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Top news - SWI swissinfo.ch
News and information from Switzerland about Switzerland: direct democracy, education, science, business, living in Switzerland and a lot more – current, informative, in depth and in 10 languages (English, German, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic, Japanese, Chinese, Russian).
Updated: 6 weeks 2 days ago

Former military sports school still on track after 75 years

Mon, 03/04/2019 - 15:14
It’s the 75th birthday of the Federal Sports School in Magglingen, high above Lake Biel, where countless Swiss sports talents have been forged into champions. But in 1942 the Federal Council were after a slightly different goal when they founded the Swiss Federal Gymnastics and Sports School: to make young Swiss men fit for military service by providing a so-called foundation course.  In the same year, the government also passed a resolution to this effect, after which it took some time to determine the structure of the training and the location of the school. In 1944, the school was officially founded.  And today, the sports school at Magglingen produces a range of high-achieving athletes, far from its army beginnings. Both the Federal Office for Sport and the Federal Sports School overlook the magnificent vista of Lake Biel and its surrounding landscape, 900 metres above the city of Biel. The clean air is perfect for practising various sporting disciplines and (maybe) ...
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‘Journalists must get a grip’ to protect independent media

Mon, 03/04/2019 - 09:00
How has mass media, and its impact on society, changed over the past 40 years? Otfried Jarren has spent his career immersed in that question.  As professor in the Department of Media Research and Communication at the University of Zürich, his interests include the structure of media as well as its links with politics. Jarren also presides over OFCOM, the Swiss Federal Media Commission. This article is part of ongoing coverage of the International Public Media Conference on March 4 in Bern, where Jarren will give the closing keynote. He weighed in on the future of public media, democracy, and how journalism can adapt to rebuild trust and credibility in the digital age. swissinfo.ch: Ohne Journalismus keine Demokratie! (Without journalism, no democracy!) How appropriate, or exaggerated, is this mission statement of the recent Swiss media venture Republik magazine? Otfried Jarren: Journalism plays an observational, intermediary, and critical role in society. It acts on the ...
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The Swiss explorer who broke ground for women travel writers

Sun, 03/03/2019 - 14:00
Explorer Isabelle Eberhardt paved the way for Swiss women to enter journalism and travel writing, but few know her story. An exhibit underway in Geneva aims to change that. "With one eye, observe the outside world, with the other, look deep inside yourself." That sentence penned by the Italian painter Amedeo Modigliani captures the essence of Eberhardt, who signed her dispatches with a simple “I”. That lone letter stands at the bottom of a love letter to her husband Slimène Ehni.  She wrote to him in French, "I embrace you with all my heart that is yours..." then continued in Arabic: "... in this world and for eternity". The two languages that blend into each other in superb calligraphy reveal the rich cultural identity of this multilingual Swiss woman, born in 1877, who at the age of 20 left Geneva to settle in Algeria. She died there at 27, swept away in a river flood. Dressed as a man Eberhardt, a daring writer and adventurer, often dressed as a man. It was a choice that ...
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Big bridges in the Big Apple

Sun, 03/03/2019 - 13:00
“Gateways to New York” is a documentary about Swiss engineer Othmar Ammann, who might be an unsung hero today, but he certainly wasn’t when he was building many of New York’s most iconic bridges.  His works include George Washington Bridge, Bayonne Bridge, Triborough Bridge, Bronx-Whitestone Bridge, Throgs Neck Bridge and Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge (pictured).  The film’s director, Martin Witz, talks to swissinfo.ch at the Solothurn Film Festival, where his documentary won the Audience Award, about Ammann’s incredible success story and the challenges in making the film. Subscribe to our podcast on iTunes to ensure that you don’t miss the next one.
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French flourishes in Switzerland

Sun, 03/03/2019 - 12:00
While French has become steadily more popular over the past 50 years, fewer Swiss speak German regularly. The main reason for this is migration. Almost two-thirds of the people living in Switzerland regularly speak more than one language. With four official national languages, Switzerland has a special language landscape – and many non-national languages can also be heard in everyday life. According to current data from the Federal Statistical Office (FSO), the majority of the permanent resident population speaks German or Swiss German as their main language. Among the non-national languages, English and Portuguese are the most common. According to FSO, the main language is the language in which we think and which we speak best. Since the 1980s, the proportion of people who name German as their main language has been declining steadily. Italian also declined until 2000, when people began citing it as their main language more often. Meanwhile, French has become increasingly ...
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Divorce, university rankings and illicit weapons

