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Laure and Nick, two Swiss citizens living in the US, give us their own perspectives on how they are experiencing the 2020 election. Anyone who woke up in Switzerland expecting to find out who would be the next US president has likely been disappointed today, as the landslide the Democrats expected has not happened. Instead, a succession of cliffhanger results is keeping the world on tenterhooks. Laure and Nick, two Swiss citizens living in the US, give us their own perspectives on how the dramatic events are unfolding.
57 s
As the European headquarters of the United Nations, Geneva is marking the 75th anniversary of the founding of the UN. As the European headquarters of the United Nations, Geneva is marking the 75th anniversary of the founding of the UN and 100 years since the creation of the League of Nations. The United Nations Organization was born officially on October 24, 1945, when the signatory countries ratified the Charter that had been adopted in San Francisco on June 26, 1945, by the representatives of 50 countries. The UN headquarters have since been established in New York, while the European Office of the United Nations was created in the Palais des Nations, the former home of the League of Nations, becoming the United Nations European Office at Geneva in 1966. The Swiss city has since established itself as a world centre for diplomatic conferences and continues to keep alive the “spirit” that resulted in people choosing Geneva as the meeting place for nations when the League of Nations was founded in 1920.
58 s
Unofficial meetings in the corridors of power are the stuff of diplomacy, but the pandemic has put a stop to that at the United Nations in Geneva. The Covid-19 effect can be strongly felt at the current session of the Human Rights Council. With masks, social distancing, and limited places in the main conference hall, delegates are forced to join the sessions online rather than physically. Jürg Lauber, the Swiss ambassador to the UN in Geneva, says it makes it very difficult to go about the normal business of diplomacy, which happens mostly at lunchtime, after office hours, and in small groups. The Human Rights Council is an inter-governmental body that helps to protect human rights around the world. Created in 2006, it addresses human rights violations and makes recommendations on them. The Council is made up of 47 UN Member States. Its current session, the 45th, continues to October 7.
2 min
Parliament was cancelled. A referendum was postponed. The government ruled alone by emergency decree. Where does that leave direct democracy? On March 16 the Swiss government declared an “extraordinary situation”. People had to stay at home for two months. The spring session of parliament was cancelled. The May referendum was postponed. The government ruled alone by emergency decree. Where does that leave direct democracy? Martina Mousson*, a political scientist from the gfs.bern research institute, is familiar with psychological phenomena in times of crisis. After the Spanish Flu, which claimed millions of lives, the Roaring Twenties broke out, with many people celebrating excessively. The idea that the Covid-19 pandemic could be followed by something similar is therefore quite tempting. The government’s emergency decrees are supported by the Epidemics Act. This authorised the government to declare the extraordinary situation on March 16 and to govern without parliamentary control. After the spring session of parliament was interrupted, the two chambers regrouped at the beginning of May – not in the federal parliament building but on the city of Bern’s exhibition grounds, where the necessary distance could be maintained. However, initiative committees had to remain patient. Collection signatures in the street was only approved at the beginning of June. In the meantime, the government has also decided that the three issues on which the people should have voted on May 17, together with two other items, will be put to voters on September 27. *The interview with Martina Mousson took place in early April, shortly after the Swiss government had urged the public to stay at home.
5 min
Switzerland has a long humanitarian tradition but who can apply for asylum in the country and how? Switzerland boasts of a long humanitarian tradition and in fact deals with relatively more asylum requests than other European countries, given the size of the population. Even if few asylum seekers receive official refugee status many are granted different kinds of temporary permits allowing them to stay. With such a permit they might get help with living costs and finding a job, but the road to integration is a long one. In this “Switzerland Explained” video, find out how the asylum process works and what conditions for asylum-seekers in Switzerland are like.
