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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

‘Green’ aviation fuel aims to power planes by 2030

1 day ago

The Synhelion prototype installed last year on the roof of ETH Zurich (RSI-SWI)
The Covid-19 pandemic has overshadowed the climate crisis, but with the gradual return of consumption and travel, concerns about global warming are resurfacing. A Swiss start-up is developing an aviation fuel produced solely with water, solar energy and CO2. Will this emission-neutral fuel put an end to “flight shame”?
Synhelionexternal link is a company founded by researchers at the federal technology institute ETH Zurich. In mid-May, together with another ETH Zurich spin-off, Climeworksexternal link, Synhelion signed a joint letter of intentexternal link with the Lufthansa Group to accelerate the market launch of a sustainable aviation fuel.
The aim is not to create new zero-emission

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Davos aims to coax elite out of isolation in January

3 days ago

The Swiss town of Davos, awaiting the arrival of the 2020 WEF. (Keystone / Gian Ehrenzeller)
The World Economic Forum has vowed to hold its annual meeting in Davos in January, testing the willingness of a globetrotting elite to resume the high-powered networking that has been frozen by the coronavirus pandemic.
Such events have been cancelled around the world since the pandemic began, with many chief executives expressing doubt that they will return to the conference circuit as before.
Some Davos-goers have even speculated that this year’s meeting itself was instrumental in spreading the virus.
“I had this nightmare that somehow in Davos, all of us who went there, got it. And then we all left and spread it. The only good news from that is that it might just have

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Credit Suisse grants CHF2.8 billion in corona credit

4 days ago

Urs Rohner is Chairman of the Board of Directors at Credit Suisse (Keystone / Ennio Leanza)
Major Swiss bank Credit Suisse has issued 15,400 emergency loans totaling CHF2.8 billion ($2.9 billion) during the coronavirus crisis, says board chairman Urs Rohner. The numbers are similar at competitor UBS.
On March 25 the Swiss government announcedexternal link a scheme to provide cash-strapped small and medium-sized companies with emergency loans to get through the coronavirus crisis. Companies have to apply for the credit at their main banks.
+ Switzerland facing biggest economic slump since 1975
Loans of up to CHF500,000 are interest free while firms pay 0.5% on larger loans of up to CHF20 million.
+ Swiss firms rush to claim emergency coronavirus loans
At Credit

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Saint-Gobain to drop its shareholding in Swiss chemical maker Sika

5 days ago

Sika has more than 300 plants worldwide (Keystone)
The French building materials and distribution group Saint-Gobain has announced the sale of its 10.75% stake in the capital of the Swiss chemical manufacturer Sika.
Saint-Gobain said in a press releaseexternal link on Tuesday that it would dispose of “of its entire stake in Sikaexternal link of approximately 15.2 million shares, representing 10.75% of Sika’s share capital”, without mentioning any financial amount.
According to an AFP calculation, at the current Sika share price the transaction would be valued at some €2.5 billion (CHF2.65 billion). The result and the final terms of the private placement will be announced on Wednesday “at the latest”, according to Saint-Gobain’s press release.
Sika, a specialist in

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Swiss Covid-19 contact tracing app ready for privacy testing

6 days ago

The decentralised SwissCovid app is the first in the world to use the OS updates from Apple and Google.  (Keystone / Laurent Gillieron)
Authorities have released the source code of the SwissCovid app to the public to allow experts and hackers to detect any risks to privacy before the official launch.
The source code of the decentralised contact tracing app DP-3T, developed by the two Swiss federal institutes of technology in Zurich (ETH Zurich) and Lausanne (EPFL) was released for public testing on Thursday.
The National Cybersecurity Centre (NCSC) will receive the test reports sent by the public via an online formexternal link. It will review the submissions, set priorities based on the severity of the problems detected and make the necessary adjustments. The

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2021 Geneva Motor Show ‘very uncertain’ as organisers reject loan

7 days ago

This year’s car show was cancelled four days prior to its opening due to the coronavirus outbreak, costing an estimated loss of CHF11 million for the organisers of Switzerland’s largest event. (Keystone / Salvatore Di Nolfi)
The 2021 edition of the Geneva International Motor Show remains touch and go after the organisers rejected the terms surrounding a state rescue loan.
This year’s car show was cancelled four days prior to its opening due to the coronavirus outbreak, costing an estimated loss of CHF11 million ($11.3 million) for the organisers of Switzerland’s largest public event.
Canton Geneva came to their rescue with the offer of a CHF16.8 million loan to be reimbursed over 15 years at low interest rates. This would help cover the cost of the cancellation

