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Updated: 3 hours 26 min ago

Is there such a thing as ‘Latin Switzerland’?

Fri, 03/09/2018 - 09:00
Switzerland’s French and Italian speakers - the ‘Latins’ - are sometimes painted as a single political bloc forming a natural ally against the German-speakers. But this is far from the truth. There is a moment, during the train journey from Bern to Geneva, after rolling through the farmlands of Fribourg, when you enter a long tunnel. All normal, you think. But then you suddenly emerge high above the turquoise crescent of Lac Léman, fringed on one side by sheer mountains that seem to spring straight from the water and on the other by warrens of stacked twisting vineyards, and, especially if the sun is shining, it’s difficult not to think: the South. The same sensation is present when cresting (or burrowing through) the Gotthard, connecting German-speaking canton Uri with Italian-speaking Ticino, where you’re likely to be met with sunshine and palm trees. There is a reason Switzerland has names for the virtual dividing lines between its linguistic regions: the so-called ...
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Fynn: ‘I don't have to choose between being a man or a woman’

Thu, 03/08/2018 - 18:00
"True Talk" puts people in front of the camera who are fighting prejudice. They answer questions that nobody would normally dare to ask directly. This week, we speak to Fynn who defines himself as non-binary. He says the climate is much safer now for people to declare themselves as trans. (SRF/swissinfo.ch)
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Swiss women have come a long way, but still face discrimination

Thu, 03/08/2018 - 08:57
Switzerland has been swept up in the grassroots ‘#metoo’ movement and the growing dissatisfaction among women with the status quo. A lot has changed since 1971 when Swiss women won the right to vote. The social media campaign against sexual harassment and for gender equality, which started in the United States last year, has given fresh energy to today’s women’s movement in Switzerland, according to Silvia Binggeli, editor-in-chief of the Swiss women’s magazine, Annabelle, which was founded 80 years ago. She participated in the Women’s March in Zurich one year ago and was impressed by the number of women and men from multiple generations who turned out. She argues, “there is a women’s movement underway today. I see younger colleagues that are much more politically active than ten years ago.” However, gender equality remains elusive in both Switzerland and the US. In the US, the women’s movement is often described in three waves starting with the first women’s rights convention ...
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Telling the untold stories of the Swiss women’s movement

Thu, 03/08/2018 - 08:53
In 1972, Margrit Zinggeler took her first trip to the US, accompanying her husband who was working as a computer programmer. The women’s liberation movement was in full swing and Margrit embraced it, enrolling in women’s studies classes at the University of Minnesota and burying her head in books like Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique.  A few months before arriving in Minnesota, Margrit had become part of the first generation of women to vote in a national election in Switzerland. She remembers the celebratory atmosphere and receiving flowers from the local community representative as she entered the voting booth in Zurich.  Only after arriving in the US did she realise how much more progressive it was than her home country. “There was much more solidarity among American women than I had seen in Switzerland. So many more women were attending university, and the sexual revolution was transforming women’s sense of identity like nothing I had seen in Switzerland.” The fight ...
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Trump tariff plan may spark ‘undesirable chain reaction’

Wed, 03/07/2018 - 18:22
Switzerland and 17 other members of the World Trade Organization (WTO) have expressed their fears over United States President Donald Trump’s decision to slap tariffs on steel and aluminium imports, with most urging the United States to reconsider.  In Geneva, leading trading partners of the US outlined their misgivings over Trump’s proposed tariffs of 25% on steel and 10% on aluminium, and fears of tit-for-tat trade actions, a WTO spokesman said on Wednesday.  China raised the issues at a closed-door WTO general counsel meeting on Wednesday, and ambassadors and other officials from Australia, Brazil, the European Union, India, Japan, Norway and Russia warned US action would be unjustified and improper.  “Our concern is that this measure, which is widely contested by various countries, may cause other protectionist reactions. This could cause an undesirable chain reaction,” Swiss ambassador to the WTO Didier Chambovey told swissinfo.ch.  “Certain Swiss interests are also ...
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How work has evolved for Switzerland’s women and men

