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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

Swiss seek cooperation with US on cyber security defence

4 days ago

A major conference on cyber security took place in Switzerland last month with participants from the US government. © Keystone/Anthony Anex
Defence Minister Viola Amherd has held talks with United States government representatives on international security cooperation.
Amherd said the Russian invasions of Ukraine made it clear that Switzerland should seek closer cooperation, including the US, she told a news conference in Washington on Friday.
But she reiterated that neutral Switzerland had not plans of joining the 28-member NATO alliance.
She was addressing the media following a meeting with the US deputy defence minister, Kathleen Hicks.
The talks also covered security concerns caused by climate change and promoting participation of women in the armed forces.

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Swiss remain divided over 5G rollout

7 days ago

The Swiss government is committed to the rapid expansion of a 5G network. © Keystone / Peter Klaunzer
Swiss opinion over the expansion of the 5G telecommunications network is still split down the middle, according to the latest survey on the subject.
The Swiss government is convinced that the new technology poses minimal health risks and is committed to the rapid erection of 7,500 5G antennae.
Some 42.5% of adults support this strategy, but 41.7% are against, suggests a survey of 1,023 people commissioned by price comparison website Comparis.
The divided nature of public opinion on this contentious subject is largely unchanged from a previous survey last yearExternal link by the Federal Institute of Technology ETH Zurich.
Opponents fear that radiation leaking from

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Stop organic farming to help future food crisis, says Syngenta boss

11 days ago

Organic farming yields can be up to 50% lower than non-organic farming, depending on the product, claimed the Syngenta CEO. © Keystone / Peter Schneider
Erik Fyrwald, the CEO of the Swiss agrochemicals group Syngenta, has called for an end to organic farming to avoid a worsening food crisis. The president of the Swiss Small Farmers’ Association meanwhile dismissed his arguments as “grotesque”.
Rich countries should increase their agricultural production in order to prevent a global food crisis, Fyrwald told the NZZ am Sonntag newspaper in an interview on Sunday. Organic farming yields can be up to 50% lower than non-organic farming, depending on the product, he claimed.
“The indirect consequence is that people are starving in Africa because we are eating more and

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Swiss central bank rejects ‘creative’ demands to change course

14 days ago

The Swiss National Bank is not prepared to release any further reserves. Keystone / Martin Ruetschi
The Swiss National Bank (SNB) continues to beat off demands to fight inflation by raising interest rates and to distribute more reserves to cantons and other causes.
SNB president Barbara Janom Steiner showed signs of frustration in a speech on Friday that defended the policies of the central bank.
“There are ever more varied proposals – and indeed, increasingly, demands – for potential uses to which the SNB’s assets or profits might be put,” she saidExternal link. “There is understandably no limit to the creativity exhibited by the authors of such proposals. I believe, however, that it would be anything but a good idea to meet these demands.”
At present, the Swiss

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Historians trace Elon Musk’s Swiss roots to Emmental

15 days ago

Elon Musk’s maternal side of the family can be traced back to villages in the Emmental region of Switzerland. Keystone / Patrick Pleul
Tesla CEO Elon Musk has roots in a small, picturesque farming region in central Switzerland. Using genealogy websites and local archives, historians have been able to connect Musk with the Haldimann name, which is still present in the Emmental region today.
There are few images as quintessentially Swiss as the green pastures, farmhouses and distinctive holey cheese in the Emmental region in Canton Bern. According to researchExternal link by the SonntagsZeitung, the ancestors of the world’s richest man, Elon Musk, come from this area.
Maye Musk, Elon Musk’s mother, was born Maye Haldeman on April 19, 1948 in Canada. In her

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Covid loan claims fuel rise in suspected fraud cases

16 days ago

There have been some 1,700 cases of suspected Covid-19 loan frauds reported since the start of the pandemic. © Keystone / Ennio Leanza
The number of reported suspicious financial transactions continued to rise in Switzerland in 2021, but at a lower rate than in the first year of the pandemic.
Switzerland’s Money Laundering Reporting Office (MROS) saw a 12% increase of suspicious activity reports last year to reach 5,962.
For the second year in a row, a significant number of these detailed suspected fraudulent claims for loans offered to businesses during the Covid-19 pandemic.
MROS said on Monday that it had received 1,700 such reports, involving CHF230 million ($236 million) of claims, since the start of the pandemic. Several thousand more suspected coronavirus