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Swiss industry endured horror April during pandemic peak

8 days ago

Watches were among the poorest performing Swiss exports in April. (© Keystone / Gaetan Bally)
Swiss watch exports slumped by over 80% last month, recording sales of just CHF329 million ($339 million) – compared with CHF1.76 billion in April 2019. Both exports and imports in all industries endured a predictably dire performance as Covid-19 resulted in national lockdowns.
Figures from the Federal Customs Administrationexternal link on Tuesday revealed the gravity of the situation for Swiss manufacturers. Exports in April fell 11.7% (seasonally adjusted figures) with imports falling by more than a fifth.
Exports of jewellery and watches were worst hit, but no sector was left unscathed. The sale of precision tools were down 18% on March and even pharmaceutical and

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Coronavirus fuels Swiss bicycling surge

8 days ago

While demand for public transport collapsed during Switzerland’s partial lockdown, bicycle usage soared across the country. But greater acceptance of cycling nationwide will depend on further political decisions and transport planning.
Ernst Leuthold, the owner of a bike shop in Bern, can’t believe his eyes.
“It’s amazing to see all these people who haven’t been on a bike for years and then suddenly feel the need to do so,” he declared.
Daniel Schärer, director of 2roues Suisseexternal link, a trade association for two-wheel vehicles, concurs: “During the lockdown, bike shop repair workshops were extremely busy.”
And it’s likely that the sales of bikes will take off in the coming months, he added.
Most of these new clients probably discovered cycling for fun

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Tourism industry told to adapt to new travel habits

9 days ago

The future of tourism? A couple of hikers by the Seealpsee in northeastern Switzerland on May 17 (Keystone)
Going on holiday in one’s own country and in the countryside, in smaller groups and sometimes with restrictions – this is the new reality to which the tourism industry must adapt, according to a study by the University of St Gallen.
Mobility and socialising: both are undesirable in times of Covid-19. The tourism industry was therefore the first to be affected by the government lockdown and other measures and “will be one of the last to re-open”, write study authors Christian Laesser and Thomas Bieger.
While people certainly want to travel, they remain reluctant to do so because of the health risks and economic uncertainties, they say. “For the time being,

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Airfare refunds remain a sticking point

10 days ago

Zurich Airport, as pictured in mid-March (Keystone / Ennio Leanza)
The head of a major Swiss travel agency has complained that Swiss International Air Lines (SWISS) is not helping to reimburse clients fast enough.
In the event of cancellations such as those prompted by the Covid-19 pandemic, Swiss package tour operators are legally obliged to provide refunds. But according to Thomas Stirnimann, the chief executive officer of Hotelplan, SWISS is not repaying the travel agents promptly.
In an interview published in CH-Media newspapers on Monday, Stirnimann explained that the travel agencies were advancing millions of francs in customer money to SWISS, and thus to the Lufthansa Group. Yet Stirnimann said that “practically nothing” had been paid back to the tour

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Poll: 70 percent of residents back ‘SwissCovid’ tracing app

10 days ago

The DP-3T contact tracing app has been tested initially with members of the Swiss army (Keystone / Laurent Gillieron)
A Swiss smartphone app that uses Apple-Google technology to help trace coronavirus infections has widespread support among the population, a new survey shows.
Around 70% of Swiss residents welcome the introduction of the decentralised contact tracing application DP-3T, according to a poll published on Monday by the research consultancy Sotomoexternal link.
In all, 59% of the 2,819 people surveyed said they would install the “SwissCovid” app in the coming weeks. There were no big differences between age groups.
From Monday, employees of the Swiss army, of several hospitals and cantonal administrations, and of federal technology institutes EPFL and

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Swiss maker of clean aviation fuel gets boost from Lufthansa

14 days ago

Efforts are underway in Switzerland to accelerate the  development of sustainable aviation fuel. The aviation industry is a top greenhouse gas emitter. (Keystone)
The Lufthansa Group has entered a partnership with the Swiss solar fuel developer Synhelion. The Swiss start-up is working to produce a fuel that emits 50% less CO2 by 2022 and plans to market a 100% renewable fuel in 2030.
“We really have something here that demonstrates in a solid way that there is an interest in what we are doing,” Synhelion CEO Gianluca Ambrosetti told Swiss public television RTS.external link
Lufthansa group is one of the world’s largest airline groups.
Synhelion is developing a technology that uses solar tower systems with high-temperature thermochemical processes for the

