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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

Government faces growing pressure to relax Covid measures

2 days ago

Bars and restaurants in Switzerland have been closed since Christmas and there are growing calls to allow outdoor dining. Keystone/Martial Trezzini
Pressure is building on the Swiss government to ease restrictions imposed to contain the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Federation of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises on Monday called for a review of the current situation, saying the government was focusing too much on health while failing to consider the economic and financial impact of the restrictions.
The influential pressure group said the interests of public health and the economy had to be balanced, and that the hygiene and safety measures in place would allow an end to the current shutdown and a return to a “healthy economic and social life.”
In the

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Study shows benefits of physical and cognitive play in dementia patients

3 days ago

Senso consists of a screen and a floor panel that measures steps, weight displacement and balance as users attempt to complete a sequence of movements shown on the screen. Dividat AG
Elderly participants who trained regularly on a fitness device developed by a Swiss company showed improvements in cognitive skills, such as attention, concentration, memory and orientation.
The study, carried out by an international team in two Belgian care homes, relied on a fitness game, known as “Exergame”, developed by a spin-off of the federal technology institute ETH Zurich.
“It has been suspected for some time that physical and cognitive training […] has a positive effect on dementia,” said research supervisor Eling de Bruin, an ETH Zurich researcher and a co-founder of the

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Lonza to create 1,200 new jobs at vaccine-production site

3 days ago

Lonza said it was recruiting from the Swiss labour market as well as from countries such as Germany, France, northern Italy and the United Kingdom. Keystone / Alessandro Della Valle
The Swiss pharmaceutical company is recruiting workers to join its new plant in southern Switzerland, where three production lines have been set up to manufacture an active ingredient of Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine.
So far the firm has hired 650 new staff to work at its Visp site in canton Valais, said site director Renzo Cicillini in a media interview published on Saturday.
Cicillini added that Lonza was recruiting from the Swiss labour market as well as from countries such as Germany, France, northern Italy and the United Kingdom.
The multinational signed a ten-year contract with

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Foreign firms creating more jobs in Switzerland despite pandemic

4 days ago

Switzerland has remained an attractive destination for foreign firms © Keystone / Peter Klaunzer
Switzerland has remained an attractive location for foreign firms, creating more jobs last year than in 2019 – despite the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic, Swiss public television SRF and RTS have reported.
Foreign firms accounted for 11% more jobs in 2020, bringing the total to almost 1,200, even if the total number of companies moving to the country dropped (by 9%), SRF saidExternal link. Over the next three years, they are expected to drive the creation of 3,500 jobs.
“The workforce is very qualified, and taxation is favourable and Switzerland is in the middle of Europe,” saidExternal link Jim Fitzgerald, director of Tiffin Metal in SwitzerlandExternal

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All electric pledge by Swiss car-sharing firm

6 days ago

Mobility plans to complement its electric car fleet with a network of charging stations. Keystone / Obs/mobility
Car-sharing company Mobility says it will electrify its entire fleet of 3,000 vehicles and build a network of e-charging stations by 2030.
On Thursday, the company saidExternal link its first 300 e-charging stations should be operational within three years. Mobility, which is aims to be climate neutral as a company by 2040, has pledged that its fleet will in future run on electricity from 100% renewable sources.
The rate of further expansion at Mobility’s 1,500 locations across the country depends on landlords agreeing to the structural overhaul. Swiss Federal Railways has agreed to electrify Mobility service points at railway stations.
“We want as many

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Switzerland asks EU for exception to vaccine export rules

10 days ago

Coveted stuff: a jab of Covid-19 vaccine, in this case from Pfizer/BioNTech. Keystone / Klaus-dietmar Gabbert
As of this week, Switzerland can no longer import Covid vaccines from the European Union (EU) without a special license. Officials in Bern have asked to be granted an exception to the stricter conditions.
According to the SonntagsBlick newspaper, at the end of March the EU removed Switzerland – along with 16 other countries – from a list of states not subject to the stricter export controls.
The newspaper says the decision in Brussels was largely down to tensions about vaccine supplies that have been heightened by the fact that AstraZeneca has been slow in getting supplies to Europe, while it has been “generous” in delivering to the UK.
The export rules,

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Swiss firms hold out hopes in US infrastructure upgrade

