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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

How Vaccine Technology, Choice and Supply Work in Switzerland

4 days ago

A nurse administers the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine on the opening day of the new vaccination centre at the Lausanne University Hospital (CHUV) on January 11, 2021. Keystone / Laurent Gillieron
The Swiss Covid-19 vaccination campaign is up and running with two approved vaccines available to accelerate the fight against the virus, and others set to follow. How do the vaccine technologies work and compare, and can people choose which one they get?
So far, there are two vaccines available in Switzerland, those from Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna. Demand far outstrips supply, but the recent approval of Moderna’s vaccine by regulator Swissmedic means that Switzerland “can now significantly increase our vaccination campaign”, according to Christoph Berger, president

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Swiss Corporate Merger Activity Dampened by Covid

5 days ago

M&A activity for the year as a whole was most intense in the TMT (technology, media and telecommunications) sector Keystone / Obs/caritas Schweiz / Caritas Su – Click to enlarge
The coronavirus pandemic left its mark on mergers and acquisitions (M&A) in Switzerland last year. The volume of transactions halved, and the number of deals was also down.
Overall, the number of transactions with Swiss participation fell from 402 to 363. At $63.1 billion (CHF56 billion), the transaction volume was only half what it was in 2019 – mainly owing to the absence of mega-deals, consultants KPMG said on Thursday.
In the second quarter in particular the M&A market suffered a severe slump. Only 74 transactions were completed, the lowest number since the beginning of 2017, while

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Why does Davos Man get it so wrong?

6 days ago

Looking for answers at the World Economic Forum in Davos in 2018. Keystone / Laurent Gillieron
The World Economic Forum should put global leaders in the audience to listen to social workers, virologists and reporters, argues Simon Kuper.
We don’t know yet what will happen in 2021, because the World Economic Forum’s meeting in Davos has been called off. Normally at this time of year, political and business leaders gather in the Swiss ski resort to reveal the future. Now we’ll only discover what’s coming when they meet in Singapore in May. Actually, scratch that: most Davos predictions are worthless. There is no VIP crystal ball.
My aim here isn’t to mock Davos – that’s too easy. I’ll even skip the ritual joke about rich men arriving on private planes to discuss

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Top Swiss banker Collardi reprimanded by financial watchdog

7 days ago

Boris Collardi accepts the rebuke Keystone / Steffen Schmidt
Former Julius Bär CEO Boris Collardi has had his knuckles rapped by the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMA) following an investigation into money laundering.
Collardi, who is now a partner at Geneva-based bank Pictet, says he has accepted the reprimand, which is related to the FINMA investigation into alleged corruption, particularly in connection with the Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA.
In a statementExternal link on Thursday, FINMA said it had launched enforcement proceedings in one case. In a second case, it discontinued proceedings after the person concerned had “credibly agreed not to accept a managerial position at a supervised institution in the future”. Finally, FINMA

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Swiss multinationals draw blurry political lines in the sand

7 days ago

Our analysis of what the biggest global companies in Switzerland are up to. This week: corporate funding in politics, diamond billionaire on trial and high hopes for the economy.
The siege at the US Capitol has caused Swiss companies to think twice about their associations with political parties in the US. But it isn’t the only place where Swiss companies are being dragged into politics and forced to choose between values and their bottom line.
Earlier this week, the German-language paper Tages-Anzeiger reported that US subsidiaries of Swiss companies including UBS, Credit Suisse and Novartis suspended funding of US political partiesExternal link until further notice.
UBS, one of the biggest spenders, told the paper that “following the shocking events that took

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Swiss probing corruption linked to Lebanon central bank

8 days ago

The meltdown has crashed the currency, prompted a sovereign default and doomed at least half the population to poverty, prompting protests. Keystone / Wael Hamzeh
The Swiss attorney general’s office has requested legal assistance from Lebanon in the context of a probe into “aggravated money laundering” and possible embezzlement tied to the Lebanese central bank, Reuters reports from Beirut.
The probe is looking at money transfers by Lebanon’s Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh, as well as his brother and assistant. “Both the prime minister and the president are in the loop,” a Lebanese government official told Reuters on Tuesday.
Salameh has denied any wrongdoing. The Swiss attorney general’s office confirmed it had requested legal assistance from Lebanon in the

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WEF warns of ‘increasing disparities’ due to Covid-19 pandemic

9 days ago

Students use cell phones to carry out online learning amid the Covid-19 pandemic in Banda Aceh, Indonesia, October 20, 2020. Keystone / Hotli Simanjuntak
Infectious diseases, extreme weather events and cybersecurity problems pose key threats to society in the next two years, the World Economic Forum (WEF) warns. The Covid-19 pandemic looks set to have a lasting impact in the next ten years.
“In 2020 we saw the effects of ignoring preparation and ignoring long-term risks,” the WEF said in a statement on Tuesday at the launch of its annual risks report. “The Covid-19 pandemic has not only claimed millions of lives, but it also widened long-standing health, economic and digital disparities.”
This gap between the haves and the have nots risks widening and challenging

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UBS to close a sixth of its Swiss branches

14 days ago

Probably not on the chopping list: UBS headquarters in Zurich. © Keystone / Gaetan Bally
The closures will affect 44 of the bank’s 239 branches in the country, mainly smaller ones, UBS confirmed on Tuesday. The bank plans to continue beefing up its online offers.
The announcement, which had been rumoured for a few months already, was confirmedExternal link by UBS Switzerland director Axel Lehmann to the Neue Zürcher Zeitung newspaper on Tuesday.
Lehmann said the decision was due to the changing needs of clients. In the past year, over-the-counter transactions in UBS branches fell by 10%, and two-thirds of clients now deal with the bank mostly digitally, he said.
It’s like “small village grocery shops, which it’s not possible to keep running when clients shop

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Covid-hit restaurants call for ‘compensation now’

15 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

18 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

21 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

21 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

21 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

22 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

24 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

28 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

29 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

29 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

29 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

December 29, 2020

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

December 25, 2020

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

December 24, 2020

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

December 23, 2020

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

December 22, 2020

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

December 21, 2020

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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