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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

Roche poised to launch mass Covid testing

8 days ago

The rapid testing will be done by health workers from nose or mouth swabs. Keystone / Denis Balibouse
Swiss drug firm Roche says it is to launch a new Covid-19 antigen test before the end of the year, allowing faster, higher-volume testing.
One of the most potent use cases could be at airports to ease the severe restrictions on air transport.
“These fully automated systems can provide test results in 18 minutes for a single test, with a throughput of up to 300 tests per hour from a single analyser,” the group said on Tuesday.
The test, which Roche says is “highly accurate”, is performed by healthcare professionals using swab samples from patients with symptoms suggestive of Covid-19, or people suspected of exposure to the virus.
Roche plans to make the test

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Banks making slow progress on diversity issues

9 days ago

Former Credit Suisse boss Tidjane Thiam apparently never felt at home in Switzerland. After losing a power struggle with Chairman Urs Rohner, he left the bank in February. © Keystone / Walter Bieri
A recent story from the New York Times implied that the resignation of Ivory Coast-born Tidjane Thiam at the helm of Credit Suisse earlier this year had racist undertones, and he was the only Black CEO among the world’s biggest banks. How does the banking world – especially Credit Suisse – address the issue of diversity among its ranks?
In their annual reports, most of the big banks point out the importance of diversity and of promoting minorities. (The reports define diversity as the equal treatment of employees regarding gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, age,

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Swiss return frozen CHF36 million to South American football federation

9 days ago

Former CONMEBOL presidents Juan Angel Napout (left) and Nicolas Leoz in December 2014. Napout was arrested in 2015 in a pre-dawn raid at a Swiss luxury hotel as part of the US Department of Justice’s widening bribery case into FIFA. In May 2014, Leoz was indicted along with 14 other football officials by the US Department of State on charges of bribery, racketeering and money laundering. Swiss criminal proceedings against Leoz were abandoned after his death in August 2019. Keystone
Swiss authorities have returned about CHF36.6 million ($40 million) in funds frozen in Swiss bank accounts amid football corruption investigations into the South American football confederation CONMEBOL.
The Swiss Office of the Attorney General (OAG) had opened several criminal

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Swiss government expects 2020 GDP to shrink less than feared

10 days ago

Parts of the Swiss economy that depend on global demand, such as international tourism, still face a tough time Keystone
Swiss economic output will shrink by 3.8% this year, a less bad coronavirus-triggered slump than previously expected, the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) said on Monday.
The latest SECO forecast was an improvement from its June outlook, when it said it expected Swiss gross domestic product (GDP) would fall by 6.2% this year, the worst downturn since 1975.
The easing of lockdown restrictions from the end of April had helped a recovery, SECO said, although unemployment still remained higher than a year earlier.
Consumer and investment demand exceeded expectations during the second quarter, while short-time working – a measure

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Techonology firm Ruag International to cut more jobs

11 days ago

Ruag has numerous production sites across Switzerland, notably a plant at Emmen near Lucerne that produces elements for space rockets. Keystone/Urs Flüeler
The Swiss aerospace and armament company, Ruag, says it will shed up to 150 jobs by the end of next year due to the coronavirus crisis.
A 30% drop in sales of aircraft structures over the past seven months and the restructuring of the company are the main reason for the job cuts notably in IT, finance and human resources, according to a company statement published on Monday.
“Due to the high cost pressure caused by the corona crisis, the planned savings must be expanded and accelerated,” the statement said.
The company says it will take several years before the aviation industry will return to pre-crisis

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Hotel sector sees gloomy outlook

13 days ago

Urban hotels have been hit particularly hard by the coronavirus effect on business and international tourism. Keystone / Urs Flueeler
Swiss hotels are predicting a worsening outlook, as newspapers warn thousands of jobs could be lost in the sector.
According to the latest survey by sector association HotellerieSuisse  at the beginning of this month, more than a third of hotels (37%) say they will have to lay off staff in the coming months. The rate is particularly high in cities (59%).
Thousands of jobs could be lost in the sector in the next six months, warn Le Matin Dimanche and NZZ am Sonntag newspapers. Some 80,000 people work in the sector, according to Le Matin Dimanche.
Hotellerie Suisse said on Sunday that for a large majority of hotels (66%), this summer

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Swiss refiner breaks industry silence on sourcing gold from risky areas