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Rising prices put pressure on Swiss consumers and industry

17 days ago

“Households are feeling the strain as prices continue to rise,” SECO said on Monday. © Keystone / Gaetan Bally
Consumers in Switzerland are much more pessimistic about the general economic situation, with households feeling the strain as prices continue to rise, a new survey shows.
April data published by the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) on Monday shows that overall consumer sentiment has deteriorated “significantly” in recent months.
The consumer sentiment index for last month fell by 27 points, from -3.8 points in January, marking the biggest decline since the onset of the pandemic in the spring of 2020, SECO said.
“Households are feeling the strain as prices continue to rise,” SECO said. Swiss households are particularly pessimistic about how

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The riddle of Russian money in Switzerland

23 days ago

For the Swiss government, applying such a sweeping set of sanctions is a work in progress. Keystone / Peter Klaunzer
There’s a well-worn Swiss bankers joke about the venality of a particular country. The actual country changes with the times but since this is April 2022, it starts like this: “Where is the capital of Russia?”
You can guess the punchline.
Two months into Vladimir Putin’s brutal war of aggression in Ukraine, however, what is remarkable is just how little Russian capital actually seems to be in the Alps. Neutral, inscrutable Switzerland was, perhaps more than any other country, presumed to be the treasure house of the Putin kleptocracy.
But despite Bern having mirrored all of the US and EU sanctions against Russian oligarchs – measures that apply to

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Geldcast update: calls for a more transparent Swiss National Bank

24 days ago

The Swiss National Bank (SNB) is very opaque by international standards. That has to change, says Yvan Lengwiler, professor of economics at the University of Basel. He explains his proposals in the latest Geldcast update.
“There is no right to secrecy,” says Yvan Lengwiler – not even at the Swiss National Bank. He has joined forces with Stefan Gerlach of the EFG Bank and Charles Wyplosz, a professor at the Graduate Institute in Geneva, to form the “SNB Observatory”.
Lengwiler and his fellow campaigners are now demanding more openness from the SNB. Currently no one knows how the SNB’s top management makes its decisions, says Lengwiler. For the central bank to fulfill its accountability, a certain degree of transparency is needed.
In addition, Lengwiler and his

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Swiss technology foils Russian censorship

26 days ago

Since the start of the war in Ukraine, many Russian internet users have been using the Swiss software Kiwix to download Wikipedia fearing that it will soon be banned. © Keystone / Christian Beutler
The Swiss software Kiwix enables the user to copy entire websites so they can be accessible offline. Now that Wikipedia risks sanction in Russia because of its content on the Ukraine war, downloads of the free online encyclopaedia using Kiwix are off the charts.
Wikipedia is one of the few sources of information on the Ukraine war not yet censored in Russia, but it is on the Kremlin’s radar. Since the beginning of March, Wikimedia, the American foundation that runs Wikipedia, “has received several warnings from the Russian government… calling upon it to suppress

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Energy prices: government considers measures to help households

27 days ago

The issue of rising energy and fuel prices is ‘on the government’s radar’, according to Energy Minister Simonetta Sommaruga © Keystone / Christian Beutler
The Swiss government has set up a working group to examine whether measures are needed to relieve the burden on households caused by rising energy prices.
“[The government] is observing the development very closely in order to clarify whether support is needed to cushion hardship cases,” said Energy Minister Simonetta Sommaruga in an interviewExternal link with the SonntagsZeitung.
“The issue of rising prices is on our radar,” she said, explaining that she had set up a working group with Finance Minister Ueli Maurer and had already held talks with the country’s 26 cantons.
Electricity tariffs for households in

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Swiss trade unions sound alarm about rising cost of living

28 days ago

Prices in Switzerland are on the rise, albeit less drastically than in the EU and the US. © Keystone / Christian Beutler
Trade unions say middle- and lower-income workers in Switzerland are facing a “shock” in 2022, with wages unable to offset rising inflation and health insurance costs.
With inflation currently over 2% in Switzerland, the cost of living is going up, and workers need a salary boost to offset this, said the country’s biggest trade union group on Wednesday.
The Swiss Trade Union Federation added that an expected rise in health insurance premiums for next year – some are expecting a 10% hike, but rates are yet to be announced – will hit middle-income households hardest.
According to estimates by the group, a family with two children could see