8 min
Almost 7,000 Swiss residents who were stuck abroad are being brought home. A flight from India and one from Africa will conclude the largest repatriation operation ever mounted by the Swiss foreign ministry. It was launched a month ago in cooperation with the airlines Swiss, Edelweiss und Helvetic. In total 35 flights have been organised from all parts of the world, including destinations which usually have no direct flights to Switzerland. Once the flights have touched down, the next phase will be about providing support for Swiss citizens who have been unable or unwilling to return to Switzerland. The repatriation flights needed a lot of diplomacy, security assessments and arranging of special flight permits. Passengers will cover the main share of the costs by paying the equivalent of the market rate for a standard fare for their flight. (SRF/swissinfo.ch)
1 min
Every Swiss political party has backed the government's emergency measures that have been introduced to combat the virus. Such unity is rare, even in Swiss politics. Urs Leuthard from Swiss Public TV, SRF, explains why Swiss consensus politics is likely to help the country get through the current crisis. (SRF/swissinfo.ch)
4 min
Hundreds of people will have to leave their village for over a decade while tonnes of Second World War ammunition and explosives are cleared.⁠ On Tuesday, the residents of Mitholz in the Bernese Oberland received the bad news from Defence Minister Viola Amherd in person. The 170 locals will have to leave their mountain village for over a decade while a nearby underground depot containing 3,500 tonnes of Second World War ammunition and explosives is cleared.⁠ (SRF/swissinfo.ch)
58 s
We all leave traces on the internet, but did you know how easy it is to build facial recognition tools and use them to trace people online?⁠ And we're not just talking about government secret services either.⁠ To show how easily it can be done, Swiss public television SRF tested it out.⁠ (SRF/swissinfo.ch)
1 min
As the US Senate moves ahead with an impeachment trial, US President Trump was all smiles in Switzerland on Wednesday. The US President, Donald Trump, was all smiles on his last day at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland, expressing in a brief encounter no concern over the impeachment proceedings in Washington. “We’ve loved it. We think it’s a great country, a beautiful country. We have had a tremendous success,” Trump said of Switzerland on Wednesday, as he walked through the Congress Centre in Davos, accompanied by his daughter Ivanka and Klaus Schwab, the founder of the World Economic Forum. When asked what his message was to the US Senate, Trump commented, “They know what they are doing.” His impeachment trial began in Washington on Tuesday. This is the US president's second trip to the annual gathering of political and business leaders. Unlike on his first visit in 2017, when many saw an outcast populist threatening world trade, he has received a much warmer welcome. On Tuesday evening, President Trump met CEOs for dinner where Gianni Infantino, President of Zurich-based FIFA, introduced the President, calling him a “sportsman”. On Wednesday, he had breakfast meetings with CEOs and other business leaders. He has scheduled a series of bilateral meetings in the afternoon. The White House said earlier that he would meet Barham Salih, the Iraqi president. Trump's helicopter is expected to take off from Davos around midday and his final departure from Switzerland on Airforce One is planned for around 1pm.
34 s
Women are still largely underrepresented in local and cantonal councils, despite their good result in the last parliamentarian election. Despite the “female wave” that hit the Swiss parliament in October, resulting in an unprecedented number of women being elected, women are still largely underrepresented in other Swiss political circles, like local and cantonal councils. Virginie Gaspoz, 31, moved back to Evolène, her hometown in canton Valais, after working for a few years in the federal administration in Bern. Being pregnant with her first child, she wanted to find a job that better suited her family plan and moved closer to the baby’s future grandparents. When she was asked to run for mayor, she found the perfect fit. “You can organise yourself as you need. It’s important to have a good entourage to care of the children, but you can arrange things pretty easily,” she said. Elected in 2016 as the first woman mayor of Evolène, Virginie Gaspoz will run again for a second mandate. Only 16% of Swiss mayors are women. The director of the Association of Swiss Communes Christoph Niederberger says this could be because women are less likely to put themselves forward and are less often asked to run for office. (RTS/swissinfo.ch)
1 min
In some cities in Switzerland, population growth and scarce building land are causing houses to reach for the skies. Switzerland experienced its... In some cities in Switzerland, population growth and scarce building land are causing houses to reach for the skies. Switzerland experienced its first high-rise boom in the 1960s and 1970s, marked by strong immigration. Most of the nation’s approximately 2,000 high-rise residential buildings with ten or more floors were built during those two decades. In more recent years, Zurich, Dübendorf, Zug, Lausanne and Basel have added the most apartment towers with at least 15 floors. A particular case is Basel, which has seen its skyline changed by numerous high-rises. In particular, the pharmaceutical giant Roche is going ahead with the construction of Building 2. With a height of 205 metres, it will be the tallest building in Switzerland when it’s finished by the end of the year. Roche’s Building 1 was inaugurated in September 2015, when it claimed the title of “Switzerland’s tallest building” from Prime Tower in Zurich, which had held the record for almost four years. At the end of November, Roche also presented four new research buildings designed by the architects Herzog and de Meuron. It will be built in the immediate vicinity of Buildings 1 and 2 by the end of 2023; the tallest will be 114 metres high. Not every Swiss is happy about the changing skyline. For example, in mid-December, the municipality of Münchenstein near Basel approved a high-rise on the site of the former Spengler textile plant. Now, however, a bipartisan committee has launched a referendum against the planned building. If 500 valid signatures are gathered by mid-January, the voters will have their say on the tower.
