Home | Feed aggregator | Sources

Swissinfo EN

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: 11 hours 6 min ago

‘Excellent’ or ‘bigoted’? Readers react to St Gallen burka ban

Mon, 09/24/2018 - 15:59
Certain topics are guaranteed to generate heated comments from swissinfo.ch readers. On Sunday, two-thirds of voters in a Swiss canton decided to ban face coverings in public – with Muslim women in mind. The article went viral and reaction from readers flooded in. Here’s a representative selection.  The news that St Gallen in northeastern Switzerland had become the second Swiss canton after Ticino to ban face coverings didn’t come as a huge surprise, but it still stole the limelight from the three national votes on Sunday.  Readers left a range of opinions on swissinfo.ch’s English and Arabic sites and social media. We rejected about a third of reader comments on the English page for breaching our terms of use, in this case usually for being offensive or discriminatory.  Of the posts we approved, around 50% agreed with the ban and 10% disagreed with it. Some 40% were generally neutral about Islam and wanted to get other things off their chest.  ‘Nothing to do with Islam’  ...
Categories: News EN

The turbulent birth of the youngest Swiss canton

Mon, 09/24/2018 - 13:27
Exactly 40 years ago, on September 24, 1978, Swiss voters gave the go-ahead for the creation of the new canton of Jura, which seceded from canton Bern after several years of strife. An emphatic majority of Swiss voters, some 82.3%, came out in favour of the new canton, leaving the path clear for the districts of Délemont, Porrentruy, and Franches-Montagnes to break from Bern and form their own canton – Switzerland's 26th. The Jura region had been given to canton Bern following the 1815 Congress of Vienna, after passing through the hands of the bishop of Basel and – during the Revolution and Napoleonic Empire – France.  The integration of the region's french-speaking and Catholic minority into mainly German-speaking and Protestant Bern proved problematic, however, and tensions escalated notably in the 1960s, before being peacefully settled at the ballot box. That's not to say the story is over: just last year, Moutier, a French-speaking town in western canton Bern, voted by a ...
Categories: News EN

Solomon wants to start a new life

Mon, 09/24/2018 - 11:00
Like many refugees in Switzerland, Solomon Aklilu hasn’t got a job. But thanks to a government program, he can now do an internship and attend school. With precise gestures and seamless coordination of his fingers, Solomon places little sheets of copper into a press. He pulls a lever and the pieces are transformed into neat corners as if by magic. He checks them with a careful eye, then lays them aside and starts again. Solomon Aklilu, a 24-year-old Eritrean, has been living in Switzerland for three years. We meet him at the Hegg factory in Münchenbuchsee, a village about ten kilometres from Bern. Solomon began his internship as a roofer on August 1. It is not a proper apprenticeship, but a preliminary training – a first step on the ladder towards professional integration for people with refugee status, or immigrants who have temporary asylum in Switzerland. “I wanted to learn a trade, but my German isn’t good enough,” says the young Eritrean, who holds an F permit. “After ...
Categories: News EN

Ethical food proposals brushed off the table

Sun, 09/23/2018 - 17:26
Voters have thrown out two proposals aimed at promoting ethical standards in food production and boosting local farming in Switzerland. But the government's agriculture policy will continue to be on the political agenda. Official final results show the 'Food Sovereignty' initiative and the 'Fair Food' initiative winning only about 32% and 39% of the vote respectively. The initiatives were supported in French-language regions of the country and in urban centres, while the majority in German- and Italian-speaking Switzerland voted against the initiatives.  The campaigners conceded defeat, saying the "scaremongering" by the government and political parties had had an impact. They argued problems for Swiss farmers would persist, but the public debate had raised public awareness of food and agricultural issues.  The two government ministers in charge of food safety and of agriculture, Alain Berset and Johann Schneider-Ammann, welcomed the outcome of Sunday's vote, saying it was ...
Categories: News EN

Bikes coast into Swiss constitution with clear voter support

Sun, 09/23/2018 - 16:38
Almost three-quarters of Swiss voters have approved a proposal to enshrine cycling, and cycling infrastructure, in the country’s constitution. Four decades after walkers in Switzerland earned the privilege of a constitutional place – voters approved an article on the principles of maintaining footpaths and hiking trails in 1979 – cyclists are now set for equal treatment. Some 73.6% of voters said "yes" on Sunday to giving federal authorities more responsibility in coordinating and developing cycle paths nationwide. Turnout was 37.1%, below average, according to Federal Chancellery figures. All 26 cantons voted in favour, with Vaud coming out as most supportive (86.3%), and Obwalden least keen (57.2%). The results surpassed the predictions of opinion polls carried out in the lead-up to the vote. Matthias Aebischer, a Social Democrat Party politician and president of the Pro Velo cycling lobby group, told Swiss public radio RTS he was "astonished" by the scale of the support ...
Categories: News EN

