British voters dealt the governing Conservative party a punishing blow, when May’s election gamble to win a stronger mandate backfired and she lost her parliamentary majority. This has thrown British politics into turmoil with a hung parliament (when no party has an absolute majority) and potentially disrupting Brexit negotiations.  Participants at a British-Swiss Chamber of Commerce event in Geneva agreed that the result presented an extremely negative scenario.  “The UK is now ungovernable,” declared Victoria Curzon-Price, economics professor of the University of Geneva. “The parties are divided internally, as are politicians in Westminster. There are too many tensions between the various parts of the UK. We live in Switzerland, which has been decentralised to the ...
Categories: News EN

‘The UK is now ungovernable’

Swissinfo EN - Fri, 06/09/2017 - 11:03
Prime Minister Theresa May’s decision to hold a snap election to strengthen her hand in Brexit talks has been disastrous, leaving the country in uncharted territory, Swiss-based observers say.  On Thursday, British voters dealt the governing Conservative party a punishing blow, when May’s election gamble to win a stronger mandate backfired and she lost her parliamentary majority. This has thrown British politics into turmoil with a hung parliament (when no party has an absolute majority) and potentially disrupting Brexit negotiations.  Participants at a British-Swiss Chamber of Commerce event in Geneva agreed that the result presented an extremely negative scenario.  “The UK is now ungovernable,” declared Victoria Curzon-Price, economics professor of the University of Geneva. “The parties are divided internally, as are politicians in Westminster. There are too many tensions between the various parts of the UK. We live in Switzerland, which has been decentralised to the extreme, ...
Categories: News EN

Switzerland’s smallest national language struggles for survival

Swissinfo EN - Fri, 06/09/2017 - 11:00
The Swiss voted overwhelmingly to recognise Romansh as the country’s fourth national language in 1938, but today the language spoken in one of Switzerland’s most mountainous cantons is under threat. In the 1920s, Italian dictator Benito Mussolini believed Romansh to be an Italian dialect and declared that the south-eastern Swiss canton of Graubünden therefore rightly belonged to Italy.  The Romansh people themselves did not think much of their ostensible Italian heritage: "Ni Italians, ni Tudaischs! Rumantschs vulains restar!" as the poet Peider Lansel put it. (“We’re not Italians, we’re not Germans! We’ll always be Romansh!).  Like other Romance languages, Romansh actually comes from a mixture of Vulgar Latin and local languages – in this case Celtic and Rhaetian languages. The relationship among Swiss Romansh, Friulian and the Ladin language of the Italian Dolomites remains a disputed issue among linguists.  Today, Romansh is considered an endangered language. While the ...
Categories: News EN

Switzerland’s smallest national language struggles for survival

Swissinfo EN - Fri, 06/09/2017 - 11:00
The Swiss voted overwhelmingly to recognise Romansh as the country’s fourth national language in 1938, but today the language spoken in one of Switzerland’s most mountainous cantons is under threat. In the 1920s, Italian dictator Benito Mussolini believed Romansh to be an Italian dialect and declared that the south-eastern Swiss canton of Graubünden therefore rightly belonged to Italy.  The Romansh people themselves did not think much of their ostensible Italian heritage: "Ni Italians, ni Tudaischs! Rumantschs vulains restar!" as the poet Peider Lansel put it. (“We’re not Italians, we’re not Germans! We’ll always be Romansh!).  Like other Romance languages, Romansh actually comes from a mixture of Vulgar Latin and local languages – in this case Celtic and Rhaetian languages. The relationship among Swiss Romansh, Friulian and the Ladin language of the Italian Dolomites remains a disputed issue among linguists.  Today, Romansh is considered an endangered language. While the ...
Categories: News EN

How ‘wise-guy’ Switzerland is outwitting the WTO

Swissinfo EN - Thu, 06/08/2017 - 17:00
Government backing of the agricultural industry in Switzerland is stronger than in practically anywhere else in the world. Now and again, however, the country faces criticism from the World Trade Organization (WTO).  More than half of the Swiss economy’s earnings are generated abroad. This is why the country is committed to breaking down international trade barriers while protecting its own agricultural industry with record-high duties and subsidies. It implements the WTO requirements so cleverly that it has so far evaded all reproach.  The most recent example of this is the so-called Schoggigesetz (chocolate law). With the WTO Agreement on Agriculture prohibiting all future export subsidies, Switzerland will be forced to revise this law, which governs subsidies for food exporters.  On the basis of the law, the Swiss government previously contributed almost CHF100 million ($103 million) a year to compensate Swiss food exporters for the difference between Swiss and global market ...
Categories: News EN