1 min
What did swissinfo.ch sound like for the first seven decades of its existence? The short answer: a radio station. What did SWI swissinfo.ch sound like for the first seven decades of its existence? The short answer: a radio station. From the mid-1930s to 2004, Switzerland’s international service was Swiss Radio International (SRI). The first few decades of SRI’s existence were the heyday of shortwave – it was often the only way of getting news directly from other countries. A brief history of SRI, the predecessor of swissinfo.ch, helps explain why you hear what you do in the video above. What began as the Swiss Short Wave Service in 1935, would grow from broadcasting programmes in German, French, Italian and English to include other European languages and Arabic, and eventually change its name to Swiss Radio International. The international service was considered a voice of neutrality during times of war, first during World War II, followed by the decades of the Cold War and up to and including the first war in the Gulf in the early 1990s. This decade would mark the beginning of the end for Switzerland’s shortwave broadcasts. Shortwave transmitters gave way to relaying programmes via satellite, and this, in turn, would give way to the internet when the service went online in 1999 as SRI’s website. + The day Switzerland found its online voice In 2004, the plug was pulled for good on SRI as part of budget cuts, but not swissinfo.ch. Now producing exclusively online, the international service extended its linguistic reach by adding Russian, Japanese and Chinese, and publishing more video and audio reports. Journalists working in swissinfo.ch’s current ten languages collaborate closely to set the editorial agenda, providing the necessary context in their stories so they are understood wherever they are read, seen, or heard in the world. Project ‘The Sounds of...’ This article is part of the project "The Sounds of..." produced with our partner media organisations Polskie Radio, Radio Canada International, Radio Romania International and Radio Prague International. Further videos have been produced by journalists at these outlets, to give an insight into their work in these countries. Other historical radio recordings can be found here: Czechoslovak Radio played an important role in key events in the country’s history. For example, in 1968, although Soviet soldiers occupied the building, radio employees continued to broadcast. Today Radio Prague International is a public broadcaster, with four national stations as well as regional broadcasts, digital radio stations and an online news site. For over 90 years, the sounds of Polskie Radio have accompanied Poles at home and abroad. Broadcasting was interrupted on September 1, 1939, after the German invasion of Poland. However, before Polskie Radio fell silent for six years, it broadcast significant messages warning Poles about German attacks. The battlefield recordings are a valuable archive of those times. Radio Romania International boasts a 91-year-long history. The station kept Romanians company in the interwar period, throughout WWII and during communism, constrained by the limitations and censorship specific to both fascist and communist totalitarian regimes. After 1989, Radio Romania International regained its role as a public media service. Since February 25, 1945, Radio Canada International has been Canada’s voice in the world, first on shortwave radio, then online. Today, listeners and website visitors on five continents interact with them in five of the most-spoken languages in the world: English, French, Spanish, Chinese and Arabic.
