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Top news - SWI
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

Geneva to vote on divisive secularism law

Tue, 02/05/2019 - 12:00
Citizens in Geneva will decide on Sunday whether to back a controversial new law aimed at better regulating relations between religion and state, whilst reaffirming the principle of secularism in the canton. Opponents say planned changes, which include a ban on visible religious symbols, go too far and target Muslim women.  Geneva is a cosmopolitan melting pot, with 40% of its residents of foreign origin.  The canton of Protestant reformer Jean Calvin is sometimes referred to as the Protestant Rome, but times have changed, and Geneva also has a diverse religious makeup. In 2016, 35% of its residents claimed to be Roman Catholic, while 10% said they were Protestant and 6% Muslim. In all, 400 religious communities are represented, but at the same time, 38% of citizens claim to be non-believers. Over the past five years, local officials and politicians have been battling to agree on a new secularism (laicité) law, driven by minister Pierre Maudet, that supporters say will bring ...
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Remembering Switzerland’s role in the American hostage crisis in Iran

Mon, 02/04/2019 - 18:00
A Swiss documentary shown at the recent Solothurn Film Festival looks at how Swiss diplomats found themselves at the centre of a geopolitical flashpoint 40 years ago – and how they helped broker a deal. There will be no celebrations marking the 40th anniversary of the hostage crisis in Iran. From November 4, 1979, to January 20, 1981, 52 American diplomats and citizens were held hostage in the US embassy in Tehran. The 444 days of captivity were the longest for this type of hostage in history and represented the beginning of hostile relations between the United States and Iran. The break-in of the embassy by 400 Iranian students and revolutionaries was a turning point in Middle East politics as well as the probable cause of Jimmy Carter’s defeat in the 1980 presidential election. Is there anything to celebrate about the crisis? While the word celebrate is too strong, there is certainly reason to at least acknowledge the outstanding diplomatic efforts by the Swiss foreign ...
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Albanian bears explore new Swiss sanctuary

Mon, 02/04/2019 - 17:45
Two bears transferred from a small zoo in Albania are adjusting to their new home in eastern Switzerland – the Arosa Bear Sanctuary – after a road trip through four countries. Last week, Amelia and Meimo were taken from a small enclosure near a restaurant in Albania after their owners asked the Four Paws international animal organisation to help find a larger home for the bears. As cubs, the animals had been rescued from poachers in 2006. They are said to be in good health and well fed. Preparing for a road trip Vets and specialists from Four Paws and the Arosa Bear Foundation travelled to Albania to retrieve the bears. They tranquilised the omnivores ahead of their long journey, which ended on Friday night. The last part of the odyssey involved a ride in a cable car and being pushed along by a piste bully normally used to groom the ski slopes. The sanctuary in Arosa in the canton of Graubünden is 2.8 hectares (6.9 acres) and 1,800 metres above sea level. Neighbours There ...
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Crypto bickering has set Switzerland back, says CVA president

Mon, 02/04/2019 - 15:13
The new president of the Crypto Valley Association (CVA) tells that months of in-fighting has damaged Switzerland’s status as a global blockchain hub.  Daniel Haudenschild was voted into office on Thursday along with a new board. The election followed a period of unrest that saw claims of profiteering and sharp practices.  Four board members from the previous regime, including ex-president Oliver Bussmann, declined to stand for re-election. Haudenschild’s priority is to heal divisions to prevent Switzerland losing any more ground to other countries that want to attract the world’s best blockchain projects.  The size of his task was made apparent by two standing CVA board members resigning last week. One of them objected to the new board being dominated by lawyers and consultants rather than grassroots blockchain entrepreneurs. The Swiss blockchain community has been in a state of civil war. What are your priorities for bringing CVA forward?  ...
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‘In three years, medical cannabis could be sold in Swiss pharmacies’

Mon, 02/04/2019 - 12:00
Tens of thousands of patients in Switzerland regularly use cannabis to relieve pain and discomfort. Most of them do so illegally, however. Rudolf Brenneisen, a leading expert on medical cannabis, talks to swissinfo about the current predicament and his hopes to see cannabis on chemists’ shelves. Switzerland’s national drugs policy is often cited as a pioneering, humane model. Twenty-five years ago, the small Alpine nation launched a project for the medical prescription of heroin and a four-pronged drugs strategy - prevention, therapy, damage limitation and repression. This pragmatic policy, introduced in 1991, was born out of the Zurich drug problems of the 1980s and 1990s.  However, a progressive approach has not been adopted for medical cannabis, says Brenneisen, chairman of the Swiss Working Group on Cannabinoids in Medicine (SACM) and a former consultant to the United Nations Narcotics Laboratory. Should cannabis be banned as a drug or legalised as a medicine?
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FIFA poised to crown Gianni Infantino for a second term