15 days ago

The southeastern region of Madre de Dios in Peru is known for its illegal gold mining practices, but Chave insists PX Precinox does not source any of its precious metal from there. Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.
In a rare interview, PX Precinox CEO Philippe Chave defends his company’s record in Peru and says abandoning artisanal miners is not the way to achieve more sustainable and transparent mining practices.
For years reports of environmental and labour abuses associated with gold mining in Peru have plagued Swiss refiners that sourced the precious metal from the South American country. Some companies decided to stop working with artisanal miners altogether due to the risks of trading in illegal gold. Others, including jewellers and

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Swiss bank caught in Venezuelan money-laundering scandal

17 days ago

As a Swiss bank gets slapped for breaching money-laundering rules, this sculpture in Caracas pays homage to the oil workers of Petroleos de Venezuela SA (PDVSA). Keystone / Rayner Pena R
The Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMA) has found that Banca Credinvest “seriously violated money-laundering regulations” in its handling of Venezuelan client relationships.
On Tuesday the watchdog announced that it had ordered the Ticino-based bank to monitor all private banking clients in order to identify and address any additional money-laundering risks.
In 2018 FINMA opened enforcement proceedings against the bank in the context of suspected corruption linked to Venezuelan oil company PDVSA. According to FINMA, the bank’s measures against money laundering and

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EasyJet reduces fleet and cuts jobs in Switzerland 

18 days ago

Easyjet Switzerland says it doesn’t expect a return to pre-Covid 19 business levels until 2023. Keystone / Georgios Kefalas
Faced with lower demand and with no recovery expected anytime soon, EasyJet Switzerland is withdrawing two of its 12 planes stationed in Basel. Seventy jobs will be lost.
Making the announcement on Tuesday, the airline company said it was consulting staff representatives on the fate of the jobs concerned.
“EasyJet Switzerland has so far managed to preserve jobs, but reducing the fleet forces us to adopt these painful measures,” director-general Jean-Marc Thévenaz told financial news service AWP. Short-time working had helped delay the cuts.
The airline employs 1,020 people in Switzerland, of whom 570 are Geneva and 450 in Basel.
EasyJet says

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Hackers steal wages from Swiss universities

20 days ago

The University of Basel is one of the hacked institutions Keystone
Unidentified cybercriminals have managed to siphon off employee salary transfers from at least three Swiss universities, including the University of Basel.
“According to our information, several universities in Switzerland have been affected,” said Martina Weiss, Secretary General of the Rectors’ Conference of the Swiss Universities, confirming to the AFP news agency a report in the SonntagsZeitung.
The hackers used access data obtained through phishing, a technique designed to lure internet users into providing personal data.
According to the Basel public prosecutor’s office quoted by the SonntagsZeitung, the hackers infiltrated the universities’ system directly with the stolen personal data and

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Home office could lead to 10 percent less office space

21 days ago

Though they are hardly on their last legs, demand for office space will drop. © Keystone / Christian Beutler
Despite the easing of Covid-19 measures, remote working is still widespread in Switzerland, with almost a third of service sector employees still working from home.
According to a survey published on Thursday by the Credit Suisse bank and the Procure.ch purchasing managers association, 29% of service employees and 16% of industry employees in Switzerland are still working from home.
This has not changed substantially compared to the situation in July, though numbers have come down since the peak of the pandemic, when over half of service employees and around a third of industry workers were in home office.
What does this mean for the future of the

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Switzerland ranked sixth in digital competitiveness study

22 days ago

Sixth formers use Lego Mindstorms to make robots at a school in Glarus, Switzerland, on May 17, 2018. © Keystone / Gaetan Bally
The Alpine nation has slipped one place to sixth in the “World Digital Competitiveness ranking” compiled by the Lausanne-based IMD business school.
The United States and Singapore came first and second in the ranking, which analyses how well economies employ digital technologies. They were followed by Denmark, Sweden and Hong Kong, IMD said in a report published on Thursday.
IMD said Switzerland slipped down due to a change in “scientific concentration”: mainly a “stagnant performance in the percentage of female researchers” and lower R&D productivity by publication.
Other “major weaknesses” are its regulatory framework (for contract

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Swiss National Bank figures show burst of franc-dousing interventions

