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SWI swissinfo.ch – the international service of the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation (SBC). Since 1999, swissinfo.ch has fulfilled the federal government’s mandate to distribute information about Switzerland internationally, supplementing the online offerings of the radio and television stations of the SBC. Today, the international service is directed above all at an international audience interested in Switzerland, as well as at Swiss citizens living abroad.

Articles by Swissinfo

Honey production collapses in Switzerland

5 days ago

A Zurich apiarist checks her bees in April © Keystone / Gaetan Bally
The short spring and wet summer means Swiss bees have produced ten times less honey than usual. As a result the price of honey is set to increase.
After last year’s exceptional harvest, 2021 is looking very meagre: while a hive normally produces 15-20 kilos of honey, the current figure is 0-3 kilos, Swiss public radio, RTS, reportedExternal link on Thursday.
“The scarcity of honey is mainly due to the weather, which has been very unfavourable, both for the first harvest in spring and for the second harvest,” Francis Saucy, president of the Beekeeping Society of French-speaking Switzerland, told RTS.
“It rained a lot and the bees had very little time to collect nectar. There was also very little

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Has a new price premium on cocoa really helped struggling African farmers?

7 days ago

Farmers are now getting lower prices for their crop even though a living wage premium was introduced. Keystone / Legnan Koula
Farmers in Ivory Coast – the world’s largest cocoa-producing nation – are getting less for their cocoa despite the introduction of a payment that aims to secure them a living wage.
The West African nation of Ivory Coast accounts for around 45% of the world’s cocoa production that brings in export revenue of $3.5 billion (CHF3.2 billion) a year. But cocoa farmers in the country make just $0.78 per day, a third less than what the organisation Fair Trade International calls a living wage – $2.51 per day.
To address this, in 2019 Ivory Coast (along with Ghana) decided to charge an extra $400 per ton of cocoa exported to places like Switzerland

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Central Switzerland braces itself for another ‘flood of the century’

10 days ago

The River Aare at a weir just before flowing into Lake Biel on Friday. Lake Biel is threatening to reach a record level. Keystone / Jean-christophe Bott
Lakes and rivers in central Swiss cantons such as Bern and Lucerne have reached dangerous levels, and more rain is forecast for Thursday and Friday.
On Wednesday authorities in canton Bern said water levels on Lake Thun, Lake Biel and in the city of Bern would significantly exceed flood limits in the coming days.
Flooding around Lake Biel was “unavoidable”, according to the authorities on Thursday, who said the situation could be similar to the “flood of the century” in 2005. They urged people to stay away from the lake and river banks and advised them to unplug electrical devices and move valuable items out of

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Shares in Picasso painting go up for grabs in blockchain sale

11 days ago

Picasso’s ‘Fillette au béret’ before being auctioned in Sweden in 2016 TT News Agency via AFP / Pontus Lundahl
Fans of Pablo Picasso will soon be able to own a share in one of his paintings for less than $6,000 (CHF5,500) – although that won’t actually buy them the right to see the work, which will be stored under lock and key in Switzerland.
Fillette au béret (Young girl with a beret) is being sold – or “tokenised” – via the blockchain in what Sygnum, the digital asset-focused Swiss bank organising the sale, says is a world first.
“This marks the first time the ownership rights in a Picasso, or any artwork, are being broadcast onto the public blockchain by a regulated bank,” Sygnum and co-organiser Artemundi, an art investment company, said.
Subscriptions for the

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Bern braces itself for another ‘flood of the century’

13 days ago

Canton Bern expects water levels on Lake Thun, Lake Biel and in the city of Bern to significantly exceed flood limits in the coming days. On Lake Biel it’s possible the situation will be similar to the flood of the century in 2005.
The River Simme in Wimmis, canton Bern, on Tuesday Keystone / Peter Schneider
Bern’s state chancellery said on Wednesday it expected the flood level on Lake Biel to be exceeded by 25-65 centimetres.
Lake Thun is expected to swell to 25-40 centimetres above the flood limit, according to the authorities. Lake Brienz is also expected to burst its banks.
The River Aare in Bern is expected to reach a flow rate of 500-560 cubic metres per second. By comparison, during the major floods in 1999 and 2005 the Aare carried just over 600 cubic

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Swiss ‘Crypto Nation’ supports African blockchain ambitions

14 days ago

Sub-Saharan Africa is a key region for Swiss foreign policy External link and digitisation will play a major role in that strategy. To this end, “Crypto Nation” Switzerland is throwing its weight behind a public-private partnership to find blockchain solutions to some of the challenges facing the continent.