Mon, 02/04/2019 - 09:53
Gianni Infantino’s job, the most powerful in international football, is theoretically up for grabs. But an election to decide whether Infantino should continue to run the world’s most popular sport will probably prove more of a coronation. Infantino faces no serious opposition in his bid for a new three-year term as president of FIFA, international football’s governing body. Days before candidacies must be finalised his sole likely rival – Ramon Vega, a former footballer – was struggling to win enough support to get on the ballot. The FIFA presidency is one of the highest-profile jobs in global sport and commands a wage of more than $1.5 million (CHF1.5 million). Candidates need support from just five of FIFA’s 211 national member associations and must show they have been involved in the game for five years. A person close to the organisation’s leadership said Infantino had secured 196 letters of support from national member associations. Vega was struggling to secure the five ...
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Outcry as Geneva keeps banning crossborder pupils

Sun, 02/03/2019 - 19:00
Canton Geneva wants to stop crossborder pupils from attending its schools, despite a court decision that went against this. The move has angered many Swiss living in neighbouring France, who feel this is discrimination. Rents are notoriously high in Geneva, which is why around 25,000 Swiss – 14% of the Geneva electorate – have opted to live in the departments of Ain or Haute-Savoie just over the border in nearby France. Most of them maintain close ties to their canton of origin, working there and paying a large part of their taxes to the cantonal authorities. But many expats are feeling disillusioned and abandoned by the canton, accusing it of considering them “second class” citizens. One of the main reasons: the canton’s decision, made last year, to limit access to Geneva state schools for their children. The move will be continued for the start of the next school year in summer 2019, according to the local newspaper Tribune de Genève. Better integration In fact, the rules ...
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Bears, ballet dancers and the healing power of cannabis

Sun, 02/03/2019 - 18:00
Here are some of the stories out of Switzerland we'll be covering the week of February 4, 2019. Monday "Cannabis is a plant of high therapeutic value," says the head of the Swiss task force for cannabis products in medicine. We spoke to Rudolf Brenneisen at a recent conference on the issue in Bern. Tuesday How do young Swiss ballet dancers prepare for the prestigious Prix de Lausanne competition. presents four hopefuls during practice sessions. Thursday The story of two zoo bears from Albania and how they arrived at a sanctuary in the Swiss Alps following their long journey through Macedonia, Greece and Italy. Saturday How the creation of Switzerland's biggest hotel and holiday apartment complex by an Egyptian businessman changed the face of a mountain valley in the Swiss Alps. A photo reportage. Sunday Citizens decide on a proposal to limit urban sprawl in Switzerland following several weeks of public debate. Follow our coverage on the day.
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How a Swiss children’s tale changed American football

Sun, 02/03/2019 - 12:00
This Sunday millions of Americans will gather round television sets and bowls of jalapeño cheese dip to jump and yell as the Los Angeles Rams and New England Patriots battle it out during the 53rd Super Bowl. No matter who wins, one thing is certain: no one will be forced to watch “Heidi” instead. If that sounds absurd, don’t laugh, because that’s exactly what happened 50 football seasons ago during one of the most infamous mess-ups in sports broadcasting history. Today we call it the “Heidi Bowl” or the “Heidi Game” and it changed the way Americans watch football while redefining who controls the television networks when it comes to airing the sport.  “The most significant factor to come out of Heidi was, whatever you do, you better not leave a football game,” Val Pinchbeck, a National Football League (NFL) broadcasting vice president told author Ken Rappoport in his book “The Little League that Could.”  The build-up  The year was 1968 and the New York Jets and the Oakland ...
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Swiss architect makes a mark in Antarctica

Sun, 02/03/2019 - 09:30
What does an Antarctic architect do? Easy: he designs buildings suitable for the South Pole. Not regular houses, but facilities equipped for scientific research. London-based Swiss architect Gianluca Rendina is one of the few architects in the world who are experts in “buildings” capable of withstanding extreme temperatures and icy, furious winds. His first project was the British research station Halley VI of the British Antarctic Survey, reserved for scientists studying the Earth’s magnetic fields. Scientists who, because of the very low temperatures (-60°C, -76°F) and winds of over 150km/h (93mph), are forced to live there for 18 months without hardly ever being able to go outside. A truly futuristic Antarctic base, a sort of “centipede” formed by seven blue modules (or houses) connected to a central, red, larger building. All these buildings rest on giant skis and can be raised and moved elsewhere if the movement of the ice creates some danger or the climatic conditions ...
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Tremors, watches and refugees