Wed, 03/07/2018 - 18:00
We take a look in graphics at how gender patterns have evolved in Switzerland’s labour market.    The Swiss labour market is the most discriminatory in Europe in terms of gender equality, according to British magazine The Economist. It puts Switzerland 21st out of 21 European countries and 26th out of 29 OECD countries. The main reasons are traditional views of gender roles and women’s difficulties reconciling family and professional life.  Changes in gender proportions But the situation is far from static. We looked at the data for more than 500 professions over 50 years to see which ones saw the biggest changes in gender patterns.  Although many professions have become more diversified in less than 50 years, gender segregation nevertheless remains widespread. A 2013 international survey found that Switzerland was the country with the most professional gender segregation. The graphic below shows the professions most strongly dominated by one gender. This situation brings ...
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As time takes its toll, the Zytglogge gets a facelift

Wed, 03/07/2018 - 12:02
The Zytglogge is one of Bern's most important sights: the ornate astronomical clock has served the city of Bern since 1530, but now the intricate moving parts have been taken away for repairs. A large crowd of tourists can normally be found watching the clock from the cobbled streets below as it strikes each hour, on the hour. It’s a highlight of the city’s old town – a UNESCO world heritage site. The clock itself is a fascinating piece of machinery: on the outside, it’s not only the numerous hands that move, but also characters such as a jester, a cockerel and of course, bears. On the inside of the clock tower a complex system of giant cogs, wheels, levers and knobs turn together to keep the clock on time. The rhythm is set by a giant pendulum. The many intricate parts need to be kept in excellent working order in order to function properly, and so the clock faces and various moving characters have been taken away to be cleaned and repaired. They’re due to return in June 2018. ...
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How do the Swiss deal with firearms? Your questions, answered

Wed, 03/07/2018 - 12:00
Following recent gun law debates in the United States, many readers wanted to know more about how gun issues are handled in Switzerland. Here are answers to some of the most frequently-asked questions, including why a country with so many guns in private hands has so few mass shootings.  What kind of guns are ordinary people allowed to own? Are there any conditions or requirements they have to meet? There’s a clear right in Swiss law for ordinary Swiss citizens to possess a gun. However, there are some requirements that need to be fulfilled first. Notification requirement Certain types of firearms only have a “notification” requirement. This means you’ll need a written contract that details the person selling or transferring the weapon and the person acquiring it. Specifics of the weapon need to be included. The person transferring the weapon has to send this contract to the new holder’s cantonal authorities within 30 days. The guns falling under this category include manual ...
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Bannon brings his ‘populist revolt’ to Zurich

Tue, 03/06/2018 - 23:27
In front of a sold-out crowd of over 1,500 in the Swiss city, former Trump chief strategist Steve Bannon spoke about the reasons for right-wing resurgence in Europe, and why the coming years will be far from stable. The list of items banned from the Zurich venue is long: guns, knives, axes, handsaws; fireworks, megaphones, hi-fi systems; photography equipment and laptops; umbrellas, selfie-sticks, pets; even, oddly enough, roller shoes. But neither the airtight security nor the dreary March evening has stopped a huge crowd turning out to see the European début of Steve Bannon – former chief strategist of Donald Trump and editor of alt-right Breitbart News – on Tuesday night, where he was invited to speak on the future of global populism by Swiss magazine Weltwoche. At 6:30 pm the queue to enter the Halle622 venue in the Oerlikon district stretches 20 metres down the street; by 7, half an hour before the event is due to start, it's ballooned almost as far as the local train ...
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How to make friends with a Swiss person

Tue, 03/06/2018 - 18:00
Misinformed stereotype or stark reality? Whichever way round it is, how to make friends with the Swiss is a topic for most expats at some point during their time here. This animated guide lays out some ground rules for forming friendships with the Swiss - all with a heavy dose of humour. (SRF, swissinfo.ch) Whether you're in Switzerland for business or pleasure, the guide has a wide range of pointers that could come in handy. It explains the 'challenges' of getting close to a Swiss person, and offers some advice on getting over the most commonly-encountered hurdles.  But don't take this too seriously, this clip was part of the latest instalment of the comedy show 'Deville Late Night', part of the German-language programming on Swiss public television, SRF. 
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Media sees a political tsunami in Italy

Tue, 03/06/2018 - 15:20
The Swiss press has pointed to the huge challenges facing its neighbour Italy, after two anti-establishment parties made huge gains in Sunday’s election. The Swiss media is sceptical as to whether these parties will deliver on their promises. “A political tsunami in Italy” is how the Aargauer Zeitung/MLZ titles its opinion piece on Tuesday. “Nothing will ever be the same again after this election,” writes Dominik Straub from Rome.  “It’s difficult not to see this as a populist tidal wave,” wrote the French-speaking Le Temps, continuing the water theme. “More than one in two Italian voters voted for an anti-establishment and anti-Europe party. The northern half for the xenophobic League (Lega) of Matteo Salvini. The southern half for the Five Star Movement of Luigi Di Maio.” Both papers said that the traditional parties had been swept away. The once strong Democratic Party has suffered its worst result in history, wrote Straub. And for ex-Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, ...
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What happens when you flush the toilet at Europe’s highest railway station?