23 days ago

The data comes just days after Swiss National Bank President Thomas Jordan signalled that even larger interventions may be on the cards in the future. Keystone / Anthony Anex
The Swiss National Bank (SNB) spent CHF90 billion ($97.8 billion) in the first half of the year, more than it has spent in the past three years combined, to hold down artificially the value of the wealthy alpine state’s currency.
In official data released for the first time on Wednesday, the central bank said it sold CHF38.5 billion in the first three months of 2020, and a further CHF51.5 billion in the next three months, hoovering up dollar and euro-denominated assets.
The data comes just days after SNB President Thomas Jordan signalled that even larger interventions may be on the cards in

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Greenland glacier water wins environmental shame award 

23 days ago

Greenland’s glaciers are melting at an alarming rate and the Alpine Initiative says Manor’s “Berg” water contributes to global warming. Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.
A mineral water from Greenland glaciers sold by Swiss retail chain Manor has been dubbed worst climate offender in this year’s “Devil’s Stone” award by the Swiss Alpine Initiative.
Every year the Alpine Initiative asks people to vote on three candidates for the most absurd transport of goods. A total of 5,900 people took part in this year’s vote, the Alpine Initiative said on Tuesday. A large majority of them voted for the “Berg” water from Manor’s “Waters of the World” drinks line. It beat gherkins from Vietnam sold by Migros, and pomegranate seeds from Peru sold by Coop.

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Zurich invention may be used in Fukushima nuclear clean-up

24 days ago

Millions of litres of radioactively contaminated water are stored in water tanks at the tsunami-crippled nuclear power plant in Okuma, Fukushima, in Japan. Keystone / Kimimasa Mayama
Researchers in Zurich have developed a filter membrane made of whey proteins and activated carbon that can clean contaminated radioactive water. They hope to deploy their invention at the site of the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan.
Four years ago, scientists at the federal technology institute ETH Zurich unveiled a filter membrane that could remove metals such as uranium, gold and platinum from water.
In a new study, published in the journal Environmental Science: Water Research & Technology, the team has gone a step further to demonstrate how their membrane can also remove

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The colonial vision of Swiss multinationals

25 days ago

A childhood pastime – playing the Maggi aviator board game. swissinfo.ch
Switzerland is the home of many major multinational companies, many of which date back to the late 19th century, the high tide of colonialism. But is there a link between the rise of great Swiss corporate names and European colonial expansion? The issue turns out to be a complex one.
I found a board game a few weeks ago in the apartment that belonged to my grandmother. I vaguely remembered it from my childhood. The cardboard game was most likely produced in the 1930s by Maggi, the Swiss company famous for its soups and seasoning cubes.
It shows a map of Africa along with parts of Asia and Europe. The hero in the game is a pilot who takes off from Kempttal (Zurich), which is where Maggi had

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SWISS plans to introduce rapid pre-boarding Covid tests

26 days ago

Zurich Airport is reportedly looking into pre-boarding tests Keystone
German airline Lufthansa will introduce rapid tests before certain flights to detect Covid-19 in passengers. If the trial, set to start in October, is successful, it will be expanded to Lufthansa subsidiaries Swiss International Air Lines (SWISS) and Edelweiss.
The tests are being developed by the Basel-based pharmaceutical company Roche, according to reports in the NZZ am Sonntag and SonntagsZeitung.
It is unclear on which flights the tests, which could cost around €10 (CHF10.80) per passenger, will be trialled, the papers said. Lufthansa said it was looking into various price models, such as including a certain amount in the ticket price.
The requirement to have a negative Covid-19 test when

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Covid-19: Swiss ‘industry mix’ helps avert dramatic GDP slump

26 days ago

A worker stacks goods at a warehouse belonging to the pharmaceutical industry service provider Alloga in Burgdorf, canton Bern, on March 4, 2020. © Keystone / Christian Beutler
Government economists say the impact of the pandemic in Switzerland is slightly less severe than previously feared. This is partly thanks to the mix of industries in Switzerland and the decision to rapidly lift coronavirus restrictions, according to the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO).
“In the second quarter of 2020 gross domestic product (GDP) experienced its sharpest decline since the quarterly figures were first calculated in 1980,” SECO said in a statement on Monday.
GDP was down by 7.3% in the second quarter, compared with a forecast of 8.2% in June. But SECO said the

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The slow but steady progress of driverless buses in Switzerland