Sat, 03/02/2019 - 19:41
Almost every article published by swissinfo.ch contains a percentage, an age, an amount of money or some other figure. Here’s a round-up of some of the most interesting statistics to appear in the past week’s stories. Tuesday 16,200 The number of divorces registered in Switzerland in 2018. That marks a 2.1 percent increase relative to the previous year, the Federal Statistical Office announced. If such a trend continued, two-fifths of all marriages would be likely to one day end in separation. Wednesday 3 The Swiss university system has entered the top three globally, according to the latest QS rankings. That recognition reflects the continuing strong performance of the federal technology institute ETH Zurich. Friday 8,251  The number of illegal weapons seized by Swiss customs in 2018, a two-fold increase relative to 2017, according to the Federal Customs Administration annual report. 140 Most asylum proceedings are now to be completed within 140 days in federal ...
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On the road with Switzerland’s public broadcaster

Sat, 03/02/2019 - 12:00
Switzerland has a long history of public media – and the challenge of keeping it current for future generations. The range of programming produced by the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation (SBC) is varied, especially considering the fact that the budget has to cover the four national languages as well as an additional seven at its international arm SWI swissinfo.ch. This linguistic quirk is why newsmakers in Switzerland often end up speaking into multiple SBC microphones. With the popularity of citizen journalism and YouTube, the competition for eyeballs is fiercer than ever. A particular challenge is trying to appeal to younger viewers who barely remember a time before Netflix. But last year, both the SBC and its supporters were relieved when Swiss voters rejected a proposal to do away with the mandatory licence fee for public broadcasters. Every household pays CHF365 ($365) per year for access to radio and TV in Switzerland. This piece is part of ongoing coverage from the ...
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Driving out the winter

Fri, 03/01/2019 - 18:25
The first of March marks the day when "Chalandamarz" processions in eastern Switzerland chase winter out of the villages. In the Romansh language spoken in canton Graubünden, "Chalandamarz" means "the beginning of March". In eastern Swiss valleys, March 1 means a lot of noise in the villages. Schoolchildren and adolescents walk with bells and whips through the streets and around every water fountain. They traditionally wear red pointed caps and blue peasant blouses and sing spring songs. They are sure to be as loud as possible. In some communities, only the boys are allowed to shout out the winter, while in others a straw man is burned. In some places the custom resembles a carnival procession. In the town of Ftan, the boys dress in costumes and chase the girls with inflated pig bladders. After the bell procession, the Chalandamarz Ball takes place in each village, traditionally prepared by the women and girls. Young and old take part and celebrate the coming spring.
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Homosexuality is no longer taboo in classrooms

Fri, 03/01/2019 - 12:00
The ABQ association has been criss-crossing schools in cantons Bern and Fribourg for 20 years, talking about sexual orientation. The aim is to let pupils chat with young gay people and above all ask them questions, helping to create a climate of tolerance. “How did you come out?” “In same-sex couples does one partner play the role of the man and one the role of the woman?” “Have you found it hard accepting yourself?” This morning a class of secondary school pupils from Tavel, near Fribourg in western Switzerland, have the chance to put all their questions about sexual orientation and gender identity to members of the school project ABQ. The Bern-based association organises around 60 school visits a year to let teenagers meet people aged 20-30 who are LGBTIQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer).  “We’re not militants. We’d like [pupils] to form their own opinions knowing all the facts,” says Hélène Fournier, ABQ’s co-president and one of four participants ...
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The march for women’s suffrage in Switzerland

Fri, 03/01/2019 - 10:48
An hour of making noise in front of the Swiss parliament buildings was enough to find its way into the history books. On March 1, 1969, thousands of women loudly demanded the vote. On that day exactly 50 years ago, 5,000 women and men stood in the square and at 3pm gave a concert of whistles. The event was controversial. Although the two main women's associations supported the cause, they did not take part in the rally, fearing riots and revenge by men at the ballot box who might be provoked to reject women's suffrage. The protestors read out a resolution in all four Swiss national languages, demanding full voting rights at the federal and cantonal level. It would take two years before a bill was finally presented to the (male) electorate and adopted by a two-thirds majority. However, it took another 20 years for women's suffrage to be implemented in all cantons.
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How French authorities used a whistleblower to sting UBS bankers