Tue, 03/06/2018 - 09:00
swissinfo.ch went behind the scenes at one of Switzerland’s highest tourist attractions, the Jungfraujoch, to find out what it takes to keep over a million visitors hydrated, fed and breathing.    It is a little after 7am on a dark January morning but the Grindelwald railway station is already packed with excited Korean tourists wanting to take the first train to Jungfraujoch. At 3,454 meters it is billed as the “Top of Europe” experience.  Visitors pay a small fortune (about $200) to ride the train the ten or so kilometres up the mountain from the village, and back down again. It’s the price they pay to take pictures of the unparalleled views, have a snowball fight or eat a curry lunch at Switzerland’s high-altitude Indian restaurant.  Technician Toni Eilert makes the journey almost every day, and for free. The 57-year-old takes the first train up from Grindelwald with the tourists. swissinfo.ch followed him around to see what his job entails.  With the bunch of keys he ...
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Why is Steve Bannon coming to Zurich?

Mon, 03/05/2018 - 18:00
Looking ahead to a speech by former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon in Zurich on Tuesday, political scientist Daniel Warner deconstructs the media buzz surrounding the visit of the self-proclaimed founder of alt-right America, and what it means for Swiss politics. Following the Swiss frenzy during an otherwise politically uneventful trip by President Donald Trump to the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos last January, Swiss media are now focusing on a March 6 visit to Zurich by Trump’s former Chief Strategist, Steve Bannon. Trump’s fly-by had politicians, business leaders and the usual WEF crowd falling over themselves to see, hear and photograph the American president. Bannon’s visit is also attracting considerable attention: his speech has been moved to the Oerlikon Event Center (a traditional host to rock concerts) from a smaller venue to accommodate a sold-out crowd of 1,600. Security will be airport-tight, and the predictable protesters are scheduled outside ...
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Famous Chillon castle faces funding shortfall

Mon, 03/05/2018 - 18:00
Chillon Castle on Lake Geneva is one of the most impressive and most visited medieval castles in Europe, but its managers are now worried about its upkeep. (SRF/swissinfo.ch)  Last year, it attracted over 400,000 tourists, a record number. Now the municipality of Veytaux has raised taxes on ticket sales by 40%, increasing the castle's tax burden by CHF100,000 ($107,000) per year. Veytaux says it is in dire financial straits and has no choice but to raise taxes.  The castle will now pay more than CHF250,000 in ticket taxes per year: more than they receive from the canton for the upkeep of the castle. Managers are wondering whether they will still be able to afford the constant renovations necessary to maintain such a large historic building.  The rock island on which the castle was built has been inhabited since prehistoric times. It was both a natural protection and a strategic location to control the passage between northern and southern Europe. It was a profitable toll ...
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Press calls for reforms following licence fee vote

Mon, 03/05/2018 - 11:11
Commentators in the Swiss press have interpreted the overwhelming rejection (71.6%) of the ‘No Billag’ initiative on Sunday as a strong sign of support for a publicly funded Swiss TV and radio service. Nevertheless, they believe that the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation (SBC) must downsize, and opinions vary widely as to how this could be achieved. Neue Zürcher Zeitung The Zurich-based newspaper argued that the “social foundation” for an annual licence fee for Swiss households – which currently sits at CHF451.10 ($482) – is “crumbling”, and that the corporation must therefore consider whether funds should come from the federal budget going forward. “The vote marks the end of an era for the [SBC]; they can no longer finance such a large variety of programs with publicly funded fees. The framework conditions for public broadcasting must be determined by politics,” the paper said. Tages-Anzeiger The Tages-Anzeiger, another Zurich-based German-language paper, noted that Sunday’s ...
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Attack on public broadcasting licence fee clearly fails