The success of the M-Pesa mobile phone payment scheme in Kenya, and now other countries, demonstrates how digital innovation can overcome infrastructure deficiencies. The Swiss project Monetas tried unsuccessfully to introduce a distributed ledger technology (DLT) banking system to Tunisia a few years back.
But where that project failed, perhaps some home-grown innovations can succeed. That’s why the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (Seco) is

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Swiss Start-Ups Show Resilience Despite Covid-19 Pandemic

15 days ago

The number of Swiss start-ups launched has risen significantly in the first six months of 2021 while the number of companies filing for bankruptcy has decreased, studies have shown.
In the first half of 2021 over 26,000 new companies were added to Switzerland’s commercial register. © Keystone / Christian Beutler
In the first half of 2021 over 26,000 new companies were added to Switzerland’s commercial register, an increase of over 20% compared to the year before, a new report by Dun & Bradstreet has found.
This boom was felt in almost every sector of the economy and constitutes a new record for the number of Swiss start-ups founded in a six-month period, the report claims.
The Covid-19 pandemic is credited as the cause of the increased company registration, Dun &

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Toxic Metals Studies Add to Frustrations Surrounding Swiss-Owned Mine in Peru

15 days ago

Health concerns over toxic metals in remote communities near a mining complex in the Peruvian Andes are gaining ground after the publication of several reports. Glencore which owns the mine, points at natural mineralisation of the environment.
Villagers say the Tintaya-Antapaccay mine has left animals in their herds dying or aborting and people becoming severely ill Paula Dupraz
Over 1,000 kilometres from Peru’s capital, and half a world away from Glencore’s headquarters in Zug, Switzerland, the residents of one of the Andean country’s poorest regions, living near a huge mining complex it owns, are still reeling from the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.
After Peru imposed one of the world’s harshest lockdown measures, ordering businesses to shut and interregional

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Tax Deal: Small Countries ‘Should not be Forgotten’ says Swiss Minister

16 days ago

The interests of small innovative countries must be taken into account in international corporate tax measures, says Swiss Finance Minister Ueli Maurer, who has been attending the G20 meeting in Italy.
US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, (centre), arrives for a G20 meeting on Friday, the first one to be held in person since the pandemic began Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved
Tax was a key issue at the two-day meeting of finance ministers and central bankers from the group of 20 major economies, which wrapped up on Saturday. Maurer was attending as a guest of Italy, as Switzerland is not a member of the G20.
Discussed was the landmark Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) agreement which sets out a global corporate

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Climate Scientist: More Urgency Needed over Climate Crisis

16 days ago

Climate change is causing extreme weather, also in Switzerland. A climate taskforce – like the Covid 19 science task force – makes sense, a leading Swiss climate scientist says.
Wildfire in Doyle, California, US, on July 10 Keystone / Noah Berger
Humankind should get used to heatwaves, fires, torrential rain, landslides, flooding and bad harvests, Sonia Seneviratne,External link a professor at the Institute for Atmospheric and Climate Science at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (ETH Zurich), has told the SonntagsBlickExternal link.
“We are sometimes experiencing events which we have never seen before. Climate change is happening now,” she said in an interview published on Sunday.
Not enough has been done to counter climate change. The concentration

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Human Rights Sports Body granted Upgraded Swiss Legal Status