Fri, 03/01/2019 - 10:12
In May 2011, a scared employee from Swiss bank UBS was summoned without warning or explanation to meet French government officials outside the Louis Vuitton store on the Champs-Elysées in Paris.  From there she was shuttled to the back of a large department store and given her mission: to help the French government try to catch Swiss bankers illegally soliciting French clients at the French Open tennis tournament. “They said we are going to follow you for two weeks at Roland-Garros  . . . They said they would follow me for the two weeks with a camera,” said Stéphanie Gibaud in an interview with the Financial Times days after UBS was hit with a €4.5 billion (CHF5.1 billion) penalty for recruiting clients in France and helping them evade taxes. Gibaud, a relatively junior marketing manager who organised client events during her more than ten years at the bank, spent the following days at Roland-Garros in fear, trying to behave normally in front of her colleagues before being ...
Categories: News EN

Public media and young viewers: are they flicking over?

Thu, 02/28/2019 - 12:00
One year after voters thumpingly rejected the idea of scrapping the licence fee, public broadcasters in Switzerland and beyond tackle the challenge of securing future audiences. Cosy, warm, brain-dead, you’re tucked up on the couch after another day. On the TV, or some screen, your latest Netflix series is jumping kindly from episode to episode; you don’t even have to lift a finger. You check your phone. 19:30. Somewhere, in some other corner of the universe, the news is starting – SRF’s Tagesschau. Do you flick over? One year after Swiss voters opted largely not to scrap the country’s public-funded state media system, the question still hovers. And as technology, media, habits, and content continue to shift faster than a journalist can keep up with them, the answer is still unclear. On one hand, as the BernerZeitung reported last week (in German), some things don’t seem to change. The most watched show via the Swiss Zattoo online streaming service – which accounts for 53% ...
Categories: News EN

The circus reflects society – with or without bearded women

Wed, 02/27/2019 - 12:00
Circus Knie, often called Switzerland’s national circus, will soon set off on its centenary tour. This will certainly gain attention, as the circus still retains an aura of excitement and dreams. But does it still make people dream as they did in 1919? In this light-hearted article, the author argues it’s unlikely, because a change in moral attitudes has clipped its wings. For a long time the circus was associated with a strange, fantasy world – at least that’s how it was often depicted in art, literature or the cinema. As late as the 1970s children’s television programmes featured main characters who dreamt of running away to join the circus. A science-fiction scenario for the youth of today, versed in the ways of the virtual world almost since birth. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of swissinfo.ch. The circus can also give you goose bumps – the wild animals in particular. Sitting in the front row, ...
Categories: News EN

Renewables: Switzerland waiting for Godot

Wed, 02/27/2019 - 12:00
The Swiss approach to boosting renewable energy is far too slow, finds a specialist in environmental science and management. As the EU moves forward into the new energy paradigm, and states all over the world are putting 100% renewable plans into action, reaping the economic benefits of new energy technologies, Switzerland is starting to look very last century. Like Vladimir and Estragon under their tree in Beckett’s play, Switzerland is waiting, but has forgotten what for. In order to meet their obligations under the Paris Agreement for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, it is necessary for all 195 of the signatory countries to systematically reduce, and eventually eliminate, coal, oil and gas by 2050 in all energy sectors. Since any new or refurbished power station will likely still be operating mid-century, decarbonisation needs to be at the centre of all current and future decisions regarding power generation. In Switzerland, Energy Strategy 2050 is the roadmap ...
Categories: News EN

Inside IKEA: a furniture store on a social mission

Tue, 02/26/2019 - 19:00
The big blue and yellow storefront is unmistakable in more than 50 countries. While distinctly Swedish, IKEA has a long and rich history in Switzerland. Now it is trying to rally other companies in the country around gender equality. Will they listen? Since 1943, IKEA has transformed living rooms and the shopping experience in countries as diverse as China and the Dominican Republic. But, the company wants to be known for much more than the Billy bookcase and large blue shopping bags. According to Ina Rhöös who works at IKEA Switzerland, “people don’t dream about working at IKEA because they can’t imagine selling sofas every day. But, the company is so much more than that”. She and her colleagues, Markus Müller and Claudia Willvonseder, are part of IKEA Switzerland’s 3,000 “co-workers” – the term itself is a nod to the company’s egalitarian principles. From its colour palette to the meatballs served at the restaurant, there is no denying the company’s Swedish roots, but IKEA has ...
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Reforming the WTO: the Swiss view