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Swiss finance minister concerned about Covid-19 debt crisis in Europe

15 days ago

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said that this is biggest challenge in the history of the EU.  (Keystone / Andreas Gora / Pool)
Ueli Maurer has warned that the financial crisis following Covid-19 and the resulting instability in Europe are a danger for Switzerland.
In an interview with public broadcaster RTSexternal link on Tuesday, he said that he is concerned about the repercussions on Switzerland of a possible debt crisis in certain countries, especially Italy.
“It is dangerous for Switzerland, because it is necessary to have a Europe that is strong and united. The difference between the countries of the North and the South is also a problem for us. By the end of this year, Italy, for example, with its debts, is really a disaster for the European Union,”

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National Bank snubs calls for more coronavirus money

18 days ago

Maechler was appointed to the SNB board in 2014. (Keystone/Marcel Bieri)
The Swiss National Bank (SNB) has dismissed demands to increase its payout to help the economy cope with the costs of the coronavirus pandemic.
Governing board member Andréa Maechler an additional financial contribution would counteract monetary policy.
“We are already making our contribution to the efforts to cope with the crisis not only by intervening on the currency markets,” she told the Neue Zürcher Zeitung newspaper in a wide-ranging interview.
She said Switzerland was experiencing a shock that is stronger than previously imagined but the role of the SNB was unchanged – to ensure the monetary conditions through interest rates and foreign exchange rates.
Maechler said the CHF4 billion

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Minister calls for extra funds for Swiss unemployment system

18 days ago

Parmelin says the government will try to prevent a second lockdown at all costs. (Keystone/Alessandro Della Valle)
Economics Minister Guy Parmelin says it is crucial to end the lockdown and prevent a collapse of the unemployment scheme to ensure Switzerland’s economic recovery from the coronavirus crisis.
Parmelin said the government would decide on an injection of additional funds into the state unemployment scheme at one of its next meetings.
Failure to do so would lead to lower purchasing power, he warned.
Unemployment is currently at 3.3% in Switzerland and it is expected to rise to 4.1% according to the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs.
About 30% of the workforce have applied for short-time work compensation following a partial shutdown of business

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Clean gold: How Switzerland could set new supply chain standards

18 days ago

Switzerland is the undisputed top dog of the global gold industry, refining a majority of the world’s gold, as well as being the leading exporter. But how seriously does the country take its responsibility to ensure sustainable mining and the protection of human rights?
“This position of great global power comes with great responsibility because – here’s another thing too few people know – gold mining comes with its fair share of risks and problems,” notes Mark Pieth, professor of criminal law at Basel University in an op-ed for swssinfo.ch.
In this regard, the Alpine nation often falls short. Swiss refiners – despite their efforts and discretion – are often in the crosshairs of human rights and environmental groups who express alarm over the environmental

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‘Clean and safe’ image could boost Swiss tourism

19 days ago

The Blue Lake in Arolla, southwestern Switzerland
Switzerland Tourism has welcomed next month’s re-opening of borders with France, Germany and Austria. It believes the country’s reputation for cleanliness and tidiness could be a selling point once the Covid-19 pandemic dies down.
“What doesn’t seem very sexy in normal times can be a big plus in times of crisis,” said Urs Eberhard, deputy director of Switzerland Tourismexternal link, in an interview with news agency Keystone-ATS on Thursday.
+ Expats in Switzerland like the safety but not the localsexternal link
Asked whether guests should wear protective face masks in Swiss hotels, Eberhard said Switzerland has a “very strong” concept of protection against coronavirus – for hotels, restaurants and tourist

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Swiss rank high in energy index

19 days ago

With potential to expand, solar power covers about 3-4% of Swiss energy consumption. (Keystone / Salvatore Di Nolfi)
Switzerland has placed second in a global index comparing current energy systems and readiness for the transition to cleaner sources.
In its new Energy Transition Indexexternal link, the World Economic Forum (WEF) identifies the coronavirus pandemic as a serious threat to the switch to renewable energies.
“The transformation of the energy system over the past decade, although slower than required to achieve the objectives of the Paris Agreement to combat climate change, has been unprecedented. But this hard‑earned momentum now risks being lost, as the ongoing Covid‑19 pandemic continues to cause economic and social damage,” writes WEF on its