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Easter march through Bern addresses war in Ukraine

29 days ago

Peace marchers head towards the centre of Bern on Monday © Keystone/peter Schneider
The traditional Easter march has taken place in the Swiss capital, Bern. This year the “Walk for Peace” focused on issues including the climate and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Up to 1,000 people, waving rainbow-coloured peace flags, gathered by the River Aare on Monday. They walked along the river, within sight of the Ukrainian embassy at Helvetiaplatz, into the city and ended in the square in front of the Munster Cathedral. There, several speakers addressed the crowd.
Almost 40 organisations, mainly from left-wing and church circles, had called for the Easter march in Bern.
Within the peace movement there are different positions on the war in Ukraine. Particularly controversial

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Impact of Swiss finance sector on country’s GDP waning

29 days ago

Switzerland’s finance industry: a little less important than a decade ago, but still a big plank of the economy. Keystone / Gian Ehrenzeller
The contribution of Switzerland’s finance industry to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) has decreased over the past ten years.
The share of GDP accounted for by financial and insurance services was 9% last year, down from 10% in 2011, the State Secretariat for International Finance (SIF)External link said in a report published on Wednesday.
By comparison, the size of the financial sector in Luxembourg is 25.1% of GDP. In Singapore it’s 13.8%, in the US 8.9%, and in the UK 8.2%, the SIF wrote.
The number of employees in the Swiss finance sector dropped from around 216,400 in 2011 to 211,605 in 2021, and now account

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Swiss to decide individually on Russian commodity deals

April 20, 2022

It is estimated that about a third of the oil traded globally is bought and sold in Switzerland. Keystone/Sergey Ponomarev
Switzerland will decide case by case whether to curtail traders’ purchases from Russia’s state-controlled companies under European Union sanctions.
The State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) which is in charge sanctions confirmed the Swiss policy to follow in principle the EU measures, which aim to limit commodity deals to those deemed “strictly necessary” from mid-May.
“According to Article 24a paragraph 2 letter a of the Ordinance on Measures in Connection with the Situation in Ukraine, the ban on transactions with state-owned enterprises does not apply to transactions that are strictly necessary for the purchase, import or transport

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Crypto Nation Switzerland tackles workforce shortages

April 19, 2022

Students and expanding companies are demanding more blockchain courses at Swiss universities. © Keystone / Christian Beutler
The rapidly expanding Swiss blockchain industry is facing growing pains: a limited supply of qualified workers to fill the expanding number of job vacancies. Universities are stepping up to meet the challenge by designing new courses around blockchain and decentralised finance.
Blockchain is the digital system that powers bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. The code is designed to replace traditional gatekeepers, such as banks and technology providers. Decentralised finance promises blockchain trading without the friction and fees of intermediaries.
The number of blockchain companies has risen from 300 in 2017 to around 1,200, employing more

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Swiss consumed 4.3 percent more electricity in 2021

April 18, 2022

Nuclear plants fell short by 19.4% because of maintenance work carried out at the Leibstadt plant over several months. © Keystone / Alexandra Wey
The Alpine nation consumed 2.4 million kilowatt hours (kWh) more electricity in 2021, equivalent to the annual consumption of 479,800 households.
“In addition to the pandemic-related ‘compensatory effects’ in the second quarter, general economic development, the weather and population development increased consumption in 2021,” said the Swiss Federal Office of Energy (SFOE) on Thursday.
The total electricity consumption was 58.1 billion kWh in a year where the GDP increased by 3.7% and the population by 0.8%. The number of heating degree days (outside temperature below 18°Ci or 65°F) increased by 15.3% which also

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Are the days of morally neutral corporate decision-making over?