18 days ago

An organisation set up in Switzerland to prevent sport from harming society and athletes has been granted full association status in Geneva.
Qatar has drawn criticism for failing to protect workers building stadiums for the next World Cup. Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.
The Centre for Sport and Human RightsExternal link was awarded the status of an independent non-profit association under Swiss law on Thursday. It has been running since 2018 under a different legal status.
Switzerland was chosen as a base for the association due to the country’s political neutrality and because it is already home to many international sporting bodies, such as football’s FIFA and the International Olympic Committee.
Speaking to SWI swissinfo.ch last

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Swiss Narrowly Miss CO2 Emission Targets

19 days ago

CO2 emissions from heating oil and gas only dropped slightly last year despite mild winter temperatures. © Keystone/Gaetan Bally
Switzerland has again failed to meet its goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, prompting a rise in CO2 taxes.
Last year emissions from fuel, including heating oil and gas, were 31% lower than 1990 levels, according to data released by the Federal OfficeExternal link for the Environment on Wednesday. This is unchanged from 2019 and falls short of the required 33%.
As a result, a tax on CO2 will increase from CHF96 ($104) to CHF120 per tonne of emissions in 2022.
Emissions from petrol fell by 8% last year while heating oil and gas accounted for a reduction of just 1% despite mild temperatures last winter.
“The measures to halt the

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Swiss to keep Sipping from Single-Use Plastics as EU Ban takes Effect

23 days ago

Forbidden fruit: the paper straws are OK, but the plastic cup is banned in much of Europe Westend61 / Maria Elena Pueyo Ruiz
Single-use plastic items like straws and cups are no longer allowed in the 27 European Union countries. This isn’t the case in non-member Switzerland, where retailers and restaurants are taking their own approach.
The EU ban on certain plastic products took effect on July 3 and covers a range of everyday items from food packaging to wet wipes. Some will be banned altogether; others must be labelled to inform consumers about proper disposal and the impact of littering.
“Single-use plastic products are more likely to end up in our seas than re-usable options,” reads an EU statement on its environmental policy. “Where sustainable alternatives

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Banks Urged to think Green or Face Extinction

24 days ago

Financial institutions must be wary of being consumed by the consequences of careless environmental or social decisions. Keystone / Rank Augstein
Climate change is forcing financiers to change the way they think and act. This could have a big impact on their balance sheets – and potentially their very survival.
“Bankers are no longer purely financial specialists, but also connoisseurs of the environmental and social footprint of investments,” said Yves Mirabaud in his last speech as president of the Association of Swiss Private Banks in June.
He spoke just after the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMA) ordered banks and insurance companiesExternal link to transparently “inform the public adequately about their [climate] risks”. Typically for

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Swiss Government Sets Sights on F-35A Fighter Jet Fleet

27 days ago

Switzerland looks set to choose the US option over European competitors following months of intense lobbying. Keystone / Giuseppe Lami
The Swiss government wants to upgrade the country’s air defence system by buying 36 F-35A fighter aircraft from United States manufacturer Lockheed Martin and five Patriot surface-to-air missile units from another US firm Raytheon.
The Federal Council (governing body) will ask parliament to approve the dual purchase on the basis that they offer the best value for money and technical specifications compared to rival bids.
Costing just over CHF5 billion ($5.4 billion), the F-35A jets can be bought under the CHF6 billion budget narrowly approved by Swiss voters in a hotly contested referendum last September.
The bill is also around

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German Stock Exchange Snaps up Swiss Cryptocurrency Firm

28 days ago

The operators of Germany’s main stock exchange appear committed to merging cryptocurrencies into mainstream finance. Keystone / Boris Roessler
The operators of Germany’s main stock exchange have paid more than CHF100 million ($108 million) for a majority stake in Swiss cryptocurrency service provider Crypto Finance.
The move reflects a growing trend of traditional financial institutions gearing themselves up for an anticipated growth in the trade of digital financial assets.
Founded in 2017, Zurich-based Crypto Finance specialises in the storage and trading of a range of cryptocurrencies. The company acts as an intermediary between professional traders and crypto exchanges where the likes of bitcoin can be bought and sold.
For example, Spanish bank BBVA will lean

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CEOs Profit as Workers Suffer from Pandemic, says Union