2 min
The Green Party gained a sensational 17 extra seats, but the right-wing Swiss People's Party, as well as the left-wing Social Democrats, lost out.⁠⁠ There has also been a clear increase in the number of women who won seats in the House of Representatives. (SRF/swissinfo.ch)
1 min
For some it's a chance to work together, for others it's time to tackle long-standing issues. (SRF/swissinfo.ch) The presidents of the major Swiss parties give their views on the opportunities that a new parliament presents. For some it's a chance to work together, for others it's time to tackle long-standing issues. (SRF/swissinfo.ch)
2 min
Regula Rytz, Green Party president, on whether her party's historic gains in the parliamentary elections should result in a government seat. Regula Rytz is president of the Swiss Green Party, which made historic gains in the parliamentary elections on October 20. Those gains beg the question: should her party vie for a seat on the seven-member government? (SRF/swissinfo.ch)
1 min
Albert Barras, spokesman for the Swiss Traveller community in French-speaking Switzerland, testifies to the difficulties he faces in living his... Albert Barras, spokesman for the Swiss Traveller community in French-speaking Switzerland, testifies to the difficulties he faces in living his nomadic lifestyle.
52 s
Should Swiss living abroad have a say on the issues and elections back home? Should Swiss living abroad have a say on votes and elections back home? As part of our series of roundtable discussions in the run-up to the parliamentary elections in October, Swiss people living Louisiana weigh in on the issues that matter most to them. In this talk we hear from Swiss members of the Swiss American Society of New Orleans who’ve lived in the US for anywhere from seven to 50 years. Considering the distance from their homeland, they’re torn about whether they should still be voting in Switzerland or not. But when possible, they still follow current Swiss affairs. Some say that this election year – with environmental policy a major theme – is a key one to cast their ballots. SWI on tour How do Swiss citizens living abroad view the political debate in their home country? What is important to the expat Swiss community when they vote? To tap into the mood of the “fifth Switzerland” during this general election year, swissinfo.ch visited clubs in Europe as well as the Americas in summer 2019. Within the United States, we met Swiss living in Boston, Denver, Minneapolis and New Orleans. For more interviews, portraits and behind-the-scenes coverage, check out the hashtags #SWIonTour and #WeAreSwissAbroad on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. Want to get in touch with us? Use the comment section below, or reach out to discussion leader Susan Misicka on Twitter.
42 min
For Swiss abroad thinking about returning home someday, Swiss sovereignty remains important. For Swiss Abroad thinking about returning home someday, Swiss sovereignty remains important. As part of our series of roundtable discussions in the run-up to the parliamentary elections in October, Swiss people living in Colorado weigh in on the issues that matter most to them. In this talk we hear from members of the Swiss-American Friendship Society, who crowded into a Swiss-run café in Denver to chat about why they vote – or not – and their concerns about the influence of Europe and other nations on their homeland. SWI on tour How do Swiss citizens living abroad view the political debate in their home country? What is important to the expat Swiss community when they vote? To tap into the mood of the “fifth Switzerland” during this general election year, swissinfo.ch visited clubs in Europe as well as the Americas in summer 2019. Within the United States, we met Swiss living in Boston, Denver, Minneapolis and New Orleans. For more interviews, portraits and behind-the-scenes coverage, check out the hashtags #SWIonTour and #WeAreSwissAbroad on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. Want to get in touch with us? Use the comment section below, or reach out to discussion leader Susan Misicka on Twitter.
17 min
Veronica Almedom, who arrived in Switzerland from Eritrea as a baby, is now a member of the Federal Commission on Migration. Immigration affects everyone in Switzerland, but some people more directly than others. Veronica Almedom, who arrived from Eritrea as a baby with her family, is now an activist for the human rights of Eritreans. “There's a great deal of communication and information work still to be done at a political level,” she says. Almedom grew up in Martigny in French-speaking Switzerland and is now a student at the University of Geneva. Since 2016 she has been a member of the Federal Commission on Migration. In the lead up to October's parliamentary elections, this is the second in a video series dedicated to looking at how political decisions affect the everyday lives of Swiss people. Since 2017 Switzerland has steadily tightened its admission criteria for Eritrean asylum-seekers, who represent the largest foreign community seeking asylum in the country. However, having visited asylum-seekers sleeping rough, Almedom is angry and also critical of the Eritrean government. “They’ve been abandoned by the whole world,” she says. “These young people have a resilience that I never will. Since I was born, I’ve had everything. I haven’t had to fight for my freedoms.” Generation Global series:
8 min