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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

Covid-hit restaurants call for ‘compensation now’

5 days ago

Swiss restaurants are experiencing a second, and in some cases third shutdown in a year owing to the pandemic. Keystone / Urs Flueeler
Half of all hotel and restaurant businesses in Switzerland will go bankrupt by the end of March if they do not receive immediate financial compensation for the effects of coronavirus restrictions, warns the sector’s umbrella organisation.
Based on a survey of more than 4,000 of its members, GastroSuisse says 98% of its members need support, and that “with each wave of coronavirus comes a wave of redundancies”.
“In November and December, there was a second wave of redundancies in the hotel and catering industry,” it said in a press releaseExternal link on Sunday.  Almost 60% of businesses that laid off staff during the year had to

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Switzerland hit by widespread malware campaign

8 days ago

The aim of such attacks is usually to force organisations to cease operations or to extort ransom money Keystone / Sascha Steinbach
Several security bodies in Switzerland have been targeted by emails that appear to come from official organisations such as banks or the police and contain a password for a zip file. When this file is opened, the computer becomes infected with a trojan called Emotet.
The Bern cantonal police force is one institution that has been affected, the Conference of Cantonal Police Commanders of Switzerland said on Wednesday.
The aim of such attacks is usually to force organisations to cease operations or to extort ransom money.
Many of these emails are real emails that have fallen into the hands of the fraudsters and are now being resent by

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Two globally pioneering technologies among Swiss energy prize winners

11 days ago

The water on which the power plant floats helps cool the solar panels thus improving their efficiency. Keystone / Valentin Flauraud
A floating solar power plant and a transport project using renewable hydrogen are among the winners of the 2021 Watt d’Or prize.
Awarded annually by the Swiss Federal Office of Energy since 2007, the goal of the Watt d’Or is to “showcase outstanding products or services in the energy sector”.
The 2021 winners, selected from 64 projects, include two world firsts in the fields of renewable energy and sustainable transport.
One is the world’s first high-altitude floating solar power plant. It was built on the Lac des Toules, a hydroelectric reservoir located 1,800 metres above sea level in the western Swiss canton of Valais.
Despite the

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Swiss franc shrugs off being put on the naughty step by US

11 days ago

Switzerland was named a currency manipulator by the US Treasury in December 2020. © Keystone / Gaetan Bally
For many foreign exchange traders, the US Treasury’s decision to designate Switzerland as a currency manipulator last month comes nearly six years too late and with a good dose of irony.
The Swiss National Bank threw currency markets into full-blown chaos in January 2015 when it unexpectedly abandoned its cap on the franc’s value, within days of a senior official reiterating the central bank’s commitment to keeping the mechanism in place. Banks and investors suffered large losses, brokerages went bust and legal disputes rattled on for years because of the shock decision.
To be fair to the SNB, it had no choice but to hold the line right up to the point where

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Charity works overtime to support Covid-stricken mountain firms

11 days ago

Hundreds of small alpine businesses rely on the fund for support. © Keystone / Christian Beutler
A Swiss fund that supports small businesses in alpine regions bailed out 100 firms last year that were affected by the coronavirus pandemic. Schweizer Berghilfe (Swiss Mountain Aid) doled out an extra CHF2 million ($2.26 million) to support Covid-hit enterprises.
Volunteers put in 15% more hours evaluating and processing the extra demand for financial support, the organisation said on Tuesday. This resulted in experts spending an extra 1,200 hours (or 150 days) visiting each project in mountain regions to determine whether they should receive support.
In normal years, evaluators give around 8,500 hours of their own time to assess applicants. Last year, as a result of

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Covid-19 drives new car sales down to historic low

12 days ago

In a bleak year for the car industry, there was one bright spot: an unprecedented rise in the number of alternative propulsion vehicles sold, including electric cars and hybrid models. © Keystone / Martial Trezzini
The Swiss automobile industry registered its worst result in over 40 years, as the number of new cars hitting the road in 2020 fell by a quarter compared to the previous year.
A total of 236,828 new cars were sold last year, the import association Auto Suisse said on Monday, adding that the last time the industry experienced such poor numbers was during the oil crisis in the mid-1970s.
On the bright side, there was a record number of alternative propulsion vehicles on the roads, sales of which rose by 63%. More than a quarter (28.8%) of new plate