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Tyres and litterbugs spread plastic across Switzerland

20 days ago

Some tyre abrasion particles can be removed from the environment via street cleaning and runoff water treatment. (Keystone/Eddy Risch)
Each year some 14,000 tonnes of plastic waste end up in the Swiss environment. A federally commissioned analysisexternal link identifies two main culprits: tyre abrasion (around 8,000 tonnes) and littering (around 2,700 tonnes).
The Federal Office of the Environment (FOEN) has published a new web pageexternal link with information on the main quantities of plastics and material flows in the environment. Ten factsheets address Swiss plastic pollution as it relates to the following areas: tyre abrasion, littering, rivers and lakes, soil, air, oceans, humans and animals, plastic packaging, plastics in biowaste collections, and

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Price watchdog criticises cost of becoming Swiss

21 days ago

Becoming Swiss can cost up to CHF4,000 in some cantons (Keystone)
Naturalisation fees vary among Switzerland’s 26 cantons. This has caught the eye of the federal price watchdog, who doubts that the fees fall within the legal framework.
The law on Swiss citizenshipexternal link stipulates that “the fees may not amount to more than is required to cover costs”. But for price watchdog Stefan Meierhans this is “more than questionable”, as he writes in his newsletterexternal link on Thursday.
+ Meet the man trying to make Switzerland less expensive
He says one reason for his doubts are the great differences between cantons. These are “far too large and are not comprehensible against the background of the cost recovery principle”. The result is a “great inequality in

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SWISS publishes flight timetable for June

21 days ago

Part of the Acropolis in Athens, one of the destinations where SWISS plans to expand its services (Keystone)
After grounding most of its fleet because of Covid-19, Swiss International Air Lines will partially restart its flight operations in June and plans to operate up to 190 flights from Zurich and Geneva to 41 European destinations.
The return to the skies would follow in stages, and the range of flights available will gradually be increased over the coming weeks, SWISS said on Thursdayexternal link, announcing its timetableexternal link for June.
The airline will resume services to various Mediterranean destinations, including Malaga, Barcelona, Madrid and Valencia in Spain and Brindisi, Florence, Naples and Rome in Italy.
Connections to Scandinavia are also

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Top Swiss firms pay respects to ‘formative’ business leader Fritz Gerber

22 days ago

Fritz Gerber worked for the Basel-based pharma giant for more than two decades, shaping Roche’s development into a global healthcare firm. (Keystone / Markus Stuecklin)
Pharmaceutical giant Roche and Zurich Insurance have paid their respects to business executive Fritz Gerber, who passed away on Sunday at the age of 91.
“Fritz Gerber was one of the most influential business leaders in Switzerland during a period of formative development for the country’s modern, open economy,” Zurich Insurance said in a statementexternal link on Monday.
Born on March 22, 1929, in Huttwil, canton Bern, Gerber worked for the insurance firm for almost 40 years, including 17 years as chief executive officer and 18 years as chairman of the board of directors.
“At Zurich, his leadership

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Falcon exits Swiss private banking after 1MDB scandal

23 days ago

Falcon is offering a social plan to staff who will lose their jobs. (Keystone)
The Abu Dhabi-owned Falcon private bank says it is winding down activities in Switzerland and is in talks with a Swiss rival to take on its existing clients next year. Falcon was taken to task by regulators in both Switzerland and Singapore for its role in channelling assets from the Malaysian 1MDB fraud.
The company says it has changed its name to “Falcon Private” but will remain under the supervision of the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMA) while it hands over its private banking clients and assets to the unnamed bank.
“Three years ago, we gave Falcon Private Bank a new profile through innovative ideas and unconventional solutions. However, after a strategic review

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Economic cost of pandemic will be enormous: SNB chief

25 days ago

Jordan insists the central bank can continue to defend the Swiss franc. (Keystone / Marcel Bieri)
Coronavirus is costing between CHF11 billion and CHF17 billion a month, putting such a strain on the Swiss economy that it will take years to recover. Swiss National Bank (SNB) chairman Thomas Jordan has predicted the worst depression since the 1930s.
In two newspaper interviews on Sunday, Jordan warned of significant job losses and an erosion of prosperity in the wake of the pandemic. The economy is currently operating at between 70% to 80% of normal levels, he told the SonntagsZeitungexternal link.
“Many people may not yet be able to imagine what these numbers mean for prosperity in Switzerland. But we will have to chew on these costs for years to come,” he said.