11 days ago

The $2 trillion (CHF1.89 trillion) infrastructure investment programme unveiled by Biden on Wednesday is intended to help improve the ailing national power grid, water systems, schools, bridges and road networks. Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved
US President Joe Biden’s major infrastructure plan is raising high hopes for Swiss firms in the construction and building industry. Although first contracts are expected to go to local firms, experts believe Swiss firms could score opportunities thanks to their specialisation and presence in the US market.
The $2 trillion (CHF1.89 trillion) infrastructure investment programme unveiled by Biden on Wednesday is intended to help improve the ailing national power grid, water systems, schools, bridges

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Nestlé attacks food benefits of Brazilian workers during the pandemic

12 days ago

As the price of food soars in Brazil, many Nestlé employees there are struggling to feed themselves. Keystone / Peter Klaunzer
The Swiss multinational is celebrating 100 years in Brazil but its poorest workers face food voucher cuts amid rising food prices caused by the pandemic.
After a century of doing business in Brazil – Nestlé’s fifth largest market with CHF2.79 billion ($2.94 billion) in sales in 2020 – the Swiss food manufacturer faces the discontent of trade unions in the South American country.
At its chocolate factory in Vila Velha (one of its 31 Brazilian units) in Espírito Santo state in the southeast, the company plans to halve food voucher benefits – from BRL 680 (115 CHF) to BRL 350 (59 CHF) – having already reduced the share of profits passed on to

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Switzerland and ILO sign agreement on development cooperation

13 days ago

Children working at a brick factory on the outskirts of Kabul, Afghanistan, in 2019. Switzerland has joined a global platform to combat child labour, forced labour and human trafficking. Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.
Economics Minister Guy Parmelin and the Director-General of the International Labour Organization (ILO), Guy Ryder, have concluded an agreement on development cooperation.
Parmelin, who holds the rotating Swiss presidency this year, also announced that Switzerland had joined a global platform to combat child labour, forced labour and human trafficking, the government said on Thursday.
The agreement, signed in Bern in the presence of employers’ and employees’ associations, sets out Switzerland’s strategic priorities for

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Private sector joins government to protect ‘Swissness’ abroad

13 days ago

Last year a government report indicated that the law on Swissness contributes more than CHF1.4 billion ($1.48 billion) a year to the Swiss economy. © Keystone / Gaetan Bally
Major industry associations have joined forces with public agencies to combat free-riders who abuse the “Swiss brand” abroad.
The association for Swissness enforcement is intended to foster coordinated action against the wrongful use abroad of Swiss indications of source. It comprises 13 members, including industry associations for the chocolate, watch, cheese and textile industries as well as Swiss pharma company Hoffman-La Roche and the Federal Institute of Intellectual Property.
Whether it is a Swiss cross on a watch dial or the word Swiss in a company name, in the eyes of consumers

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The Swiss textile machinery industry has a China dilemma

14 days ago

Most of the big Swiss textile machinery companies have local production in China and only export high-end components from Switzerland. © Keystone / Gaetan Bally
Amid allegations of forced labour involving Uyghur and other minorities in the garment supply chain, the Swiss textile machinery sector faces thorny questions about its ties to and reliance on China.

My specialty is telling stories, and decoding what happens in Switzerland and the world from accumulated data and statistics. An expatriate in Switzerland for several years, I have also worked as a multimedia journalist for the Swiss national broadcaster.
More about the author
| French Department

In 2014, the same year the Swiss-China free trade deal went into force, a group of industry colleagues

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Electric cars are on the way, but is Switzerland ready?

16 days ago

Switzerland has 5,700 public charging points dotted around cities, towns and villages. But charging infrastructure is regularly cited as the country’s Achilles heel. © Keystone / Christian Beutler
Last year saw a surge in new electric vehicle (EV) sales worldwide and Switzerland was no exception. But the experience of frontrunner countries like Norway shows that some things will have to change if the Swiss electric car revolution is to keep pace in the years ahead and reduce carbon emissions.
2020 was the year the electric car went mainstream. General Motors, the largest automaker in the United States, said 40% of its fleet will be electric by 2025. Meanwhile, China led the charge towards e-mobility in terms of total sales of EVs, and Germany, France and the UK

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Credit Suisse and Nomura warn of losses after Archegos-linked sell-off