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OECD should focus on climate crisis and inequality, says Hildebrand

13 days ago

Former Swiss National Bank Chairman Philipp Hildebrand, who has been nominated to lead the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), says the Paris-based organisation can play a key role in the area of green investment.
In his first wide-ranging interview since the former central bank chairman was nominated as a candidate for the OECD, Hildebrand told SonntagsZeitung that he saw three key priorities for the Paris-based organisation: fighting inequality and climate change and restructuring the global tax system.
“The first is the problem of inequality. The economic model of the past 15 years has led to greater inequality in income and wealth distribution around the world,” he said.
The second issue, he said, is investing money in a way that

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Swiss continue search for absconded British tourists

17 days ago

Skiing for one in Davos Keystone / Gian Ehrenzeller

Swiss cantons are still trying to identify tourists from the UK and South Africa who are staying in their resorts or who fled to escape Covid quarantine. Canton Valais, home to many popular ski resorts such as Verbier and Zermatt, is struggling.
This content was published on December 30, 2020 – 14:03December 30, 2020 – 14:03
Keystone-SDA/ts
At the weekend an estimated 200 British tourists crept out of Verbier during the night, with hotel owners only realising what was going on when they saw breakfast trays outside room doors. The tourists face fines of up to CHF10,000 ($11,280).
On December 20 Switzerland halted all flights from Britain and South Africa because a new variant of the coronavirus, thought to be

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‘Brexit envy’ grows in Switzerland

18 days ago

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announces a deal on December 24 Paul Grover

Britain has finally negotiated a deal with the European Union. The European Court of Justice will not act as a court of arbitration. Some Swiss voices are now calling for Switzerland to get the same deal.
This content was published on December 28, 2020 – 13:51December 28, 2020 – 13:51

Sibilla Bondolfi

The UK and the EU managed to agree on a last-minute trade deal after all. It will come into force provisionally on January 1. This will prevent customs duties being imposed on exports and imports in the new year.
Free trade without EU membership: that sounds like what British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was after, and something he’ll try to sell as a victory at home. The British

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Economic outlook for Switzerland in 2021

19 days ago

Have the Swiss and European Union economies already been through the worst, or will the pandemic cause more damage in 2021? Keystone / Martin Ruetschi

Lockdown, home office, travel bans. The pandemic has shaken up the economy, but its disruptive power is having a selective effect. While the pharmaceutical industry is sailing through the crisis unscathed, the watch industry is being hit harder than any time since the last world war. What is the future of Switzerland as a location for business, work and research?
This content was published on December 30, 2020 – 11:00December 30, 2020 – 11:00
 
Relocation of the global village
Traditionally, the Swiss economic year would start with a bang in January, with the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting in Davos.

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Swiss want more digital services from the state

19 days ago

A parking fine with a QR code in Zurich in July © Keystone / Christian Beutler

Digitalisation is increasing pressure on state authorities, with almost three-quarters of Swiss expecting more digital services from the authorities, according to a survey by consultants Deloitte.
This content was published on December 29, 2020 – 08:39December 29, 2020 – 08:39
Keystone-SDA/ts
Whether it’s paying parking fines or obtaining motorway toll stickers, Swiss want to be able to deal with such services online. A third of those surveyed could even imagine getting married via video conferencing.
A large majority of the population would like to see harmonised digital solutions throughout Switzerland, for example for the electronic transmission of tax data, registration and

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‘We were too lax’ admits Swiss health minister on Covid-19

20 days ago

Alain Berset speaking about his experience as health minister in 2020 SRF
In an interview with Swiss public television, SRF, Health Minister Alain Berset has acknowledged that Switzerland made mistakes in managing the coronavirus outbreak.
“We were too lax,” Berset said, pointing out that in the summer – after the first wave – people had the feeling that the worst was over. “And then we were far too optimistic when we thought we could reopen the big events in the fall.”
The worst thing, however, is to freeze and do nothing when dealing with a crisis, added Berset. And one thing is clear: “If you make mistakes, you have to correct them as quickly as possible.”
The Covid-19 pandemic has pushed Berset’s own physical limits as well. As he told SRF, there were moments