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Swiss customs uncover blackmarket animal drugs scam

25 days ago

Among the drugs seized were hormones that increased milk production in cows. (© Keystone / Gaetan Bally)
More than 200 farmers, many in Switzerland, are suspected of buying illegal medicaments for their livestock from a French blackmarket dealer. Swiss customs uncovered the scam when the veterinarian was stopped at the border with his car full of animal drugs.
Swissmedicexternal link, the body that authorises medicaments in Switzerland, has issued 51 penalty notices including fines, according to the SonntagsZeitung newspaperexternal link. Farmers under suspicion bought around CHF11,000 ($11,300) worth of drugs every year for up to half the price they pay in Switzerland.
The scale of the smuggling operation came to light when the French vet was stopped at the Swiss

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Swiss tourism industry struggling for survival

25 days ago

Many hotel beds have been empty in the last few weeks. (© Keystone / Gaetan Bally)
The Swiss tourism industry will take five years to recover from the coronavirus pandemic with around a quarter of companies in the sector fearing for their future. However, Martin Nydegger, head of Switzerland Tourism, believes something can still be salvaged for the industry this year.
In an interview with the Schweiz am Wochenende newspaperexternal link, Nydegger referred to a survey of 4,000 companies in the tourism sector. Some 23% of respondents feared that they would not come through the pandemic crisis unscathed.
It is still not known when Swiss borders will be fully opened with other countries, although June 8 has been earmarked as the start of the third phase of the plan to

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Swiss tourism numbers crash as jobless figures rise

26 days ago

The number of overnight stays in Swiss hotels fell by nearly two-thirds in March as the coronavirus pandemic gripped the country. Hotels recorded just 1.26 million overnight stays compared to 3.4 million in the same month last year.
The dramatic downturn was expected due to the government-imposed lockdown and border restrictions. The figures, released on Thursday, show that Swiss residents had also shunned hotels in their own country, having been urged to stay at home during the usually busy Easter weekend.
The number of foreign tourists staying at Swiss hotels during March plummeted 68% while domestic trade fell 56%, according to official statistics. Hotels have been open but have had to apply social distancing measures and close restaurant facilities to

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Swiss authorities resort to use of spyware for the first time

27 days ago

Prosecuting authorities resorted to telecommunications surveillance in about 1.5% of all criminal cases. (© Keystone )
The annual report on Swiss surveillance operations in 2019 mentions the use of state-controlled monitoring software, known as GovWare, for the first time since it was authorised in 2018.
The criminal prosecution authorities and the Federal Intelligence Service (FIS) reported the use of spyware for the first time with 12 such completed interventions before the end of 2019. Most of the cases concerned serious offences that could endanger life and cause bodily harm, as well as serious violations of the narcotics law.
Since March 1, 2018, it has been possible to use such spyware and hidden antennas to eavesdrop on conversations or locate mobile phones

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Swiss companies free to pay dividends despite bailouts

28 days ago

Swiss companies that receive state bailouts during the coronavirus pandemic will still be allowed to pay dividends to shareholders. A divided parliament eventually rejected calls to ban the billions that are expected to be paid out by firms this year.
During a hotly debated session on Thursday, the House of Representatives initially backed a proposal to prevent companies issuing dividends if they receive taxpayer money to cope with the pandemic. But the Senate later killed the proposal by decisively rejecting the measure.
Switzerland is expected to foot a bill of around CHF6 billion ($6.2 billion) to subsidise the wages of workers who have been put on reduced hours during the Covid-19 crisis. The number of companies and workers that have applied for this

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SNB’s swollen balance-sheet poses risk to ‘credibility’

29 days ago

The SNB avoids giving firm guidance on where it believes the currency should be, keeping speculators guessing (Keystone)
When the Swiss National Bank (SNB) followed last year’s $50 billion (CHF48.6 billion) profit with a record $39 billion first-quarter loss, it was a stark illustration of the volatility created by a decade of unconventional monetary policy.
The SNB’s balance sheet has ballooned over the past decade as the bank has snapped up other currencies in an attempt to hold down the franc. The SNB believes an overvalued currency, driven up by panicked investors seeking a haven for their cash, would create deflation and spell disaster for Swiss exporters.
But some see the foreign-currency investments – which, at almost CHF800 billion ($811 billion), exceed

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