16 days ago

Credit Suisse is embroiled in its second collapsed deal in a matter of weeks. Keystone / Urs Flueeler
Credit Suisse and Nomura have warned of large losses after a fire sale of about $20bn of Chinese and US stocks, as their client Archegos Capital Management was forced into a huge unwinding of assets.
Nomura could face a total wipeout of its profits for the second half of the financial year, while Credit Suisse has warned the sell-off could have a “highly significant and material” impact on its first-quarter results.
Shares in Japan’s largest investment bank fell 16 per cent on Monday in Tokyo — their worst-ever one-day fall — erasing more than $3.2bn from its market capitalisation, as Nomura warned of recent transactions with an unnamed client and the risk of a

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Credit Suisse warns of ‘highly significant’ loss linked to hedge fund

16 days ago

The potential loss is the latest blow to Credit Suisse, which was hit by the recent Greensill scandal. © Keystone / Gaetan Bally
The Swiss bank Credit Suisse says it may face a “highly significant” loss in the first quarter due to an unnamed American hedge fund client defaulting on margin calls.
In a statementExternal link issued on Monday, the bank said: “While at this time it is premature to quantify the exact size of the loss resulting from this exit, it could be highly significant and material to our first quarter results”.
A margin call is a request from a broker to add more money to an account to cover potential losses. Following the failure of the hedge fund to meet these margin commitments, Credit Suisse and a number of other banks are in the process of

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Covid-19: Can Swiss artists survive on current support measures?

17 days ago

The Covid-19 pandemic demands the creative management of public funds but some authorities are finding this difficult. (Image: Cildo Meireles, ‘Zero Dollar’, 1978-84) Cildo Meireles Cildo Meireles
The Covid-19 pandemic has taken a heavy toll on the Swiss arts scene. Support measures have been introduced to “preserve cultural diversity” and some cantons have even launched monthly income support schemes for artists. But will these measures be enough?
These have been desperate times for many independent artists and event organisers in Switzerland, who say they are struggling to survive in one of the most expensive countries in the world as cultural events have been cancelled or postponed due to coronavirus restrictions.
Switzerland has a rich, extensive cultural

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Pandemic hurts box office takings at Swiss cinemas

22 days ago

Fewer people were able to attend cinemas during the pandemic year of 2020. © Keystone / Thomas Delley
Ticket sales at Swiss cinemas plummeted by two-thirds last year as venues were forced to close their doors. Of the films that could be shown, Swiss movies made up a greater share of the total offering.
Official statistics out on Tuesday revealed the economic impact of Covid-19 on Switzerland’s 263 cinema theatres. Income fell from CHF193 million ($208 million) in 2019 to just CHF67 million last year.
The number of movie premieres dropped 43% as production companies postponed the release of new films. This was more pronounced for foreign movies than home-grown productions. As a result, the proportion of Swiss films being shown in cinemas rose to a record market

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Swiss ‘too big to fail’ banks pose little risk to the economy

25 days ago

Savings deposits, loans and jobs could be threatened if a major Swiss bank were to collapse. © Keystone / Gaetan Bally
Three of Switzerland’s “too big to fail” banks no longer threaten to cause a seismic shift in the economy should they collapse, says the financial regulator.
Zurich Cantonal Bank, PostFinance and the Raiffeisen banking group are now deemed to have put into place credible plans for an orderly bankruptcy. The trio focus primarily on the domestic market, giving loans to businesses, individuals and homeowners plus providing savings and current accounts.
Their financial links to the Swiss economy, including the large number of staff they employ, are so important that it would cause a huge shock if any were to go bust. Following the financial crisis of

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Switzerland is wrangling over implementation of tougher tobacco laws

26 days ago

Some 27% percent of the population over the age of 15 smokes in Switzerland. © Keystone / Melanie Duchene
The Swiss parliament is currently debating tightening restrictions on advertising of tobacco products. This comes after a people’s initiative calls for a radical advertising ban to protect children.
Parliament is currently discussing whether to tighten Switzerland’s current tobacco laws, which are some of the most liberal in the world. The draft bill would restrict national advertising campaigns for tobacco products. Despite recent implementation of stricter laws for the industry, such as compulsory smoking areas on train platforms, smoking remains the main cause of all avoidable deaths in Switzerland. Twenty-seven percent of the population over the age of 15