How ‘wise-guy’ Switzerland is outwitting the WTO

Swissinfo EN - Thu, 06/08/2017 - 17:00
Government backing of the agricultural industry in Switzerland is stronger than in practically anywhere else in the world. Now and again, however, the country faces criticism from the World Trade Organization (WTO).  More than half of the Swiss economy’s earnings are generated abroad. This is why the country is committed to breaking down international trade barriers while protecting its own agricultural industry with record-high duties and subsidies. It implements the WTO requirements so cleverly that it has so far evaded all reproach.  The most recent example of this is the so-called Schoggigesetz (chocolate law). With the WTO Agreement on Agriculture prohibiting all future export subsidies, Switzerland will be forced to revise this law, which governs subsidies for food exporters.  On the basis of the law, the Swiss government previously contributed almost CHF100 million ($103 million) a year to compensate Swiss food exporters for the difference between Swiss and global market ...
Categories: News EN

How can artificial intelligence be leveraged for the greater good?

Swissinfo EN - Thu, 06/08/2017 - 16:09
Beyond self-driving cars and Google Translate software, there is much talk about how artificial intelligence (AI) technologies can be used to transform society for the better. A conference in Geneva this week is examining the pros and cons of AI, and the way forward.  Some 500 policymakers, academics and executives are gathered in Geneva this week for the inaugural “AI for Good Global Summit”, co-organized by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) and the Xprize Foundation, a Silicon Valley non-profit group.  The conference has a grand title and a lofty aim – “to chart a course for AI that will benefit all of humanity”. The UN, which is represented by 20 agencies such as the children’s fund UNICEF, wants to refocus AI on sustainable development and see how it can contribute to global efforts to eliminate poverty and hunger, and to protect the environment.  “Artificial Intelligence has the potential to accelerate towards a dignified life, in peace and prosperity, for ...
Categories: News EN

How can artificial intelligence be leveraged for the greater good?

Swissinfo EN - Thu, 06/08/2017 - 16:09
Beyond self-driving cars and Google Translate software, there is much talk about how artificial intelligence (AI) technologies can be used to transform society for the better. A conference in Geneva this week is examining the pros and cons of AI, and the way forward.  Some 500 policymakers, academics and executives are gathered in Geneva this week for the inaugural “AI for Good Global Summit”, co-organized by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) and the Xprize Foundation, a Silicon Valley non-profit group.  The conference has a grand title and a lofty aim – “to chart a course for AI that will benefit all of humanity”. The UN, which is represented by 20 agencies such as the children’s fund UNICEF, wants to refocus AI on sustainable development and see how it can contribute to global efforts to eliminate poverty and hunger, and to protect the environment.  “Artificial Intelligence has the potential to accelerate towards a dignified life, in peace and prosperity, for ...
Categories: News EN

Let the beat go on!

Swissinfo EN - Thu, 06/08/2017 - 15:55
Tama Vakeesan was born in Switzerland – to Tamil parents from Sri Lanka. One of her best friends is Priya Ragu, also an ethnic Tamil. She tells Tama that her parents do not support her ambition to become a professional singer. Like Tama, she is caught between two worlds. (SRF Kulturplatz/swissinfo.ch)
Categories: News EN

Let the beat go on!

Swissinfo EN - Thu, 06/08/2017 - 15:55
Tama Vakeesan was born in Switzerland – to Tamil parents from Sri Lanka. One of her best friends is Priya Ragu, also an ethnic Tamil. She tells Tama that her parents do not support her ambition to become a professional singer. Like Tama, she is caught between two worlds. (SRF Kulturplatz/swissinfo.ch)
Categories: News EN

Qatari investments in Swiss firms start to look awkward

Swissinfo EN - Thu, 06/08/2017 - 13:42
The isolation and blockade of Qatar by neighbours on the grounds of suspected terrorist financing has raised uncomfortable questions about the Middle Eastern country’s global investments – including those in Switzerland.  The Qatar Investment Authority (QIA) sovereign wealth fund has significant stakes in Credit Suisse (and a joint partnership with the bank in the Aventicum Capital Management investment vehicle), commodity trading giant Glencore (with which QIA recently formed a consortium to buy large numbers of shares in Russian oil giant Rosneft), travel retailer Dufry and several Swiss hotels.  The $335 billion (CHF323 billion) Qatari investment fund also has significant holdings in other parts of the world. In Britain it has stakes in Harrods department store and Heathrow airport, in Germany Volkswagen and Siemens and in the United States a large real estate portfolio – the list goes on.  On June 5, connections with Qatar suddenly looked less attractive as Saudi Arabia led ...
Categories: News EN