April 17, 2022

New rules of the game have consequences be they sanctions, laws, court rulings or even public opinion. The stakes have never been as high for multinationals when it comes to doing the right thing.
The war in Ukraine has tested the moral compass of big firms worldwide. Sanctions against Russia came with little notice along with heavy penalties for those who don’t toe the line. Low profile industries can suddenly no longer operate under the radar. Take Swiss steel traders, for example.
Not many know that the Italian-speaking canton of Ticino in the south of Switzerland is an important centre for trade in steel from Eastern Europe. Ticino hosts over 50 companies that trade in metals and minerals and they employ over 500 people. The war in Russia has affected

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Swiss bail-out plan aims to prevent electricity crunch

April 16, 2022

Switzerland’s electricity supply to end-users is secured by more than 600 companies. Suppliers range from small regional utilities to international energy groups. Most of them are public sector entities. © Keystone/Gaetan Bally
The government has decided to prepare a bail-out plan for Switzerland’s main electricity companies to prevent an energy shortage.
The aim is to ensure financial liquidity for companies trading energy on an international scale and to avoid an electricity crunch in Switzerland, Energy Minister Simonetta Sommaruga announced on Thursday.
She said the bankruptcy of a major electricity company could set off a chain reaction threatening the energy supply of Switzerland.
“We have no time to lose, we have to be prepared for a worst-case scenario,”

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No business can be right in a war that’s wrong

April 14, 2022

Western companies should end their business relations with Russia. It is their moral duty to contribute to peace-making by their actions, says a group of business ethicists in Switzerland and Austria.
Some large corporations are currently breaking off economic relations with Russia, removing Russian products from their product ranges, and closing their production facilities or branches in the country. Among these are Ikea, Apple, all the major credit-card companies, and Coca-Cola.

Others, however, like Swiss food giant Nestlé or the largest foreign bank in Russia, Raiffeisen Bank International, are continuing to do business in and with Russia. These companies argue not in terms of their own obvious interests, but see themselves as having a social

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Swiss property market faces bleak future despite record values

April 14, 2022

The Covid-19 pandemic has failed to rattle the Swiss property market. Prices for apartment buildings have hit a record high. But now the war in Ukraine and rising interest rates threaten to turn the tide.
The Swiss real estate market recorded a bumper year in 2021. The total return, comprising rental income and value changes on properties, was higher for real estate investors than it had been in seven years. Prices have been heading in just one direction – up – for years, and interest rates are low. This created ideal conditions for those who could afford the high prices and invest in apartments or an apartment building.
But the Russian invasion of Ukraine in late February has turned all forecasts upside down.
“The situation in Ukraine has given us a new

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Former top Swiss banker convicted for fraud

April 13, 2022

Vincenz is a former Swiss ‘banker of the year’. © Keystone/Michael Buholzer
A Swiss court has sentenced former Raiffeisen bank chief Pierin Vincenz to almost four years in prison for fraud, forgery of documents and criminal mismanagement.
Judges on Wednesday handed down a jail sentence of 43 months as well as a suspended fine of CHF840,000 ($899,858). Vincenz was also ordered to refund CHF236,000.
He was accused of making millions through illicit deals while he was chief executive of Raiffeisen Switzerland, the country’s third largest bank.
However, the district court in Zurich cleared him of accusations of corruption.
Vincenz’ laywer told the Reuters news agency that he would be launching an appeal against the verdict.
High-profile case
Vincenz and six other

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Switzerland misses greenhouse gas reduction target

April 12, 2022

Switzerland has ambitious greenhouse gas reduction plans but has yet to implement a concrete plan to realise them. © Keystone / Gaetan Bally
Switzerland has narrowly missed its target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 despite coronavirus lockdowns and an unusually warm winter.
The Alpine state had set itself the target of reducing harmful emissions by 20% compared to 1990 levels. The actual reduction was 19%, the Federal Office for the Environment said on MondayExternal link.
“Less heating was used during a comparatively warm winter. The pandemic resulted in a sharp fall in mobility,” the environment office stated. “With the lifting of pandemic restrictions, emissions are again increasing significantly again. The pressure to act remains elevated.”
Only

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Switzerland has frozen CHF7.5bn in assets under Russia sanctions

April 8, 2022

Residents walk through rubble in the Ukrainian city of Bucha on Wednesday. Hundreds of tortured and murdered civilians have been found in Bucha and other parts of the Kyiv region after the Russian army retreated from those areas. Keystone / Roman Pilipey
Switzerland has so far frozen some CHF7.5 billion ($8 billion) in funds and assets under sanctions against Russians to punish Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
These are funds in frozen accounts and properties in four cantons, said Erwin Bollinger, head of the Bilateral Economic Relations Division at the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) at a media conference in Bern on Thursday.
“Switzerland has thus frozen more funds than any other country. The Netherlands has blocked CHF500 million, other countries have

