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Updated: 11 hours 57 min ago

Your views: why life is good in Switzerland

Sun, 08/12/2018 - 17:00
Annual international surveys frequently place Switzerland near the top of their lists when it comes to ranking the best places in the world to live. We wanted to find out from our Facebook and Twitter communities what makes Switzerland special. Here are some of the replies we received. But first, what the official surveys say:  According to the 2018 survey from consulting firm Mercer, Zurich offers the second-best quality of life in the world. Geneva was ranked eighth and Basel came in tenth place. Mercer’s survey takes into account factors such as political stability, health care, education, crime and transport. In a survey published by the World Economic Forum in 2016, carried out by the non-governmental organisation Social Progress Imperative, Switzerland was judged the fifth best place to live in the world. The report said that the country may be expensive, but its citizens get value for money, especially when it comes to “medical” and “nutritional” matters, and "access to ...
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Cycling rights, comparing universities and a social media politician

Sun, 08/12/2018 - 12:00
Here are some of the stories we'll be following the week of August 13: Monday Every third child in Switzerland is born by Caesarian section – one of the highest rates in Europe. swissinfo.ch delves into the reasons why and discovers a virtual “religious war” between advocates of natural births and those who opt for C-sections. Tuesday Should the right to bicycle paths be included in the Swiss constitution? It may seem a trivial point to some, but the issue has forced a nationwide vote, which will take place next month. This aims to extend the existing right to hiking infrastructure to cyclists. Wednesday Switzerland unveils a new CHF200 note, but how far will that get you in the notoriously high price country? swissinfo.ch has tested how far the new note will stretch. Thursday Looking to study abroad and want to know about tuition fees? You might find the answers to your questions in the first of our series on comparing university education in Switzerland, US and ...
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Zurich’s technocolour Street Parade in pictures

Sun, 08/12/2018 - 11:41
One million ravers, 200 DJs, 28 Love Mobiles – the 27th Zurich Street Parade, one of the largest house and techno parties in the world, meandered through Switzerland’s biggest city on Saturday under perfect weather conditions. (All pictures Keystone.)  What was louder, the clothes or the music? It’s hard to tell, but the kaleidoscopic crowd slowly following the 28 “Love Mobiles” – music floats – certainly enjoyed the sun and relaxed atmosphere, reflecting this year’s motto of love and tolerance.  That said, 724 people needed treatment at the medical centre, up a quarter on last year. Most were for cuts, insect bites or circulation problems. Four people picked up serious injuries, for example after falling from a height. While most people knew their limits, the medical staff had to look after around 280 people who had overdone it on alcohol or drugs. Police said they had arrested 70 people, mostly young men, for disturbing the peace while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. ...
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This profession calls for you to put your life at risk

Sun, 08/12/2018 - 11:00
The judgement of the mountain guide can be called into question when a fatal accident happens in the Alps, like the one this summer when seven climbers lost their lives.  But if there is anyone who risks his life for the safety of climbers it is the one who leads them, says Pierre Mathey, who has been an Alpine guide for more than 25 years. With dozens of peaks over 4,000 metres, Switzerland is an inevitable destination for those who seek high-altitude adventure. Every year thousands of people try their hand at climbing the Matterhorn or the Jungfrau, driven by the desire to conquer a peak. "Someone who doesn’t manage to reach the summit talks in terms of failing. In my view, the only failure is if they don’t make it back home", says Mathey (52), who has been a guide for over 25 years and is general secretary of the Swiss Mountain Guide Association (ASGM). swissinfo.ch: From the stories appearing in the media, one might think that accidents in the mountains are on the increase.
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A million people party at Zurich Street Parade

Sun, 08/12/2018 - 10:19
Zurich’s Street Parade, one of the most popular house and techno parades in Europe, attracted a million ravers on Saturday, according to organisers. Around 25 floats packed with giant music systems trundled around Lake Zurich as part of an event officially billed as a demonstration for freedom, love and tolerance. This is the 27th edition, and apart from the parade, about 100 related parties also took place over the weekend. The perfect weather conditions meant the million-mark was cracked for the third time, after 2001 and 2015. How it all began The first Street Parade was held on September 5, 1992, initiated by maths student Marek Krynski. He was inspired by a television report on the Berlin Love Parade and went to visit the German city to find out how the event was organised. It was attended by about 1,000 people. The number seems paltry compared with the huge turn-out at recent Street Parades, but in 1992, it was regarded as a huge success as no one really believed that ...
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Mixed messages about future Swiss-EU relations