28 days ago

When the Belle-Idée project is fully up and running, three shuttle buses will offer a 24-hour on-demand door-to-door service at the Geneva hospital site. swissinfo.ch
Over the past five years, various kinds of autonomous vehicles, including buses, have popped up on Swiss roads. But though testing continues, a driverless future might yet be some years away.
On a crisp autumn morning in the Geneva countryside, a bright orange-and-white electric bus is winding through the leafy 36-hectare grounds of the Belle-Idée hospital site.
The bus is trundling along a gravel path when suddenly a patient and a nurse step out from behind a tree. The vehicle brakes sharply, a bell rings out, a “keep your distance” sign flashes at the front and rear. The couple steps back, and the

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Swiss regulator censures Bank Syz over money laundering

29 days ago

FINMA described the bank’s money laundering processes as “inadequate” and reprimanded it for a breach of its duty of due diligence in relation to anti-money laundering rules. © Keystone / Gaetan Bally
The Swiss financial market regulator FINMA has reprimanded Bank Syz for breaching money laundering rules involving a business relationship with an Angolan client.
“FINMA found that the bank did not make sufficient efforts to investigate the substantial growth in the client’s assets,” the financial watchdog said in a statement on September 24. “The bank did not adequately resolve issues that should have raised suspicions, even though the client was identified as having links with politically exposed persons (PEP) and the relationship was classified in this category.”

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Rapid Covid-19 tests could offer a path back to normal

29 days ago

Some countries like India have made rapid antigen tests a key part of their strategy for containing the coronavirus. Keystone / Str
Swiss pharmaceutical company Roche plans to launch a test that can detect the coronavirus in 15 minutes. Could tests like this become the norm?
With no vaccine in sight for at least a few months, testing is becoming a more important part of containing the coronavirus. Antigen tests, which detect the presence of a specific viral antigen such as proteins, promise to dramatically reduce the cost and time to receive results, allowing people to go about their business.
But rapid antigen tests aren’t as sensitive as the gold standard RT-PCR technology (Polymerase Chain Reaction) that has been widely used until now. With the Roche antigen

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Switzerland and UK balance sovereignty with EU market access

September 25, 2020

Britain’s controversial Internal Market Bill has prompted Switzerland’s former chief negotiator with the EU, Michael Ambühl, to examine the thorny issue of sovereignty in EU talks.
The issue of balancing access to the EU market in exchange for a degree of EU regulatory intrusion on home turf has come to the fore during the ongoing Brexit negotiations. The British government is trying to enact new legislation, the Internal Market Bill, that could limit the ability of Brussels to impose EU market regulation on UK territory.
The currently debated bill (if adopted) would also contravene international law – but that is another story.
Switzerland and the EU are also currently involved in negotiations to define new framework conditions (“institutional agreement”) for

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Parliament clarifies federal government powers to manage Covid-19 crisis

September 24, 2020

The federal government will have more power to approve vaccines and treatments for Covid-19. Keystone / Peter Klaunzer
Measures put in place by the federal government to help manage the coronavirus crisis can be officially extended thanks to a decision by parliament.
On March 13, the federal government assumed some executive powers that allowed it to enact certain laws and measures to deal with the coronavirus pandemic. With the unanimous decision on Wednesday, parliament assured that the measures don’t expire six months later.
The measures can now be extended until the end of 2021. This concerns above all financial support for workers and companies suffering as a result of coronavirus restrictions.
Businesses hard hit by the pandemic restrictions, particularly in

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WEF Davos conference in doubt for 2021

September 23, 2020

Davos has hosted thousands of political, business and civil society leaders for 50 years. © Keystone / Christian Beutler
The World Economic Forum’s (WEF) flagship summit may not take place in Davos next year, businesses in the alpine town have been warned. The pandemic had already forced organisers to postpone the event from its usual January slot to a potential early summer date.
But hoteliers in Davos, the alpine resort that has hosted the global conference for the past 50 years, have received a letter casting doubt on whether WEF 2021 will take place there at all next year. The Südostschweiz newspaper broke the story which was confirmed to the news agency Keystone-SDA.
A WEF spokesman told swissinfo.ch that it was not “communicating on this topic for the time

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‘Switzerland failing to tackle money laundering’: Thelesklaf