28 days ago

Some companies gave their CEOs pay rises even though the firms were losing money Keystone / Edgar R. Schoepal
While the Covid-19 pandemic has caused existential hardship for many employees, CEOs and shareholders have “shamelessly helped themselves”, according to a union study.
“The pay gap remains wide open at a very high level,” trade union Unia wrote in its annual pay gap studyExternal link published on Tuesday. The average ratio between the highest and lowest salary in a company was 1 to 137 across Switzerland, it said. Unia examined 37 companies, most of which are listed on the stock exchange.
The biggest difference was once again at pharmaceutical giant Roche, where the lowest-paid employee would have to work for 298 years to earn what CEO Severin Schwan

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UBS Boss says Switzerland is Falling Behind on Structural Change

June 28, 2021

Cleaning up: Ralph Hamers reckons people trust bankers again © Keystone / Christian Beutler
Swiss banks have some catching up to do when it comes to structural change and digitalisation, says Ralph Hamers, CEO of Swiss bank UBS. In his opinion structural change has taken place much faster in other countries and industries than in Switzerland.
For example, the dynamics in Asia and Scandinavia are significantly greater, Hamers told newspaper BlickExternal link in an interview on Monday. Also in the Netherlands, Hamers’ home country, the public now does everything digitally, from shopping to banking, he said.
“This also has to do with the culture,” he said. “UBS has almost three million clients in Switzerland. We don’t want to force them to do anything they don’t

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Airbus Launches Counter-Offensive on Fighter Jet Contract

June 28, 2021

There are four firms in the running for the CHF6 billion fighter jet contract. Keystone / Mindaugas Kulbis
Ahead of the Swiss government’s decision on a major fighter jet contract, Airbus has made an appeal to the Swiss government to choose a European firm after leaked information from the government revealed US firm Lockheed Martin was out ahead of competitors.
“It is important for us that all seven government ministers assess the overall package,” Bernhard Brenner, Sales Director at Airbus Defence and Space, told the German-language paper SonntagsZeitungExternal link.
He argued that the decision shouldn’t solely be based on military criteria. “The economic and political elements are just as important.”
The Airbus Eurofighter is one of four fighter jets in the

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Switzerland’s Battle of the Bees

June 27, 2021

The risk to bees through pesticides and the ensuing effects on the world’s food crops have been the source of much debate. But do Swiss measures to support the domestic honeybee disadvantage the equally important wild bee?

It is not easy to identify the 615 different species of wild bees found in Switzerland. Max Huber
After some years in the regional print and broadcast media in French Switzerland, in 2000 I joined Radio Swiss International, which then became swissinfo.ch. Since then I have been writing (and producing short videos) on a variety of subjects, from politics to business, and including culture and science.
More from this author
| French Department

Albert Einstein is sometimes credited with saying: “If the bee disappeared from the surface of the

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‘Switzerland can’t have its cake and eat it,’ says EU ambassador

June 27, 2021

Swiss Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis at the opening of the Swiss embassy in Minsk, Belarus, in February 2020. Keystone / Tatyana Zenkovich
After rejecting the framework agreement with the European Union last month, Switzerland must now choose the model for interacting with the bloc’s internal market, says the EU ambassador to Switzerland.
In an interviewExternal link with Le Temps newspaper on Friday, Petros Mavromichalis warned that the status quo was not an option for the EU.

EU framework agreement
Citing “substantial differences” on the deal, on May 26 the Swiss government decided to bin a controversial institutional agreement on relations with the European Union.
The decision to walk away meant the end of seven years of efforts between Switzerland and the EU

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Steady increase of cross-border workers continued in 2020

June 24, 2021

“Customs”: a border crossing at Geneva. Keystone / Salvatore Di Nolfi
The number of cross-border workers plying their trade in Switzerland has more than doubled since the mid-1990s. The rising trend continues, increasing by over 4% between 2019 and 2020.
At the end of 2020, some 343,000 cross-border workers were employed in Switzerland, up from 329,000 in December 2019, the Federal Statistical Office (FSO) said on Thursday.
This amounts to 6.7% of the active population in Switzerland.
As before, the majority live in neighbouring countries: 55% in France, 23% in Italy, and 18% in Germany. Likewise, they mostly work in border regions. While canton Geneva has the highest number of cross-border workers (90,000 or a quarter of the total workforce), Ticino has the