Sun, 03/04/2018 - 19:04
Voters have rejected a proposal to do away with the mandatory licence fee for Switzerland’s public broadcasters. Final results show 71.6% of voters throwing out the initiative, which was launched by the youth chapters of two major political parties on the right. All regions and 26 cantons rejected the proposal. Urs Bieri, director of the leading GfS Bern research institute, said the "no" voters were even in the majority in rural, traditionally more conservative regions. Only six of the country's more than 2,250 municipalities came out in favour of the initiative. “The result shows that voters want to maintain a public service broadcaster and that they are prepared to pay a licence fee,” Communications Minister Doris Leuthard said at a news conference on Sunday. She said the result was a verdict against a system with exclusively commercial radio and television programmes in Switzerland. Leuthard described the result as a fiasco for critics of a public licence fee and called ...
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Tax ‘total meltdown’ averted

Sun, 03/04/2018 - 17:17
More than 84% of voters have renewed the government’s right to tax its citizens and companies for another 15 years. This is a unique feature of Switzerland’s political system of direct democracy and federalism.   The issue was largely sidelined by the initiative on the public broadcasting licence fee. Yet a serious amount of money was at stake: two-thirds of the government’s tax revenue (including VAT), or CHF43.5 billion ($44.4 billion) in 2016.  Although highly unlikely, rejection would have been a nightmare for the government.  “This would be a total meltdown and I don’t even want to think about it,” said Finance Minister Ueli Maurer in January. “If voters were to say no, the Swiss government wouldn’t have enough funds and there’s no way we could find another source of revenue or introduce spending cuts of the same order.”  On Sunday, a relieved Maurer said the outcome wasn't a surprise but he was happy by the size of the yes vote, ten percentage points higher than the ...
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1970: Can votes be counted with a computer?

Sat, 03/03/2018 - 15:00
The possibility of using computers to count the votes of the Swiss population had been in discussion for some time before a large-scale experiment took place in a district of canton Zurich on February 1, 1970, with the help of the IBM Computer System/360. Although the Zurich city council had been operating small computers since 1965, the use of computers in administration was still in its infancy – and was highly controversial when it came to voting. Few media reports exist on the experiment, but it is known that for the vote on February 1, 1970 a ballot paper was developed which wasn't to be answered with a handwritten yes or no, but with a cross in the correct place. This particular vote was on the construction of a local hospital, money for school trips and road extension in Zurich. Voters were assured that ballots would first be counted by hand and then used by the computer as a test. The following day, the headline in the local Zurich newspaper, the Tages-Anzeiger, was ...
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Switzerland makes its stamp on the world

Sat, 03/03/2018 - 12:00
In 1843, Switzerland became the second country ever to introduce postage stamps; the UK was first in 1840. Early examples of Swiss stamps are therefore some of the most valuable and sought-after in the world. An exhibition showing off the delicate rarities is now running in Bern, as the nation marks 175 years of the Swiss postage stamp. The stamp collection at the Museum of Communication is worth several million Swiss francs. The 4-Rappen (4-cent) stamp, together with the 6-Rappen stamp – both of which can be seen in the exhibition – were the first to be issued throughout continental Europe. Today these are worth a small fortune. Inscribed with "Local-Taxe" at the bottom, the 4-rappen stamp was intended to pay for letters posted within a city, while the 6-rappen stamp, inscribed "Cantonal-Taxe", was used on letters posted and delivered within canton Zurich. Stamp art by Ferdinand Hodler They were both designed with a pattern of fine red lines behind the numbers, to discourage ...
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By the numbers: ‘smartphone addiction’ and expat pay

Fri, 03/02/2018 - 18:00
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 -28.9 The so-called “Beast from the East” weather front hit Switzerland and temperatures dropped to as low as -28.9 degrees Celsius (-20 degrees Fahrenheit). Heavy snowfalls followed later in the week, causing all sorts of transport chaos.  Tuesday 206,875 The average expat can look forward to a pay packet of $206,875 (CHF191,960) in Zurich. Geneva wasn’t far behind. Only expats in Mumbai and San Francisco do better.  Wednesday 31 Only 31% of people in Switzerland manage to take a conscious break from media consumption at least once a day. One in four Swiss never actively switches off at all.  Thursday 6.6 With a market share in Swiss cinemas of 6.6% in 2017, Swiss films had their best year since the record year of 2006, when homegrown films attracted ...
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