September 22, 2020

The public examines some of the 25 luxury cars seized by canton Geneva during a money laundering probe into Teodoro Obiang, the son of Equatorial Guinea’s President – but such seizures are rare, according to Thelesklaf. Keystone / Laurent Gillieron
The former head of Switzerland’s anti-money laundering office says the country is failing to pull its weight in the fight against large scale corruption. Daniel Thelesklaf is convinced that billions of dollars are still being laundered through Swiss banks, largely unchecked.
Speaking to the Tages Anzeiger newspaper, Thelesklaf said: “Our entire set of instruments for combating money laundering is failing”. He accused Switzerland of lacking the political will to tackle the global problem.
Thelesklaf resigned as head of

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Do the WTO and the 1972 Free Trade Agreement guarantee Swiss access to the EU market?

September 20, 2020

It is a bilateral agreement on agriculture signed in 1999 – and not the 1972 Free Trade Agreement – that lifted duties and quotas for Swiss-made cheese destined for the EU market. © Keystone / Peter Klaunzer
The authors of a popular initiative to limit immigration to Switzerland from the 27-nation European Union say a “yes” vote will not affect Swiss businesses’ access to the EU market. A fact check shows the claim to be misleading.
Opponents to the Swiss People’s Party initiative have warned that the small Alpine country would lose access to the EU market – the destination for just over half of all Swiss exports – if the proposal is voted through on September 27.
That, they say, is because ending the free movement of people between the two partners – as the

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Paternity Leave: ‘Nobody is talking about the indirect costs’

September 19, 2020

Yasmine Bourgeois, a member of the Zurich city parliament for the centre-right Radical-Liberal party. swissinfo.ch
Switzerland doesn’t need two weeks of paternity leave, says Radical-Liberal politician Yasmine Bourgeois. The mother of three says if the proposal is accepted on September 27, left-wing groups will keep asking for more and more.
As a mother who is not only against paternity leave but who is a member of the opposition committee, Yasmine Bourgeois is something of an outlier in the current campaign. And she has met with some hostility because of it. While her personal circle backs her, the Zurich politician says she is seeing some “pretty heated comments” on social media.
Within her centre-right Radical-Liberal Party, meanwhile, debate on the issue has

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Toxins found in popular Swiss tourist spot

September 18, 2020

The Blausee is one of the most popular mountain lakes in Switzerland Keystone
Carcinogenic toxins have seeped into the groundwater at the Blausee in the Bernese Oberland, killing thousands of fish, say the owners of the lake’s fish farm. They point the finger at companies renovating the Lötschberg summit tunnel and the authorities.
Groundwater measurements at the gravel works near Blausee had shown that the concentration of so-called PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, some of which can cause cancer) were 424,000 times the limit value, said Stefan Linder, one of the Blausee owners.
Speaking at a press conference in Bern on Thursday, Linder said further results from water samples taken from the gravel pit also showed high excess values for heavy metals such as

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Merger rumours boost UBS and Credit Suisse shares

September 16, 2020

Will UBS and Credit Suisse, here in Zurich’s Paradeplatz, become more than neighbours? Keystone
Shares of Credit Suisse and UBS moved to the top of SMI stocks on Monday morning after a media report said the Swiss banks were planning a merger.
The chairmen of UBS Group and Credit Suisse Group were exploring a potential merger to create one of Europe’s largest banks, wrote Inside Paradeplatz, citing unidentified people inside the two lenders.
The project, nicknamed Signal, is being driven by UBS Chairman Axel Weber, who is working on it with his counterpart at Credit Suisse, Urs Rohner, the Swiss finance blog said. Weber has discussed the idea with Swiss Finance Minister Ueli Maurer and an agreement could happen by early next year, according to the report.
A merger

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Swiss wind power held up by legal challenges

September 16, 2020

The gentle ridges of the Jura mountain range are suitable for the installation of wind turbines (here the Mont-Crosin park, in the Bernese Jura), but most projects are now at a standstill. © Keystone / Jean-christophe Bott
For a decade, wind energy in Switzerland has been stalled. Opponents have used every possible means to stop projects. At the end of September, one community will vote on the future of this kind of energy.
Power derived from wind is already contributing 20% to the German energy mix. But unlike its northern neighbour, Switzerland does not have extended, empty, flat surfaces of territory.
Made up of slopes and valleys, the Swiss landscape does not lend itself to the installation of turbines. Critics of wind power are keen to point this out. But the

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