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BERN

Separatist Swiss region plans June 2020 Mouti-exit vote

Many in the town of Moutier have long sought to exit the canton of Bern and join neighbouring Jura. After a 2017 election was ruled invalid, the mayor has proposed another vote for mid-2020.

Separatist Swiss region plans June 2020 Mouti-exit vote
Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

The French-speaking Moutier has long been frustrated with its presence in the German-speaking canton of Bern. 

Described on social media as Mouxit or Mouti-exit – referencing Britain’s Brexit decision to leave the European Union – tensions have been simmering ever since the Administrative Court in Bern declared a successful 2017 separatist vote invalid. 

The 2017 vote

Voters celebrated in 2017 after they decided by a narrow margin of 137 votes to leave Bern and join Jura. A total of approximately 4,000 citizens took part in the ballot. 

READ: Why the small Swiss town of Moutier is making headlines (again)

As reported by The Local in August 2019, the court invalidated the vote due to a number of concerns with its legitimacy. The court found evidence of ‘electoral tourism’ – i.e. that non-residents had voted in the election – as well as vote rigging. 

Another major reason for the declaration was the intimate involvement of Moutier’s mayor Marcel Winistoerfer in the campaign. Mayors and other public officials are required by law to remain neutral on such issues. 

No appeal to the court’s decision

Winistoerfer told Swiss newspaper Le Temps that there will be no appeal launched against the findings of the court. 

The “individual appellants to the Administrative Court have announced that we will refrain from bringing an action before the Federal Court”, Winistoerfer said. 

Winistoerfer and other Moutier separatists pointed out the delays associated with a court appeal – the last avenue of appeal is the federal court – were likely to be too long. 

Instead, a new vote will be held – this time without the irregularities that hampered the 2017 version. 

Separatist movements have also been seen in other parts of Bern, including Sorvillier and Belprahon, although residents in these two villages voted to stay. 

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BERN

Verdict: How to save money in Bern

Want to feel the Bern on the cheap? Here’s how to save a franc or two in the Swiss capital.

Verdict: How to save money in Bern

The home of Toblerone and Emmental, Bern can be an expensive place to live.

The Swiss ‘capital’ of Bern is home to a number of domestic and international organisations, as well as companies, making it a sought after location for workers. 

EXPLAINED: Why is Bern the ‘capital’ of Switzerland?

Bern is Switzerland’s fifth-largest city on the basis of population, which makes it a little quieter than Zurich or Geneva. 

While the cost of living in Bern might be a little lower than the larger Swiss metropolises, it is still Switzerland – meaning that it can get expensive. 

In order to get a better idea of the cost of living in Bern and how to save money, we reached out to our readers to ask for their perspective – and their tips.

Here is what they had to say. 

How expensive is it to live in Bern?

Compared to other European countries, pretty much every corner of Switzerland is expensive, from Aargau to Zug. 

Fortunately however, unlike other capitals – and we are aware that Switzerland doesn’t technically have a capital as we’ve discussed here – Bern is not the most expensive place in the country. 

The international hubs of Zurich and Geneva, with their strong job markets and expensive rents, are the most expensive cities in Switzerland to live. 

Outside of these two, the most expensive places tend to smaller areas like Saas Fee and Gstaad, which are popular both among tourists and the wealthy. 

READ MORE: The Swiss capital of Bern has a statue of an ogre eating babies and nobody knows why

More than half of those who responded to the survey told us cost of living was an issue in Bern, reflecting the fact that while it may be expensive, it’s still cheaper than other parts of the country. 

How to save money in Bern?

Many of the tips our readers gave us were not Bern-specific, but had relevance no matter where you live in Switzerland. 

Ashutosh, a relative newcomer to Bern, said “don’t spend unnecessarily” while Neil simply said “spend less”, which is a great way to save money wherever you are. 

Bent Mathiese, who has been in Bern for 20 years, told us to use websites like price comparison site Top Priese to get an idea of how to save. 

“I shop in Denner, Migros and Digitec. Other stores charge a premium. Uses toppreise.ch and other sites to compare prices.”

Cost of living: How to save on groceries in Switzerland 

Joe, who has lived in Switzerland for seven years, said “cooking for yourself” was the best way to save. 

Walking in Bern is absolutely free. Photo by Alin Andersen on Unsplash

Walking in Bern is absolutely free. Photo by Alin Andersen on Unsplash

Bern-specific tips to save money

Bern residents will probably also know that some of the greatest things to do here are free. 

Swimming in the beautiful Aare river won’t cost you a centime, while you can also visit the Marzili and Lorraine baths free of charge, including the use of lockers and bathrooms. 

The Rosegarten is home to a spectacular variety of flora and is a perfect place to spend a summer’s day. 

While eating out in Switzerland is never cheap, signing up to the Prozentbuch – annual fee CHF45 – will get you two-for-one meals in restaurants across the city. 

Given that a meal can cost up to CHF45, eating just one meal might get you your annual fee back immediately. 

Cost of living: The most – and least – expensive cantons in Switzerland

If you are visiting Switzerland and you’re going to buy Toblerone or Emmental to take home, keep in mind that they are available in supermarkets for much less than specialty stores and gift shops (and they’ll still come from Bern, so they’re still authentic!)

For tourists, visiting the former home of Albert Einstein will set you back just CHF5 while checking out the Zytglogge is free (guided tour starts at CHF20). 

Tell me more about Bern

Located near the linguistic border between French and German-speaking Switzerland, the capital city has a very picturesque medieval city centre recognised by UNESCO as a Cultural World Heritage Site.

Despite its relatively small size (144,000 residents), Bern also possesses one of the longest shopping promenades in Europe.

Bern. Photo by AFP

Why is this city great for expats? One of the reasons is that its central location and political status means  residents can take advantage of the frequent and reliable public transportation to other major Swiss cities.

Useful information:

Foreign nationals: 16.3 percent

Unemployment rate: 1.8 percent 

Average net monthly salary: 5,490 francs

Average rent (based on size), 3 bedrooms: 2,485 francs

Public transportation: bus, tram

Nearest international airport: Zurich, about 130 km by train or motorway

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