Sat, 02/02/2019 - 18:00
Almost every article published by 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. 900 More than 900 earthquakes were recorded in Switzerland last year, according to the Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich. But only 25 of them had a magnitude at which tremors are registered by an average person.   21,000,000,000 Swiss watch exports broke the CHF21 billion ($21.2 billion) mark last year. This 6.3% increase is largely due to Asian markets and the watchmaking industry is optimistic the trend will continue despite uncertainty over the Chinese economy.   16 Support for a proposal to curb urban sprawl in Switzerland has dropped by 16% over the past month according to the latest opinion poll. Voters decide on the issue next weekend but the initiative  seems doomed to fail at the ballot box.   657 Women in Switzerland earned CH657 ...
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Making captivity a bit more bearable for bears

Sat, 02/02/2019 - 16:00
Many zoos in Switzerland keep bears in captivity in conditions that are not always ideal. In the French-speaking town of La Chaux-de-Fonds, the only bear in the zoo receives special attention. The bear has been extinct in Switzerland for more than a century: the last individual was killed in 1904 in canton Graubünden. A few individuals have made sporadic appearances in recent years but have not settled down permanently in the country. Despite the absence of wild bears, the animal occupies a special place in the hearts of the Swiss people. It gave its name to the capital Bern (Bärn in Swiss-German dialect is derived from the word Bär which means bear). Many zoos have them but they seldom offer enough space to ensure a good quality of life. Several zoos have changed their practices in recent years. For example, the city of Bern has replaced its historic "bear pit" with a 6000m2 enclosure on the river bank. For its part, the Parc du Bois du Petit-Château in La Chaux-de-Fonds has ...
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Who is ‘Homo Helveticus?’

Sat, 02/02/2019 - 12:00
Didier Ruef has been documenting life in Switzerland for more than 30 years. His book contains a carefully compiled selection of photos of Switzerland and the people who call it home. The Swiss historian Thomas Maissen writes in the foreword to the book: “There is nothing that does not exist in Switzerland.” Perhaps, someone should add to this: and, nothing that the photographer has not captured by his camera in the last 30 years. Ruef grew up in Geneva. Like many from the area, he looked beyond his horizons to France at an early age and was shaped by the international environment in Geneva.  After graduation, he moved to New York, where he trained as a photographer at the International Centre for Photography. Back home, Ruef blended a passion for street photography, which he studied with enthusiasm in New York, with his decades of reporting on his own country. Feeling restless and curious, he set out to explore the burgeoning field of street photography and bring out the ...
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Victorian-era masterpieces on display in Lausanne

Fri, 02/01/2019 - 18:00
For the first time in Switzerland, fans of 19th-century British painting have a chance to witness a unique collection – from Turner to Whistler via the Pre-Raphaelites – gathered in Lausanne from prestigious collections that rarely leave the British Isles. “Nineteenth-century British painting is something that is not very well known here in Switzerland and in the rest of Europe,” explains curator William Hauptman. “With this exhibition, I wanted to show the originality and diversity of paintings produced during the Victorian period which people used to look down on as being rather difficult, of poor quality and not very interesting, but which are today seen in a different light.” In recent years, Victorian-era paintings have come back in fashion and have been selling for high prices, like the Finding of Moses by Lawrence Alma-Tadema, which sold for $36 million (CHF35.8 million) in 2010, or Frederic Leighton’s Golden Hours, bought for 260 guineas in 1916, which went for £3 million ...
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Swiss gear up for change to driving licence law

Fri, 02/01/2019 - 15:10
From February 1 whoever passes their Swiss driving test in an automatic vehicle is also allowed to drive a manual car. Not everyone is happy about this, saying it could be dangerous. But is it actually a problem, given that the days of stick-shift cars appear to be numbered?  Until now most aspiring drivers sit their test in a manual, allowing them, if they pass, to drive manuals as well as automatics. But pass your test in an automatic and you’re limited to automatics.  + More information on driving in Switzerland No longer. There’s now no difference between the two tests. Get your automatic driving licence and you can get behind the wheel of a manual transmission – even if you’ve never touched a gear stick before.  It’s likely that most students will opt for an automatic licence, since automatics are easier to handle and therefore fewer lessons are needed, saving money.  But this change of law, approved by the government in December, has triggered heated discussions about ...
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Life as a part-time local Swiss politician