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Swiss turning to new payment methods, but cash is still king

June 23, 2021

The use of debit cards continues to increase but cash remains the most popular payment method in Switzerland.
Many respondents say they have adapted their payment behaviour as a result of the pandemic and plan to make increased use of card payments in the future. © Keystone/Gaetan Bally
A survey by the Swiss National Bank (SNB) found that 97% of respondents keep cash in their wallets or at home to cover day-to-day expenses, while 92% own a debit card and 78% hold a credit card, according to a press release External linkon Wednesday.
The number of card-holders was up 4% and 15% respectively compared with a previous survey carried out in 2017.
Mobile payment apps are also registering robust growth: 48% of respondents used them last year compared to 11% in 2017.
The

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Covid-19 sent Swiss Energy Consumption Plummeting in 2020

June 22, 2021

The Swiss consumed almost 11% less energy last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic and warmer weather, according to the Federal Office of Energy.
Electricity pylons near Schaenis in canton St Gallen. © Keystone / Gaetan Bally
In total, Swiss residents used up 747,400 terajoules (TJ) of energy in 2020 – a fall of 10.6% compared to 2019 – the office said in a statementExternal link on Monday.
The two Covid-related lockdowns in spring and autumn, as well as warm weather, caused the sharp decrease in energy consumption, it said.
Various indicators point to the large decrease. Estimations of distances covered by passenger vehicles and vehicle movements fell steeply. Air traffic was down by 64%, for example. Industrial production also decreased by 3.5% and gross domestic

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Swiss Cities Demand end to Opaque Cantonal Tax Competition

June 22, 2021

The proposed 15% minimum corporate tax rate is an opportunity for Switzerland to unite its tax code for the better, says an organization representing Swiss cities.
Cities like Zurich rely on company tax revenues to provide services and infrastructure. © Keystone / Gaetan Bally
City finance directors have criticized cantons for trying to plug expected tax gaps unilaterally, rather than find a common approach nationwide.
The United States is currently leading efforts by the G7 top industrialized countries to change the way that multinationals are taxed globally.
One of the proposals is to impose a minimum rate of corporate tax – mooted at 15%. Opponents say this would disadvantage smaller countries, like Switzerland, which set lower taxes to attract multinational

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Swiss economy on way back to normal, says top treasurer

June 21, 2021

[unable to retrieve full-text content]Switzerland’s economy will be back to its pre-pandemic level as early as this year and does not need a stimulus package, says Sabine D’Amelio-Favez, director of the Federal Finance Administration. The Confederation has incurred debts of CHF30 billion ($33 billion) to stem the economic consequences of Covid-19, she said in an interview published on Saturday by newspapers of the CH Media group.

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Credit Suisse carnage brings financial risk for banks into focus

June 20, 2021

Credit Suisse chairman, António Horta-Osório, is warning of a “tough period” ahead for the bank. Keystone / Andy Rain
Credit Suisse’s disastrous Greensill and Archegos investments have highlighted the destructive side of banking. Regulators and politicians are asking what the Swiss bank did wrong and what can be done to protect investors from future risk-assessment failures.
Experts point to shortcomings in risk management and say corporate culture has to change.
The collapse of the US family office Archegos Capital Management cost Credit Suisse around $5 billion (CHF4.5 billion) by April.
Meanwhile, Switzerland’s second-largest bank is also scrabbling to pay back investors some $10 billion after its fateful involvement with the failed financial services firm

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Swiss Banks Boost Capital Bases Despite Coronavirus Crisis 

June 18, 2021

[unable to retrieve full-text content]Swiss banks have been able to strengthen their capital bases despite deteriorating economic conditions during the coronavirus pandemic, according to the Swiss National Bank (SNB). This applies to the two big banks, UBS and Credit Suisse, and also domestic banks.

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