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DISCRIMINATION

Swiss abroad angry with ‘unfair’ Swiss banks

The Council of the Swiss Abroad has passed a unanimous resolution calling on Swiss banks not to discriminate against citizens living in foreign countries. 

The 132-member strong Council met on Saturday in Bern to discuss the unfair treatment of Swiss expatriates meted out by Swiss banks, newspaper Tribune de Genève reported.

“Those who live in the US are currently denied service at a number of Swiss banks. They cannot open any accounts. Sometimes they even have to close them,” former National Councillor and President of the Council of the Swiss Abroad, Jacques-Simon Eggly, told the newspaper.

But it is not only US residents that are feeling the strain. Swiss expatriates in other countries are being required to deposit a minimum of between 50,000 and 100,000 francs ($56,000 – $110,000), and are subject to management fees that are higher than those available for Swiss residents.

“This is clear discrimination,” Eggly said.

The Council is calling on banks to maintain “reasonable terms” for its non-resident Swiss clients, and to ensure that those living outside Switzerland’s borders receive the same treatment as if they were living at home.

Following an international crackdown on tax evaders spearheaded by the US, Swiss banks have been pursuing increasingly conservative policies as to which accounts to accept.

“We must remember that the majority of Swiss people who suffer these decisions are not fraudsters at all; they are people who declare their income,” Eggly said.

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GAY

Politician compares gay couples to cocaine

As Switzerland debates allowing gay and lesbian couples to adopt, a leading politician has caused consternation by comparing homosexuality to drug use.

Politician compares gay couples to cocaine
Christophe Darbellay, Mark Wragg

Last week the legal committee of the upper house, the Council of States, voted in favour of changing the law to make it easier for gay and lesbian couples to adopt. At the moment a single person can adopt regardless of sexual orientation, but single-sex couples cannot adopt nor can one partner adopt the other’s biological child.  

Christophe Darbellay, head of the center-right Christian Democrats (CVP) is deeply opposed to any change in the legislation governing adoption. He said he didn’t see why the law should be extended to include gay couples.

“I wouldn’t suddenly legalize cocaine just because half a million people consume it,” he said to Le Temps newspaper last Friday.

His comments have caused uproar. The Association for Rainbow Families said that it was “insulting” that Darbellay would “compare same-sex parents with cocaine addicts.”

“His homophobia shocks us,” co-president Chatty Ecoffey told the 20 Minuten newspaper.

“Darbellay is comparing two things that are simply not comparable,” Barbara Lanthemann of the Swiss lesbian organization LOS told the paper.  

Darbellay on Monday defended his statement. “I didn’t want to insult anyone. I simply wanted to say that just because something exists, does not mean that it has to be legalized,” he told 20 Minuten.

The Council of States commission said last week that adults should be able to adopt regardless of their marital status or sexuality, as long as that was the best solution for the child.

The commission said that it was recognizing the reality that many so-called rainbow families already provided a stable family environment.

A change in the law would require the approval of both the Council of States and the larger lower house, the National Council, which has already rejected a petition demanding equal adoption rights for gay and lesbian couples.

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