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Swiss groups argue about parking spaces

24 days ago

This is happening a lot in Switzerland. © Keystone / Gaetan Bally
Even good drivers might struggle to fit their cars into the allotted parking spaces in Switzerland. Yet Swiss cities don’t necessarily want to provide larger spaces.
The Swiss Association of Road and Traffic Experts has presented a proposal to increase the standard size of parking spaces. Currently, the Swiss standard width is 2.35 metres for private parking spaces and 2.50m for public ones. The new recommendation would make 2.5 the minimum, with the option to add 10cm. It would also extend the minimum length from 5.7 to 6.0m. The average Swiss car has become 7cm wider since 1995.
But as the Swiss Association of Cities told the NZZ am Sonntag newspaper, the concept is problematic in view of the

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Europe’s ski market crushed by Covid-19

25 days ago

A police officer in the Swiss resort of Villars-sur-Ollon checks whether Covid-19 measures are being observed. Keystone / Valentin Flauraud
Gérard Brudi, who rents two apartments to winter workers in the popular French ski resort of Val Thorens, has not had a single booking this year.
Despite snow falling and sunny weather, the ski lifts are closed. The travel reps that would normally host guests have little more to do than check empty chalets for freezing pipes.
Val Thorens can host about 50,000 visitors a week at peak but there are currently just a few thousand scattered weekend guests.
“We are absolutely, as we French say, in incertitude,” said Mr Brudi. “People don’t rent flats or hotels at a high price just for sniffing the good fresh air. If I cannot ski, I

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Switzerland bans flights from UK over new coronavirus

26 days ago

Switzerland joins at least ten European countries, including Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Austria and Belgium, which have said they are taking measures to prevent people arriving from Britain Keystone / Neil Hall
Switzerland has joined other European countries in suspending flights from the United Kingdom and South Africa after reports of a fast-spreading new coronavirus strain.
“Due to the new epidemiological situation in Britain and South Africa, the Federal Office of Civil Aviation (OFAC) has suspended air traffic between Switzerland and these two countries until further notice from midnight Sunday,” the Swiss authorities said on Sunday in a statement.
This emergency decision follows the “emergence of a new variant of coronavirus which, according to initial

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Credit Suisse chief vows a ‘clean slate’ in 2021

27 days ago

Thomas Gottstein became the new CEO at Credit Suisse in February 2020. Keystone / Ennio Leanza
The chief executive of Credit Suisse has vowed the bank will start 2021 with a “clean slate” after a torrid year that began with a damaging corporate spying scandal and was punctuated by embarrassing fallout from legacy compliance and lending failures.
Thomas Gottstein, who replaced the ousted Tidjane Thiam in February as head of Switzerland’s second-largest lender, told the Financial Times that 2020 had been “a clean-up year” for Credit Suisse, which was also caught up in alleged frauds at Luckin Coffee and Wirecard, having worked on deals for both.
He also acknowledged that the bank faced difficult decisions on bonuses this year, having to balance rewarding traders for

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First Covid-19 vaccine approved for Swiss use

28 days ago

The Covid-19 vaccine from Pfizer/BioNTech is one of three pre-ordered by the Swiss health authorities. Switzerland expects to start vaccinating the most vulnerable people this month already, and nationwide from January 4. Tampa Bay Times
Swiss health regulator Swissmedic has approved the coronavirus vaccine from Pfizer/BioNTech. According to the Swiss authorities, the level of protection is over 90% a week after the second dose.
Two months after receiving the application, Swissmedic, the Swiss Agency for Therapeutic Products, has given the coronavirus vaccine Comirnaty® (BNT162b2) the green light. Based on the available data, the agency found a comparably high level of efficacy in all age groups that were tested.
“The safety of patients is an essential

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Countries still far from achieving sustainable development

December 19, 2020

Reliance on fossil fuels is putting the planet under increasing pressure. Keystone / Larry W. Smith
The latest United Nations Human Development Report has found that countries, including Switzerland, still struggle to achieve high levels of human development without straining the planet.