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How the Swiss central bank could control the cost of pandemic debt

27 days ago

Japan’s central bank is keeping down the cost of national debt – but is their a hidden price? Keystone / Katsumi Kasahara
The cost of paying off spiralling national debt in the United States and Switzerland is rising as interest rates increase. This makes the financing of pandemic expenditure more expensive. That’s not a problem in Japan where the central bank is holding interest rates in check. Would the Japanese recipe also be something for Switzerland?
The US Congress recently passed a $1.9 trillion (CHF1.77 billion) stimulus package. As a result, American national debt will rise to World War Two levels.
The Swiss parliament has also been in a generous mood. For example, it recently raised financing of a hardship fund, designed to cushion the economic impact of

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Bitcoin Suisse bank license bid hits regulatory roadblock

28 days ago

Bitcoin Suisse has spent heavily on advertising, as on this city tram, but has failed to convince the regulator of its credentials to become a bank. / Karin Hofer
Cryptocurrency firm Bitcoin Suisse has withdrawn its application for a banking license, in part because it failed to meet the anti-money laundering requirements of the Swiss financial regulator.
“The application process has shown the need for further reviews of the anti-money laundering framework and potential enhancements. Bitcoin Suisse has initiated the respective projects which, however, need more time than anticipated,” the company said in a statement on Wednesday.
The Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMA) said there were “various” reasonsExternal link for telling told Bitcoin Suisse

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How vaccine passports may make Swiss e-ID rejection obsolete

28 days ago

UN economist Ian Richards argues that Swiss voters’ fears of a proposal for an e-ID may be swept away as more countries see the benefits of digitising documents, including vaccine passports.
A week ago the Swiss public voted overwhelmingly to reject a digital identity scheme that would have given each Swiss citizen and resident an official login and password to open bank accounts, vote, or buy train tickets and ski passes online.
The login would be certified, meaning that the holder’s identity would have been checked beforehand. Any website would then be able to accept the login at face value.
Among the benefits of what was known as e-ID, Swiss residents would no longer need to send sensitive documents in the mail (suspicions were raised two years ago about the

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Swiss refiner comes up with method to verify gold’s origin 

28 days ago

The “geoforensic passport” was developed jointly with the University of Lausanne and co-financed by the Swiss government’s innovation agency. Keystone/Sandro Campardo
Metalor, one of the world’s biggest gold refiners, has developed a way to quickly confirm where gold had been mined, potentially stopping illegal gold from entering supply chains.
The Swiss-based company announced that it has devised the method with the University of Lausanne in a 26-month-long research project.
Its technique takes samples of gold from a mine or supplier and creates a complex chemical and physical blueprint for the material against which subsequent shipments can be checked, said MetalorExternal link executive Jonathan Jodry.
If a shipment contains gold from a different source, this

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Hack on US security-camera company sparks Swiss police raid

March 15, 2021

The hackers said they wanted to raise awareness about mass surveillance © Keystone / Christian Beutler
Swiss authorities on Monday confirmed a police raid at the home of a Swiss hacker who took credit for helping to break into a US security-camera company’s online networks, part of what the hacker cited as an effort to raise awareness about the dangers of mass surveillance.
The Federal Office of Justice said regional police in central Lucerne, acting on a legal assistance request from US authorities, on Friday carried out a house search involving a group of activist hackers using the name Tillie Kottmann.
The hacker said electronic devices were seized during the raid. The Swiss office declined to specify the location or comment further, referring all questions to

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More parcels, fewer letters: pandemic dents Swiss Post finances

March 12, 2021

Far more people ordered goods by parcel during the pandemic. © Keystone / Peter Klaunzer
The Covid-19 pandemic cost the state-owned Swiss postal service CHF139 million ($150 million) last year, which was largely responsible for driving down profits by 30%.
Swiss Post delivered a record 182.7 million parcels in 2020, up nearly a quarter in volume from the previous year. But the number of letters being posted declined by 5.6%.
The pandemic also negatively impacted the annual results of the organisation’s banking division, Postfinance, which saw profits plummet by a third. This was blamed largely on fewer people using ATMs in Switzerland or credit cards abroad, plus the burden of negative interest rate charges.
For 2020, Swiss Post recorded a profit of CHF178 million