Fri, 02/01/2019 - 12:00
Politics as a part-time job: That’s the idea of the militia system. Thousands of Swiss officials have a normal occupation and do politics on the side. The militia system creates a permeable border between politics and voters. But in practice it’s a stretch.  During the day, Markus Geist is a manager at the Swiss Federal Railways in Bern. After work, he drives home to study zoning plans or chair community meetings. Geist is the vice mayor of Grosshöchstetten, a town west of Bern with about 3,500 people. This makes him one of the thousands of Swiss holding political office in addition to a job. Geist also served as the mayor of the neighbouring municipality of Schlosswil, population 630. But Schlosswil no longer exists as a municipality – it merged with Grosshöchstetten at the beginning of 2018. The combination of a profession in parallel to local politics is the core of the Swiss militia system. This forms the basis of Swiss politics not only at the municipal, but also at the ...
Categories: News EN

Sinochem and ChemChina move closer with Syngenta appointment

Fri, 02/01/2019 - 10:20
A Sinochem executive is taking over the China operations of Syngenta, the Swiss subsidiary of rival agribusiness giant ChemChina, even though the two Chinese conglomerates insist they have not merged. The appointment of Qin Hengde, president of Sinochem Agriculture, as head of a team overseeing the agricultural operations within China of Syngenta, Sinochem and ChemChina’s Israeli subsidiary Adama comes despite Sinochem - officially - having no ownership over Syngenta, Adama or their parent firm, ChemChina.  In July, Sinochem chairman Ning Gaoning was named as chairman of ChemChina, replacing Ren Jianxin, the dealmaker who cobbled ChemChina together out of a number of bankrupt local chemicals firms in the late 1990s. Despite having the same chairman, two conglomerates deny that they have any plans to merge. A merger of Sinochem with ChemChina has been discussed in Beijing ever since ChemChina’s $44billion (CHF43.7 billion) bid for Syngenta, China’s largest overseas ...
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The recyclable building site of the future

Thu, 01/31/2019 - 16:00
When a house is demolished, much of the waste is put into a skip and then disposed of. At the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology (EMPA) near Zurich, an experiment is underway to build a new home using construction waste. (SRF, Zurich architect Barbara Buser is tracking down construction waste she wants to re-use on a new building in Winterthur. Her employer, an architecture company called in situ, is harvesting recyclable construction elements all of Switzerland. Experts estimate that around that 75,000 tonnes of reusable parts become available in Switzerland every year. However, only around 10% of those are actually reused. Currently, it seems that for owners of properties up for demolition it does not pay to sell on construction parts. EMPA is currently working on an Urban Mining and Recycling project to extract materials from a building at the end of its life cycle efficiently and economically and reuse them. For this purpose, EMPA ...
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Aubert’s African adventure, a turning point for Swiss foreign policy

Thu, 01/31/2019 - 15:42
Forty years ago the Swiss foreign affairs minister spent two weeks travelling around West Africa. The visit opened a new chapter in Swiss foreign policy and triggered considerable controversy and heated debates back home about neutral Switzerland’s role in the world.  On Sunday January 14, 1979, a plane took off from Zurich airport heading for Lagos in Nigeria. On board was a Swiss delegation headed by Foreign Affairs Minister Pierre Aubert.  + Pierre Aubert's obituary Over the following fortnight, the delegation, which included other members of the foreign ministry and the economics ministry, visited Nigeria, Cameroon, Upper Volta (now Burkina Faso), Ivory Coast and Senegal.  The foreign ministry had realised there was a lack of personal contacts between those in charge of Swiss foreign policy and representatives of African countries, Aubert told the Federal Council on January 5, 1979.  “In our opinion it’s important for political and economic reasons to resume dialogue ...
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Master Craftsman Award boosts Swiss arts scene

Thu, 01/31/2019 - 13:07
The Swiss Association of Arts and Crafts wants to show its support for craftsmen and women working in Switzerland with a new type of prize. The first Master Craftsman Award, worth CHF10,000 ($10,070), goes to François Junod, portrayed in the video above, who has developed the automaton into a new art form. The prize was established to honour an “outstanding craftswoman/craftsman for his/her complete oeuvre and his/her artistic charisma” in Switzerland and abroad.  Junod, from Sainte-Croix in western Switzerland, calls his unique creations androids: mechanical robots designed to resemble humans in both appearance and behaviour.  The second category – the Arts & Crafts & Design award – honours the cooperation between craftsmen and designers. The first prize is worth CHF10,000 for the design and CHF10,000 for the construction of the object. The first Arts & Crafts & Design award goes to Peter Fink, who makes ceramics in Ependes, also in western Switzerland, and Geneva-based ...
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