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

The coronavirus pandemic is only the latest crisis confronting our planet. If people don’t release their grip on nature, other crises are likely to come. That’s one of the big

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Switzerland among best placed to recover from Covid crisis

December 16, 2020

Switzerland ranks well on flexible working and good digital connections that allow people to work from home. Keystone / Jean-christophe Bott
Switzerland is among the countries best equipped to withstand the effects of the global pandemic, although no nation has emerged unscathed, according to the World Economic Forum (WEF).
The Alpine country does well on several of the indicators used in a WEF report released Wednesday in Geneva. Replacing its usual annual Global Competitiveness Index, the WEF report on “how countries are performing on the road to recovery” looks at “how economies should think about revival and transformation as they recover and redesign their economic systems to enhance human development and compatibility with the environment”.
Switzerland comes

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Switzerland and UK sign agreement on mobility of service suppliers

December 15, 2020

The UK market is being opened up to Switzerland in more than 30 service sectors Keystone
An agreement that secures reciprocal, facilitated market access for service providers from Switzerland and Britain from January 1 has been signed by Economics Minister Guy Parmelin and Liz Truss, the British Secretary of State for International Trade.
The Services Mobility Agreement (SMA), signed in London on Monday, regulates the mutual access and temporary stay of service suppliers – for example management consultants, IT experts or engineers – the economics ministry said in a statement.
The agreement was necessary because from January the agreement on the free movement of persons between Switzerland and the EU would no longer apply to the UK, owing to Brexit. Britain

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WEF’s Asian relocation to cost Switzerland tens of millions

December 11, 2020

Although the WEF conference costs the taxpayer millions in security costs, it brings in far more in income for local businesses. © Keystone / Laurent Gillieron
Swiss hotels, restaurants and shops are counting up the cost of the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) flagship event moving to Singapore next year. This year’s 50th annual meeting realised a net gain of around CHF80 million ($90 million) for the Swiss economy.
This windfall will be sorely missed by small businesses and the hospitality industry that have been ravaged by Covid-19. But WEF organisers were clearly not convinced that Switzerland would have the pandemic under control by early summer.
Raw figures, which are not exhaustive and in some cases are estimates, give an idea of the event’s monetary value to

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WEF annual meeting moves from Switzerland to Singapore

December 8, 2020

The coronavirus pandemic has forced the World Economic Forum (WEF) to relocate its flagship event to Singapore next year. It will be only the second time in 50 years that it will be staged outside of the Swiss mountain resort of Davos.
The 51st annual meeting of business, political and civil society leaders will take place in Singapore between May 13-16, WEF announced on Monday. Organisers added that it plans to return to Davos in 2022.
The event has moved out of Switzerland in stages. Having been advised not to hold the meeting in Davos on its traditional January date, organisers looked for another venue in Switzerland for next summer.
The pandemic had also forced a slimmed-down, half virtual meeting next year, it had been previously announced. But now it has

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Swissair liquidator extracts CHF2.75 million from former bosses

December 8, 2020

Former Swissair bosses have been ordered to pay CHF2.75 million ($3 million) almost 20 years after the national airline carrier went bust. The bill has been presented to 14 former managers after many years of legal wrangling and court battles.
Swissair’s liquidator announced the agreed settlement on Friday, having failed last year to hold the executives liable for the much larger sum of CHF280 million.
The grounding of the 71-year-old national airline in 2001 was received with shock in the Alpine country. The bankruptcy was blamed in part on the 9/11 terrorist attack in the Unted States, but managers were later accused of presiding over a recklessly extravagant expansion policy.
In November 2019, the Federal Court cleared the 14 managers of mismanagement, a

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Covid continues to stress Swiss economy

December 7, 2020

[caption id="attachment_603928" align="alignleft" width="400"] Despite some businesses being opened up again from lockdown, most are still counting the cost of Covid-19. Keystone / Laurent Gillieron[/caption]
Overnight hotel stays fell by more than 40% during the summer as Switzerland locked down against coronavirus. The pandemic has also battered the finances of the airline industry, but most smaller companies have retained some optimism for the future.
Official statistics revealed on Monday that Swiss hotels had 9.3 million fewer overnight stays between May and October than for the same period in 2019. While more people living in Switzerland booked into hotels, the number of foreign guests fell by three quarters. Overnight stays have been put at 10.2 million