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More rare earth metals detected at Swiss wastewater plants

March 12, 2021

The team carried out investigations into the presence of rare earth metals in sewage at 63 treatment plants across Switzerland. © Keystone / Christian Beutler
Rare earth metals like cerium and gadolinium, which are used in industry and hospitals, are increasingly being detected at Swiss wastewater plants, new research shows.
For the first time scientists from the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology (Eawag) carried out investigations into the presence of rare earth metals in sewage at 63 treatment plants across the country.
In its conclusions External linkthe research team said that “rare earth metals are not used on a large scale, but come from highly-specialised applications in industry.”
The highest concentrations were for cerium, which is

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No more free rides in free trade deals

March 10, 2021

The Swiss narrowly voted in favour of a free trade deal with Indonesia on Sunday. Will future agreements also have to win popular support?
It’s rare that the people get to decide the fate of a free trade deal – it’s only happened twice in the last half century in Switzerland. The vote was less about trade and more about palm oil, which has become synonymous with deforestation and the decimation of wildlife like the Orangutan.
I asked my colleague Anand Chandrasekhar, who has been covering the topic for years, for his take on the vote. “The fact that so many people opposed the deal shows that it is firmly cemented in people’s mind that anything to do with palm oil is bad.”
But the fact that a sustainability clause is in the deal should be some consolation prize –

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Most adults in rich nations face long wait for vaccine, distributor warns

March 9, 2021

Manufacturing constraints, not logistics, are holding up distribution of vaccines. Keystone / Zoltan Mathe
More than half of adults in rich countries will still be waiting to receive a first dose of coronavirus vaccine in 15 months’ time, the head of a logistics group distributing jabs has warned.
Detlef Trefzger, chief executive of Kuehne+Nagel, one of the world’s largest haulage companies, said: “This already is fast. This sounds shocking for some people, but we have to be realistic.”
Poorer countries, meanwhile, are unlikely to have vaccinated a majority of their populations before 2023, he told the Financial Times.
The Swiss-German haulage giant — which ranks closely behind Germany’s DHL, the world’s biggest freight forwarder — has been contracted by

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Swiss government wants to keep control of weapons exports

March 7, 2021

The government wants to retain control of weapons exports in connection with peace-keeping missions. © Keystone / Christian Beutler
The Swiss government has rejected calls to allow voters and cantons to set conditions for weapons exports.
A people’s initiative collected enough signatures in 2019 to force a nationwide vote on the issue. It proposes enshrining rules for war materiel exports in the constitution, which would take this responsibility away from the government.
On Friday the Federal Council (governing body) issued a counterproposal that would give parliament the power to adjust the rules for selling war materiel abroad. But the government would retain control over weapons exports for peace-keeping activities, primarily UN or OSCE (Organization for

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Gender equality continues to make progress in Swiss workforce

March 5, 2021

Magdalena Martullo-Blocher, CEO and vice-chair of Ems Chemie, is one of five leaders of top Swiss firms. © Keystone / Walter Bieri
The proportion of women in Swiss company boardrooms and management ranks continues to rise, according to an annual survey of the largest employers in both private and public sectors.
The share of management positions held by women increased from 10% in 2019 to 13% last year, says the latest edition of the Schilling ReportExternal link from executive headhunter Guido Schilling. Five of the biggest firms were led by a female CEOs in 2020 and this number is set to reach eight this year. Nearly a quarter of seats on supervisory boards of the top 100 firms in Switzerland are held by a woman.
An international comparative study by recruitment

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Switzerland gears up to place robots in classrooms

March 2, 2021

The Japanese robot “Pepper”, which Lexi is based on, is used in schools, hotels and businesses. © Keystone / Urs Flueeler
Covid-19 has accelerated the transition to online teaching, raising questions about the role of robots in classrooms. Switzerland is rolling out its own robot learning programs, but it’s still a long way off before they will replace teachers.
“Hi everyone, I’m Lexi”, a humanoid robot greets a full house at the University of St Gallen. Sabine Seufert, Professor of management of educational innovations at the University of St Gallen, first used the robot on a trial basis in her lectures in 2019. Equipped with artificial intelligence, “Lexi” operates like a chatbot and can carry out simple auxiliary tasks such as a Google search. Today, the

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