Sat, 08/11/2018 - 21:06
Switzerland’s relations with the European Union have been at the centre of the annual Congress of the Swiss Abroad. Two keynote speeches gave some indications of the delicate situation for both sides in crucial talks about the future of the bilateral accords. Some members of the audience might have come away from Saturday’s speeches, presentations and panel discussions with a certain feeling of disappointment. Hoping to get some insight into ongoing negotiations between Switzerland and Brussels, they were certainly told of the importance of stable relations both for the economy and citizens in Switzerland and the 28-nation bloc. But neither Roberto Balzaretti, head of the directorate for European affairs in the Swiss foreign ministry, nor Michael Matthiessen, the EU ambassador to Switzerland, were willing to reveal any details of the tricky negotiations. Brussels has been pushing for Switzerland to agree a framework accord to consolidate a system of bilateral accords, but ...
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Facetime: when football fans pay price for burka ban

Sat, 08/11/2018 - 15:00
Almost every article published by swissinfo.ch contains a percentage, an age, an amount of money or some other figure. Here’s a round-up of the most interesting statistics to appear in the past week’s stories. Monday 40 Heavy rains and violent winds pummeled the Lake Geneva area with wind gusts of over 90 km/hour and 40 mm of rain flooding streets and cellars.  Tuesday 37 That's the number of legal proceedings initiated against people breaking the law in Switzerland's Italian-speaking canton of Ticino on covering up their faces in public. Known as the "burka ban", most cases haven't involved Burka- or Nijab-wearing women but masked football fans instead. Wednesday 1,900,000,000 Various costs related to traffic jams totalled CHF1.9 billion ($1.9 billion) in 2015, up 7% from 2010. The authorities said that costs stemming from wasted time accounted for 70% of the losses. Thursday 330 The Polish government announced that it had acquired a Second World War-era ...
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Which issues are important to the Swiss abroad?

Sat, 08/11/2018 - 13:44
Hundreds of Swiss citizens living abroad are gathered in the Alps to compare notes and find solutions for issues affecting them. At the Organisation of the Swiss Abroad (OSA) annual conference in Visp, we asked attendees from all over the world to tell us about themselves and why keeping up with Swiss affairs is important to them.
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Annemarie Schwarzenbach: first port of call is Spain

Sat, 08/11/2018 - 11:00
Her first major journey took Swiss journalist and photographer Annemarie Schwarzenbach to Spain. It marked the start of her travels around the world, which she photographed. In May 1933 Annemarie Schwarzenbach embarked on her first journalistic tour of Spain together with friend and photographer, Marianne Breslauer. The journey was financed by the sale of her stories and photos to the press. In October of the same year they both travelled for the first time to Persia and then to Moscow, completing their journey through the Orient in April 1934. Later on, she would travel to the United States and document the Great Depression as well as the re-election of Franklin Roosevelt. A passionate journalist, Schwarzenbach wrote her first book "Freunde um Bernhard" (Bernhard’s Circle of Friends) after finishing her studies at the age of 23. Submerging herself in the world of literature, she became life-long friends with siblings Erika and Klaus Mann. Klaus was a trusty travelling ...
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Brussels’ man in Bern hints at Swiss protectionism

Fri, 08/10/2018 - 17:00
The European Union’s ambassador to Switzerland, Michael Matthiessen, highlights the benefits for Switzerland of close relations with the EU, but he diplomatically warns against measures that discriminate against EU companies. swissinfo.ch spoke to Matthiessen on the eve of the annual Congress of the Swiss Abroad. This year’s theme is “Switzerland without Europe – Europe without Switzerland”. Since 2014, Bern and Brussels have been negotiating an institutional framework agreement with each other. Its purpose is to reorganise the selected bilateral agreements – in particular those agreements concerning single market access. But the procedure has raised various questions, for example regarding correct interpretation and application, adaptation to changing EU law and dispute resolution.  + Read more about Switzerland’s relations with the EU + Framing the terms for future Swiss-EU relations  swissinfo.ch: Why do we need this famous institutional framework agreement?  Michael ...
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Expat Swiss push for e-voting despite reluctance at home