Tue, 02/26/2019 - 18:00
The crisis-hit World Trade Organization (WTO) is going through difficult times. World leaders have committed to an overhaul of the Geneva-based institution, but it is unclear what the future holds. Swiss ambassador to the WTO Didier Chambovey gives his view.  The year 2018 was marked by a number of challenges for the multilateral trading system and for international trade in general.  Rising tensions between some trading powers have led to a proliferation of measures and countermeasures, which are weighing on the development of trade. The WTO’s dispute settlement system is in crisis, with the United States blocking the appointment of new judges to the Appellate Body [the world's top trade court]. This situation could lead to a paralysis of this body by December, due to a lack of judges to validly deliberate.  With respect to the organization's negotiating role, concluding new multilateral agreements has also become extremely tough. Big differences remain, particularly on ...
Categories: News EN

Swiss private banking giant dips toes into crypto scene

Tue, 02/26/2019 - 14:55
One of Switzerland’s largest banks, Julius Baer, has entered the cryptoassets world by announcing a partnership with budding crypto bank start-up SEBA. While other Swiss banks, such as Vontobel, Falcon and Swissquote, are already active in the space, Julius Baer’s entrance has attracted particular attention. The obvious connection between the two businesses is Andreas Amschwand, chairman of SEBA and a board member at Julius Baer. However Amschwand will step down from Julius Baer in April. With CHF382 billion ($382 billion) of assets under management, the 125-year-old private banking giant appears to have raised the bar in the ongoing merger of cryptoassets into the traditional financial sector. Swiss banks have shown a marked reluctance to expose themselves to cryptoassets. This wariness is understandable in the context of a recent global tax evasion and money laundering crackdown that broke the back of Swiss banking secrecy. By dipping its toes into the new asset class, Julius ...
Categories: News EN

Swiss blockchain exchange ‘on track’ despite ‘flexible’ timetable

Tue, 02/26/2019 - 12:00
The Swiss stock exchange’s new distributed ledger technology (DLT) trading platform may be arriving slightly later than anticipated. But operator SIX Group says the Swiss Digital exchange (SDX) will still be well placed to take advantage of a securities trading revolution.   SIX Group chairman Romeo Lacher says SDX will launch in the second half of this year. Project leader Thomas Zeeb suggests a slightly later date: the last quarter of 2019 or even early 2020. When SIX announced the Swiss Digital Exchange (SDX) last July, it said “the first services will be rolled out in mid-2019.” It turns out that this timetable is “flexible”. For one thing, SIX is waiting for the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMA) to grant the new exchange a license. But on the other hand, no decision has yet been made on which DLT platform SDX will use – although the field has been narrowed down to two unnamed candidates. swissinfo.ch fintech coverage  Fintech is changing the face of ...
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GE, Roche, Spark: flair for genes

Tue, 02/26/2019 - 09:47
The fear of missing out is a powerful motivator. Dealmaking in healthcare is often fuelled by a drive to outbid rivals for cutting-edge technology.  Two transactions on Monday built on more than $100 billion of deals since the start of the year. The largest was the sale of GE’s Biopharma to medical equipment maker Danaher. The latter will pay $21.4 billion for an instruments business that generated revenues of approximately $3 billion last year. GE needs to strengthen its balance sheet. More emblematic of pharma trends was Roche’s decision to buy Spark Therapeutics for $4.8 billion ($4.3 billion plus its net cash). It is paying a share price premium of 122 per cent for the gene therapy pioneer which had $64.7 million in sales last year. Spark is a bolt-on for Roche, which has a market capitalisation 50 times bigger. But it will plug a gap in its portfolio, providing protection if rivals emerge to its haemophilia blockbuster Hemlibra. It is potentially much more significant ...
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Initiative launched to cap health insurance premiums

Tue, 02/26/2019 - 09:00
Many Swiss households are struggling to cope with rising health insurance premiums. A people’s initiative wants premiums to not exceed 10% of income with the balance paid for by the state. Called "10% of a household's income for health insurance premiums is enough" (Premium Relief Initiative), the text launched on Tuesday by the Social Democratic Party joins a long list of initiatives launched to manage the steady rise in health care costs and the accompanying rise in compulsory health insurance premiums. This increase is continuing at a rate significantly higher than that of wages, which is putting large segments of the Swiss population in difficulty. The aim is to include in the Swiss constitution a premium limit of 10% of disposable income and the right to a subsidy for those whose premiums exceed this limit. The initiative foresees that at least two thirds of this reduction would be financed by the federal government and the rest by the cantons. The party now has 18 months ...
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