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Swiss consumers spend big on organic products

April 8, 2022

The organic food market in Switzerland experienced slower growth in 2021 than the previous year. However, consumers are spending more than ever on organic products.
According to annual figures released by the organic food association Bio Suisse on Wednesday, the market for organic products grew 0.6% in 2021 to reach a share of 10.9% of the total market. In 2020, the association recorded a 4% growth in organic sales.
One of the reasons for the slower growth is that consumers ate out in restaurants more and bought less organic products for cooking at home than in the first pandemic year, a spokesman for the association told the Keystone-SDA agency.
Despite slower growth, organic sales exceeded CHF4 billion ($4.29 billion) for the first time. In 2020, the organic

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Ukraine war no threat to Swiss banks, says financial watchdog

April 7, 2022

Angehrn (left) and Amstad stressed that stability of the Swiss financial institutions is key for digitalisation and sustainability of the banking sector. © Keystone/Anthony Anex
Switzerland’s financial market supervisor FINMA says the Russian invasion of Ukraine isn’t a wide-scale threat to Swiss financial firms’ business ties to Russia.
FINMAExternal link’s chief executive Urban Angehrn said that, overall, the immediate effects of risks to the financial centre were manageable and Swiss firms’ business relations to Russia were “not insignificant”.
However, Angehrn told a news conference on Tuesday that the war in Ukraine “poses numerous risks for the Swiss financial sector and accentuated risks for individual institutions”.
Angehrn, who took up his post at FINMA

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Ukrainian refugees can benefit Swiss economy, says expert

April 6, 2022

Most of the refugees are women and children. If Switzerland is to benefit from the women’s skills in the workplace, it will have to solve a shortage of childcare places. Keystone / Peter Schneider
Switzerland can cope with a large number of Ukrainian refugees, and their skills can benefit the economy, says migration expert Thomas Kessler.
“The Ukrainian women will provide new impetus in this country,” he told the SonntagsBlick newspaper. “Especially in the IT sector, the Ukrainians are more advanced than Switzerland. In addition, it is normal in Ukraine for women to study natural sciences.”
Some 23,000 Ukrainian refugees are now registered in Switzerland and are eligible for a special “S” permit that allows them to work. Most are women and children, since men aged

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Bankruptcies rise as coronavirus bail-outs phase out

April 5, 2022

The number of companies and individuals declaring bankruptcy rose 9.1% last year, which coincided with a gradual withdrawal of state-backed financial support during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Some 14,081 businesses and individuals filed for bankruptcy in 2021, which is 1,169 more declarations of insolvency than in 2020, the Federal Statistical Office said on MondayExternal link.
The large increase in bankruptcies can be partially explained by the withdrawal of financial measures that were introduced when the pandemic struck in 2020.
This included payments to cover wages for workers on reduced hours and emergency loans backed by the state. In addition, implementation of bankruptcy laws was eased to allow companies more leeway before they were obliged to declare

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Ukraine refugees struggle to exchange cash into Swiss francs

April 4, 2022

Thousands of Ukrainian refugees are finding that Swiss banks are refusing to convert the cash they brought with them into francs.

More than 20,000 people fleeing the Ukraine war have registered in Switzerland so far. But they rely on the goodwill of Swiss families or state to support them as none can pay their way using the hryvnia currency that they have brought with them.
Ukranian refugees with a special S PermitExternal link can open a Swiss bank account but all banks are refusing to accept hryvnia as they fear being stuck with the currency. Concerns are that this would incur losses in the likely event that the franc appreciated against the hryvnia.
Under normal times, the Swiss and Ukrainian central banks would arrange a swap facility for their

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Switzerland backs European plans for joint gas storage

April 2, 2022

Switzerland has signed a declaration along with six other European states in favour of pooling gas storage facilities.
Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Belgium, France, Luxembourg and the Netherlands signed the declarationExternal link on Wednesday, pledging to work towards coordinating storage efforts on a regional level.
The agreement, which is not legally binding, comes after the European Commission announced plans to mandate natural gas storage for EU members each winter, as well as to coordinate joint purchases of non-Russian gas.
Pursuing this joint approach makes sense for non-EU member Switzerland because the country is also affected by the turbulent gas market and lacks significant storage capabilities, according to a statement published by the energy

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