Fri, 08/10/2018 - 16:57
The expat Swiss assembly is putting pressure on the government and parliament to ensure that e-voting is in place for all Swiss citizens living abroad by 2021. Delegates of the Council of the Swiss Abroad meeting in the town of Visp on Friday, approved plans to launch an online petition calling for the introduction of e-voting over the next three years. “It’s in your hands now,” Remo Gysin, president of the Organisation of the Swiss Abroad (OSA) commented the result. Currently, more than 172,000 Swiss abroad have registered to take part in votes and elections in Switzerland. In total, the Swiss abroad community has just over 751,000 members. The OSA hopes that at least 10,000 people will sign the petition over the next three months. “We want to give a clear signal against the growing trend in parliament against e-voting,” OSA director Ariane Rustichelli told the assembly. Hans-Georg Bosch, delegate from South Africa, said e-voting was often the only possibility to exercise ...
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How to motivate young adults to participate in politics

Fri, 08/10/2018 - 11:00
Voter turnout among young adults is well below the population average. We discover the true political interests of young people. Only around one in three adolescents between the ages of 18 and 25 exercise their voting rights. Since 2014, political scientist Cloé Jans from the polling and research institute gfs.bern has been investigating the political participation of young adults. Jans found that e-voting or the lowering of the voting age are much less decisive for the participation of young adults than political education; this is also the opinion of individuals in this age group. Topical relevance, emotion, and personal concerns are ultimately the factors that drive young people to the ballot box.Together with the umbrella organisation Swiss Youth Parliaments (DSJ), gfs.bern interviewed about 1,500 students between the ages of 15 and 25 with the easyvote Politics Monitor.
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Should we worry about low voter turnouts in Switzerland?

Fri, 08/10/2018 - 11:00
On average, less than half of registered Swiss voters go to the polls. But there’s no need (yet) to panic about possible negative effects on the country’s democracy.  “If voting changed anything, they’d make it illegal.” Really? The line often attributed to early-20th-century anarchist Emma Goldman hardly reflects the political situation 100 years on: whatever your opinion of Donald Trump or Brexit (to take the most mediatised phenomena of recent years) the least you can say is that they have changed something. In Switzerland, especially, the chance to make a difference through voting stare you in the face: four times yearly, registered citizens decide on everything from the mundane (should the trees on Geneva’s Plainpalais square be torn down and replanted?) to the momentous (should the country curb immigration from the European Union?). So why do we not do it more? Around the world, voter turnouts have been steadily dropping in recent decades. And in Switzerland, where a ...
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GAM: hard times on Hardstrasse

Fri, 08/10/2018 - 10:26
Prime Tower, a glittering skyscraper on Zurich’s Hardstrasse, is usually a place of relative calm and Swiss efficiency. One week ago, however, employees of asset manager GAM arrived to find the normally sedate atmosphere replaced with bedlam. An hour before markets opened, Zurich-listed GAM, which also has large operations in London, stunned investors and the wider asset management community by suspending one of its best-known portfolio managers following an internal probe. “The office was in meltdown,” says a GAM employee. Some London workers were blindsided by Tim Haywood's suspension and staff were warned not to speak to the media. GAM then took the rare move of blocking investors from pulling money from the absolute return bond funds linked to Mr Haywood, after it was hit by a wave of redemption requests in excess of 10 per cent of the strategies’ assets. News the funds had been “gated”, which was only made public two days later, triggered yet another lurch down in the shares.
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Is Switzerland making progress on green issues?

Thu, 08/09/2018 - 17:00
Recent record temperatures in Switzerland have shown clearly the effect of unexpected weather events on wildlife, the landscape and our everyday lives. Is Switzerland doing enough locally to play its part in trying to lessen the effects of climate change, and protect the environment and biodiversity on our doorstep? This week activists staged a protest in Bern calling for more protection of the Swiss environment.  A group of citizens plan to launch an initiative banning fossil fuels in the coming years. And the Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN) has had 27 groups of organisms on a ‘red’ list since 2017. Of the 10,702 species evaluated, 35% are considered endangered and a further 11% potentially. In a report, the office said this shows that efforts to date are not sufficient to preserve biodiversity in Switzerland in the long term: extinction is taking place at a local, regional and national level. But efforts are being made to work on this and change has already taken ...
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‘Someone shouted Heil Hitler at me’