Qatari investments in Swiss firms start to look awkward

Swissinfo EN - Thu, 06/08/2017 - 13:42
The isolation and blockade of Qatar by neighbours on the grounds of suspected terrorist financing has raised uncomfortable questions about the Middle Eastern country’s global investments – including those in Switzerland.  The Qatar Investment Authority (QIA) sovereign wealth fund has significant stakes in Credit Suisse (and a joint partnership with the bank in the Aventicum Capital Management investment vehicle), commodity trading giant Glencore (with which QIA recently formed a consortium to buy large numbers of shares in Russian oil giant Rosneft), travel retailer Dufry and several Swiss hotels.  The $335 billion (CHF323 billion) Qatari investment fund also has significant holdings in other parts of the world. In Britain it has stakes in Harrods department store and Heathrow airport, in Germany Volkswagen and Siemens and in the United States a large real estate portfolio – the list goes on.  On June 5, connections with Qatar suddenly looked less attractive as Saudi Arabia led ...
Categories: News EN

Swiss education gets high-tech

Swissinfo EN - Thu, 06/08/2017 - 11:00
Using technology to improve education isn’t as easy as handing every child an iPad. A new start-up incubator aims to solve these problems – and get Switzerland’s foot in the door of the so-called edtech market. Addressing the crowd at the launch of the Swiss Federal Institute Technology Lausanne (EPFL)’s EdTech Collider, Lavinia Jacobs of the Jacobs Foundation for child and youth development did not immediately invoke science, or her organisation’s co-funding of the new centre. Instead, she asked the audience to recall the 1985 American sci-fi classic Back to the Future, and its teenaged protagonist, Marty McFly, who is sent to the year 1955 in a time machine. “Unfortunately, the plot didn’t send Marty into a school classroom, but if it had, he would have found almost nothing different compared to 30 years later – or now, 60 years,” Jacobs said. “Today, education is probably the most innovation-resisting area of public policy.” Overcoming inertia With only an estimated 2% of ...
Categories: News EN

Swiss education gets high-tech

Swissinfo EN - Thu, 06/08/2017 - 11:00
Using technology to improve education isn’t as easy as handing every child an iPad. A new start-up incubator aims to solve these problems – and get Switzerland’s foot in the door of the so-called edtech market. Addressing the crowd at the launch of the Swiss Federal Institute Technology Lausanne (EPFL)’s EdTech Collider, Lavinia Jacobs of the Jacobs Foundation for child and youth development did not immediately invoke science, or her organisation’s co-funding of the new centre. Instead, she asked the audience to recall the 1985 American sci-fi classic Back to the Future, and its teenaged protagonist, Marty McFly, who is sent to the year 1955 in a time machine. “Unfortunately, the plot didn’t send Marty into a school classroom, but if it had, he would have found almost nothing different compared to 30 years later – or now, 60 years,” Jacobs said. “Today, education is probably the most innovation-resisting area of public policy.” Overcoming inertia With only an estimated 2% of ...
Categories: News EN

‘Switzerland has made progress in combating human trafficking’

Swissinfo EN - Wed, 06/07/2017 - 17:00
A growing number of Swiss organisations are working to document cases of human trafficking – such as prostitution, forced begging or organ trade – and get help to victims. One of them is a telephone hotline, whose director encounters trafficking cases daily. More and more victims of human trafficking are being discovered in Switzerland according to the latest statistics from the Zurich-based Centre for Advocacy and Support for Migrant Women and Victims of Trafficking (FIZ). But such figures are approximate at best because many victims don’t dare to speak up. The organisation ACT212 set up its nationwide helpline in October 2015, which allows people to ask for help or report a crime anonymously either by phone or e-mail. Its director Irene Hirzel, who has been working to combat human trafficking since 1997, explains what she encounters every day. SWI swissinfo.ch: How would you describe the typical person who contacts you? Irene Hirzel: We field as many reports from people who ...
Categories: News EN