Voters approve ‘burka ban’ in St Gallen

Sun, 09/23/2018 - 13:58
Face coverings have been banned in public in canton St Gallen in northeastern Switzerland. Two-thirds of voters agreed with the cantonal parliament and supported the so-called “burka ban”, which had been challenged by parties on the political left.  St Gallen thus becomes the second of Switzerland’s 26 cantons, after Ticino in 2016, to ban the burka. The Swiss government has come out against a similar proposal at a national level. Turnout on Sunday was 35.8%, with a total of 73,830 people – out of a canton of some 500,000 – backing the measure.  The rightwing Swiss People’s Party said it hoped the ban would have a preventative effect. Opponents spoke of “playing to the gallery”, pointing out it was already illegal to force a woman to wear a burka and that the law’s implementation would be “completely random”.  Cantonal police will now have the discretion to decide whether a person whose face is covered “threatens or endangers public safety or the religious or social peace”.  ...
Categories: News EN

Bolivia, Syngenta and getting into a Swiss university

Sun, 09/23/2018 - 12:00
Here are some of the stories we'll be following the week of September 24: Monday Solomon Aklilu hasn’t got a job. But thanks to a government programme, he is able to do an internship and attend school. A portrait of the 24-year-old Eritrean, who has been living in Switzerland for three years and learning the roofing trade in Bern. Tuesday As part of a new business series, we look at what it’s like working for a Swiss multinational. This week we visit Syngenta - one of the largest agribusiness companies in the world. Jessica Davis Plüss travels to the firm’s headquarters in Basel to talk to employees. Wednesday In a new longform multimedia article, Luigi Jorio visits Bolivia, one of the poorest countries in Latin America, to find out how local communities are coping with climate change. Thursday How hard is it for international students to get admission into a Swiss university? Anand Chandrashekar breaks it down for you and compares the process with the ...
Categories: News EN

Annemarie Schwarzenbach: Winter's journey to the Near East

Sat, 09/22/2018 - 11:00
The Swiss writer and photographer, Annemarie Schwarzenbach, was considered a pioneer of travel photography. She led the life of a migrant, calling herself an "incurable traveller". In autumn 1933 she embarked on her first journey to the Near East, which took her to Turkey, Syria and Iraq, among other places. Schwarzenbach began her first journey to the East with the Orient Express to Istanbul. In Turkey she took her first pictures of local people before continuing her journey to Syria a couple of months later where she visited cities and saw the countryside. There followed stays in Lebanon, Palestine, and Iraq as well as Persia, today's Iran. During this winter journey, which lasted several months, she struggled through mountain ranges in her car, and used her camera to document numerous places that are off limits to today's foreign travellers, such as Baghdad and Aleppo. Here is Schwarzenbach's itinerary of the most important places: ​​​​​​​In April 1934 Schwarzenbach ...
Categories: News EN

From CEO salaries to alleged Russian spies

Sat, 09/22/2018 - 09:00
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 800 The number of people from the village of Rheinau near Zurich who have signed up for an unconditional basic income experimental project. Participants will receive an unconditional basic income of CHF2,500 per month for one year. Filmmaker Rebecca Panian is planning a documentary about how the project affects the town on the Rhine River in northern Switzerland. Tuesday 3,500 The age of an extremely rare Bronze-Age golden artifact presented to the public, which came from an ancient burial site in northwestern Switzerland. Police appear to be investigating whether any artifacts were unlawfully taken from the site. A bronze dagger, needle and hair spiral, along with bones of a human male that date from around 1,500 BC to 1,400 BC were also found. Wednesday 18 ...
Categories: News EN

Why expatriate Swiss seldom vote

Fri, 09/21/2018 - 17:00
More than half of the Swiss electorate do not take part in national elections. Turnout among the Swiss Abroad is particularly low.  Paradoxically, direct democracy is one of the biggest reasons for low turnout in elections to elect parliamentary representatives, as the Swiss can vote on various policy issues in initiatives and referendums up to four times a year.  This reduces the significance of national elections. In a survey, the second-most cited reason given by those who stayed away from such elections was that referendums and initiatives offer a greater opportunity to wield influence. This is reinforced by the fact that the Swiss government is very stable compared with many other democracies, and that all the big parties are represented in the cabinet. In short, federal elections in Switzerland are just not seen as that important.  Given that there are usually four votes on referendums and initiatives every year, generally people devote more time to political issues than ...
Categories: News EN