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Swiss National Bank accused of lagging behind in green investment

December 7, 2020

[caption id="attachment_603925" align="alignleft" width="400"] About 3-5% of the investments of 180 Swiss financial institutions taking part in a government climate compatibility test flow into fossil energies like oil, gas and coal, according to a new report Keystone / Larry Mayer[/caption]
Swiss banks and retirement funds are still investing enormous sums in fossil fuel companies and thereby contributing to global warming. This is the conclusion of a government climate compatibility test. The Swiss National Bank (SNB) didn’t even take part in the test – and is lagging far behind foreign institutions in climate protection.
About 180 Swiss financial institutions took part in voluntary climate compatibility tests this year. The Federal Office for the Environment

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Coronavirus, December 7: the latest numbers

December 7, 2020

Here is an overview of the most important Swiss-related coronavirus data and graphs, which are updated automatically.
How fast is the coronavirus spreading in Switzerland? We publish a series of graphs on this page, which are constantly updated as new data becomes available. This only happens once a day from Monday to Friday. The sources and the methodology behind the graphs can be found at the end of the article.

In order to assess the current situation in Switzerland, various data points can be used. The new infections reported daily are often quoted.

For the new infections data to be meaningful and for the situation to be correctly assessed, sufficient tests are needed. The available data on the tests show that testing regimes of the cantonal authorities

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Five lessons from the Swiss ‘responsible business’ vote

December 1, 2020

The coronavirus pandemic has made people more conservative with their voting. Keystone / Peter Klaunzer
The battle over the responsible business initiative is now over. The way the campaign was managed and how the issue was eventually decided says a lot about Switzerland.
On November 29, 50.7% of Swiss voters backed an initiative to extend liability over international human rights abuses and environmental harm caused by major Swiss companies and the firms they control abroad. But the proposal failed to win support in a majority of cantons, a necessary condition for a public initiative to be enacted in Switzerland.
Here are five takeaways from Sunday’s vote.
Crises stimulate caution
The responsible business initiative has suffered the fate of most people’s

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Bill Browder threatens legal action over Swiss bank accounts linked to Magnitsky scandal

November 29, 2020

The Hermitage fraud became an international cause célèbre after the death in custody of Browder’s lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky. Keystone
High-profile Kremlin critic and investor Bill Browder has threatened Credit Suisse and UBS with legal action for breaching US sanctions if they unfreeze accounts belonging to three Russian clients accused of a huge tax fraud against his investment company.
The two Swiss banks hold assets worth more than $24 million (CHF21.8 million), which Browder says were gained from fraud perpetrated in Russia against his investment business, Hermitage Capital, in 2007.
The banks and their “officers and employees” will be open to “civil and criminal penalties in the United States, as well as to civil actions by third parties with an interest in

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French blockchain firms offer tracing for Swiss watches

November 29, 2020

The online purchase of a second-hand luxury watch is becoming ever more popular. Andrew Poplavsky
The market for second-hand luxury watches is booming. But for the average consumer, it is not easy to tell a fake from the genuine article and determine the real value of a particular timepiece. Certificates based on blockchain technology could provide more transparency.
Watch fans who want to get the new diving watch by Rolex had better be patient. The official resellers of the famous brand with the crown logo always give the same answer: launched this autumn, the latest version of the iconic timepiece will not be available in the shops for a few years yet.
There is already a long waiting list, and shortages are carefully managed, in accordance with the golden rule

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Life as an expat in Swiss cities: the good news and the less good news

November 28, 2020

From tip-top transport in Basel to housing headaches in Geneva, foreign residents share what they love and loathe about the four Swiss cities featured in the Expat City Ranking 2020.
Of the 66 cities in the latest list, published by InterNations on Thursday, Basel rates highest (24th), ahead of Lausanne (28th), Zurich (37th) and Geneva (48th).

The Expat City Ranking 2020
The Expat City Ranking is based on the annual Expat Insider survey by InterNations, a global community for people who live and work abroad. For the survey, more than 15,000 expats representing 173 nationalities and living in 181 countries or territories provided information on various aspects of expat life.
Participants were asked to rate more than 25 aspects of urban life abroad. The rating

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