Thu, 08/09/2018 - 17:00
"True Talk" puts people in front of the camera who are fighting prejudice or discrimination. They answer questions that nobody would normally dare to ask directly. Shay is a young man from Switzerland who also happens to be Jewish. Nearly 20,000 Jews live in Switzerland, mainly in the Zurich area. Most of them are Swiss citizens. Nevertheless, Jewish women and men are often treated like foreigners, according to Swiss Public Television, SRF. There are other preconceived ideas about Jews being arrogant, money-grabbing and over-keen to talk about the Holocaust.  Someone once shouted a Nazi slogan at Shay as they drove past him. He says he often gets strange looks when he wears a Kippa. Despite this, he feels safe in Switzerland as, “in other countries, the army has to patrol synagogues. Overall there is not that much anti-Semitism”. (SRF/swissinfo.ch)
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Making Switzerland a better place for birds

Thu, 08/09/2018 - 11:00
If you’re a crested tit in the woods, Switzerland is a great place to live. But if you’re a skylark you’re in trouble – mainly because of intense farming. The Swiss Ornithological Institute wants to improve habitats for all birds. “It’s too tidy here; we get rid of small stones, trees and hedges because we don’t like to ‘waste’ any land,” says Sophie Jaquier, a biologist at the Swiss Ornithological Institute. She’s referring to Switzerland’s limited space for settlements, industry and agriculture. In addition to reducing the living area for birds that nest near the ground, this means less breeding ground for insects – essential for the diets of most birds. The use of pesticides and also herbicides is making it worse. “Insects need these ‘weeds’,” points out Jaquier. And while Swiss woodland birds are doing well thanks to growing forests and deadwood, species that live in agricultural zones are losing out. “Skylarks, for example, breed on the ground, and they like medium-high, ...
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Albinen cash incentives attract new residents

Wed, 08/08/2018 - 14:57
When the Swiss village of Albinen decided to pay people to relocate there, it made global headlines and was flooded with enquires. Now the authorities say they are beginning to find suitable new residents who fulfill the stringent conditions of the deal.  Albinen, perched 1,300 metres high above the Rhone valley in canton Valais, had been suffering a population drain for some time when the village voted in favour of a rescue package in November 2017. Within 80 years, the number of residents had dwindled by about 100. More than half of those left are elderly. Many of Albinen’s houses are now holiday homes, and the school had to close ten years ago for lack of pupils. The remaining five school-age children now make the 20-minute bus ride to neighbouring villages every day. If a school were to reopen in the village, it was thought more families would be tempted to live there.  Under the repopulation plan, any Swiss or permanent resident of Switzerland who decided to move to the ...
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Is the sustainable palm oil label on a slippery slope?

Wed, 08/08/2018 - 11:00
A recent spat between Swiss food giant Nestlé and the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) highlights a growing rift over certification.  There is no such thing as bad publicity. Unless you are a multinational firm whose most recognisable product has been transformed into an object of revulsion via social media. This is what happened to Nestlé in 2010 when it was accused by Greenpeace of abetting deforestation in tropical countries by using unsustainable palm oil in its products. To drive the message home, Greenpeace created a gory YouTube video in the style of a Kit Kat advertisement that equated eating the chocolate bar with killing orangutan apes.  Nestlé still uses a lot of palm oil. According to the annual report it submitted to RSPO, the company sourced close to 460,000 tonnes in 2017. This is more than 15 times the amount imported by Switzerland where the company is based. However, around 20% of Nestlé's palm oil has been certified as sustainable by the RSPO: a ...
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Why current air pollution limits only tackle half the problem

Wed, 08/08/2018 - 08:00
Switzerland-based scientists tell swissinfo.ch why a comparison between air samples from Swiss farmland and downtown Beijing suggests that setting pollution restrictions based on particle mass concentration alone may not be enough to protect against health risks. On June 1 of this year, Switzerland’s environment ministry enacted stricter controls on air pollution; specifically, on particles with diameters equal to or smaller than 2.5 micrometers. The new regulation reduces the maximum size of suspended particulate matter (PM) from 10 micrometers to better protect against extremely fine pollutants – which can lead to respiratory illnesses as well as cardiovascular disease and cancer – in accordance with World Health Organization recommendations. But recent research from EMPA, the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology, suggests that air quality control could be improved by accounting for regional differences in the chemical composition of these ...
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