Swiss journalism icon took his own life 25 years ago

Fri, 09/21/2018 - 15:00
Swiss journalist and intellectual Niklaus Meienberg, who was particularly well respected in German-speaking Switzerland, ended his own life 25 years ago.   After studying history at the University of Fribourg and Zurich, Niklaus Meienberg became a journalist. He went first to Paris, where he covered the start of May 1968 events and the rise of the French politician François Mitterrand. His Paris years helped to seal his reputation. Meienberg’s articles, which were popular with the public, appeared in leading newspapers such as Weltwoche, Tages-Anzeiger and Ostschweiz. Returning to Switzerland, he became a real icon of journalism thanks to his reporting. But he was deliberately controversial, also making enemies by attacking the establishment. This is the case, for example, with his damning portrait of the reigning prince of Liechtenstein or of Ulrich Wille, the general who led the Swiss army during the First World War. His polemic writing meant that he was no longer published ...
Categories: News EN

Globi: the cartoon character explaining democracy to kids

Fri, 09/21/2018 - 11:00
Consensus government, division of powers, federal constitution: all frightening words for children. But now, a new book – and a popular animated character – tries to explain to the young how democracy functions in Switzerland. It’s difficult to explain the Swiss political system to children. Anyone who has tried has probably been met by blank looks; many children see politics as something belonging firmly in the adult world. How can we make children enthusiastic about politics? “By telling them a story and taking them on a journey through Switzerland with a familiar and popular children’s comic character,” says Marc Zollinger, the author of recently-published ‘Globi and Democracy’. Ambassador for democracy Globi, who is half person and half parrot, was conceived as a character to advertise the department-store chain Globus more than 80 years ago. The blue bird character quickly conquered the hearts of Swiss children with his comic books. And he still does today. With his ...
Categories: News EN

When it comes to day trippers, Lucerne tops Venice

Thu, 09/20/2018 - 17:44
Around nine million tourists visit the picturesque Swiss city of Lucerne every year. It's estimated that, when it comes to the number of day trippers per inhabitant, Lucerne has more than Venice. It's great for the economy, but a nuisance for local people, disturbed by coaches and people clogging the streets. Swiss newspaper, the NZZ, found that, with 9.4 million visitors compared to 81,000 inhabitants, the city has 116 day trippers per inhabitant. In Venice, with its 260,000 inhabitants and 25 million visitors per year, the figure is 96. It's hard to compare, considering the small area that tourists are most likely to visit. Looking at just the historic centre of Venice, with its 62,000 residents, the numbers look quite different again.  Swiss Public Television, RTS, carried out a similar survey and also found that Lucerne topped the 'tourist intensity' league compared with Rome, Barcelona, Paris and Venice. However, Vatican City, with a resident population of just 842, was not ...
Categories: News EN

Teen mum: I wouldn't change it for the world

Thu, 09/20/2018 - 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.  Nadja became pregnant at the age of 17. It was unplanned, but she decided to keep her child. It was a decision that changed the young woman's life - for the better, she says.   Nadja was already three months pregnant when she found out. For Nadja and her boyfriend, giving the baby up for adoption wasn't an option, they wanted to keep the baby. But this wasn't an easy decision for the young couple, Nadja says, as "in Switzerland there is almost no support for young mothers", adding "with child benefit of CHF220, I can barely buy enough nappies each month". Nevertheless, the 23-year-old doesn't regret her decision for a second: "My daughter is the best thing that ever happened to me. I wouldn't give her back for all the money in the world". (SRF, swissinfo.ch)
Categories: News EN

‘You can’t buy coffee with bitcoin, but you can start a company’

Thu, 09/20/2018 - 11:00
Dozens of blockchain startups have got off the ground in Switzerland using cryptoassets as their startup capital, circumnavigating banks. But the strategy is not without risk. swissinfo.ch has traced 60 firms that have stumped up the new brand of digital money to either set up or inject fresh capital into their enterprise. It is a particularly attractive option for companies that raised high volumes of cryptocurrencies through initial coin offering (ICO) fundraising rounds. For some firms, using cryptoassets rather than francs to cover the founding capital requirement is the perfect antidote to banks refusing to open business accounts. SwissCrypOne is a Zug-based trading platform that connects investors with a crypto mining operation in Finland. “We spent days going around every bank in the region with a begging bowl, but were rejected by them all,” CEO Bing Voorham told swissinfo.ch. “Without the option of bitcoin, we were struggling to get established in Crypto Valley.” ...
Categories: News EN

Swiss springboard for Bitmain’s European crypto expansion

Thu, 09/20/2018 - 11:00
The world’s largest producer of bitcoin mining hardware, Bitmain, tells swissinfo.ch why it has chosen Switzerland as a location from which to expand its European footprint from a newly created ‘fintech hub’.  Beijing headquartered Bitmain has cornered the market in producing specialist computer cards and other equipment to create - or ‘mine’ - bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. The incorporation of Bitmain Switzerland in Zug’s Crypto Valley last December therefore created a stir.  As the company seeks to expand globally, Switzerland’s central location, crypto-friendly political and regulatory sentiment and growing blockchain business cluster is the perfect springboard from which to develop the European market, explains Bernhard Müller, business development manager at Bitmain Switzerland. “We will help entrepreneurs get access to investments, so they can realise their blockchain projects,” he told swissinfo.ch. “We want to support and help grow the strong fintech ecosystem ...
Categories: News EN

When children forced to marry stay married

Thu, 09/20/2018 - 10:43
Marriages involving minors must be annulled, according to Swiss law. However, exceptions are permitted if it seems to be in the child’s best interests. This provision must be done away with to combat forced marriages more effectively, says lawyer Anu Sivaganesan. If a 16-year-old is already married upon arrival in Switzerland, the marriage can be recognized in consideration of the teen’s interests. Article 105 (6) of the Swiss Civil Code calls for marriages with a minor spouse to be annulled, unless “the continuation of the marriage is in the best interests of that spouse”. A motion by parliamentarian Natalie Rickli of conservative right Swiss People’s Party is calling for this exception to be removed. The National Bureau for Forced Marriage welcomes this request. Its president, Anu Sivaganesan, has been pointing out a legal loophole for years. swissinfo.ch: Why should the law on married minors be revised? Anu Sivaganesan: The law provides for a balancing of interests that ...
Categories: News EN

Swiss art sales set a steady, humble pace

Wed, 09/19/2018 - 18:14
​​​​​​​ Giacometti paintings led an intense night of bidding at Christie’s annual auction of Swiss art in Zurich. Netting a total CHF5,369,500, the auction house also bucked the downward trend of Swiss art sales in the last few years. The auction attracted interest from clients from 20 countries (+50% on 2017) with an increase in registered bidders of 48% over the same sale last year. The number of new registrants also doubled. Many artworks fetched values far above their highest estimates while the auction also featured more contemporary pieces (see gallery below). Hans-Peter Keller, Impressionist and Modern Art specialist at Christie’s in Zurich, told swissinfo.ch that the demand for more contemporary works is an imperative, as “sooner or later the offer of traditional pieces will diminish considerably”. The numbers prove Keller right: according to artprice.com, since 2000, the share of contemporary art in global sales jumped from 3% to 15%, while 19th century and Old Masters ...
Categories: News EN

Wettstein – the first Swiss diplomat had the city of Basel in mind

Wed, 09/19/2018 - 11:00
It was 370 years ago that the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648) ended with the peace conference at Münster, Westphalia. Johann Rudolf Wettstein was the man of the hour for the Swiss Confederacy. Although Switzerland had largely been spared in the hostilities, there was a unique opportunity at the negotiating table to get clarity about things that Swiss are still concerned about: trade and the jurisdiction of foreign courts, power politics and the international status of the Confederacy. This was a herculean task that required a clever diplomat.  In 2018 we can commemorate two epoch-making peace treaties: the treaty of Versailles ending the First World War (1914-1918), and the treaty of Westphalia ending the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648). While Versailles has gone down in history as a miscalculation with eventually disastrous results, the Peace of Westphalia is considered today as one of the most useful and long-lasting agreements in European history. swissinfo.ch asked Andreas ...
Categories: News EN

Six trend foods that grow in Switzerland

Wed, 09/19/2018 - 10:34
Crops once exclusive to South and Central America are now flourishing in Switzerland as the demand for unusual foods and those with specific health benefits grows. Here are six examples. 1. Quinoa can give you ideas Growing quinoa in Switzerland was the 2014 brainchild of Mirjam Lüthi, a Swiss agronomist who researched the crop and found it to be compatible with the Swiss climate and its soil. Quinoa has its origins in the Andean region of South America, where it’s been grown for thousands of years. Highly nutritious and healthy, quinoa is becoming increasingly popular in Switzerland. Only a handful of farmers started planting the crop in 2015, whereas in 2017, there were 34 producers planting 40 hectares. 2. One potato, sweet potato  After the common potato and manioc, sweet potato is one of the world’s most popular root and tuber plants. The sweet potato is native to Central America and is cultivated in over 100 countries. In 2014 the sweet potato trend first came onto ...
Categories: News EN