For members


Switzerland offers 10,000 franc reward for English version of new ‘national anthem’

A Swiss NGO is offering financial reward - and eternal recognition - to help write an English version of the country's unofficial new national anthem.

Switzerland offers 10,000 franc reward for English version of new 'national anthem'
Photo: AFP

Fancy yourself as a bit of a wordsmith and know how to hold a tune? Then Switzerland wants you to help translate its national anthem into English. 

Recognising how commonly English is spoken in Switzerland, the Swiss Society for the Common Good (SSCG) wants an English version of White Cross on Red Ground – and is opening it up to the public to make submissions. 

The winning candidate will have their name published with the text, will be invited to an unveiling ceremony in the Rütli area of Lake Lucerne and will be offered CHF10,000.

Read more: Five Swiss traditions you have to experience

The song won a competition in 2015, is already sung across the country and is considered Switzerland’s unofficial new national anthem. French, German, Italian and Romansh versions of the song already exist. 

The new anthem was developed to reflect the Swiss Constitution and the multicultural nature of modern Switzerland. 

The organisation which organised the change – and which is seeking an English version – has said it was time to update the old ‘Swiss Psalm’, which is 170 years old. 

“The Swiss Psalm is essentially a prayer, written by Leonhard Widmer in 1840, and its religious nature means that many Swiss citizens can no longer identify with it.” 

“The SSCG and many Swiss citizens firmly believe that the national anthem should be a chance to anchor constitutional values in the popular consciousness.”

While the new author will be given some creative licence, the melody and text has to be as close as possible to the existing versions. 

A statue of Freddie Mercury on the shores of Lake Geneva. Unfortunately, the song needs to stay lyrically true to the existing versions. Image: Depositphotos

A new national anthem

While White Cross on Red Ground hasn’t officially replaced the existing anthem, it is sung regularly at sporting events and official gatherings across the country. 

READ: Swiss select new national anthem

Lukas Niederberger told The Local that the song has grown in popularity across the country. 

“In 2016, there were only a dozen of towns, in 2019 there were already about 50 towns,” he said. 

“And in 2019, about 200 mayors of towns have sung the new text on the Rütli (Swiss region on Lake Lucerne). We hope that they will sing it next year in their towns.”

A people’s anthem?

Switzerland’s tradition of direct democracy and people’s initiatives isn’t just for referenda, it flows into several aspects of Swiss society – including anthems. 

While the ‘new’ Swiss anthem may not be official just yet, in Switzerland, these things take time. The current official anthem – a prayer sung to the tune of God Save The Queen – was created in 1840 and sung regularly but did not officially become the Swiss anthem until 1981. 

Niederberger is confident that the anthem will be given official status in the not too distant future. 

“Many social, political and cultural changes in Switzerland have a bottom-up-origin, like the vote for women or the social insurance for elderly people,” he said. 

“Since 2015, the Swiss Government has repeated at several occasions that the initiative by the SSCG is a legitimate initiative of the Civil Society.”

Swiss National Day in Bern. Image: Depositphotos

What’s in it for me?

The winning entrant will have their name published next to the anthem whenever it is mentioned.

The entrant will also be invited to the official unveiling ceremony when the song will be sung on the banks of Lake Lucerne on August 1st, 2020. 

Niederberger told The Local that whether the author receives a cash reward will depend on their financial circumstances. 

“If the person is a free artist without a regular income, we will of course give a financial reward,” he said. 

“It really depends on the circumstances of the person. 

“The author of the original (German) text, Werner Widmer, got 10’000 Swiss francs from the SSCG and gave it directly to a social institution.”

Entrants can find out more from the SSCG

The Swiss Constitution 

The new anthem embeds the principles of the Swiss Constitution into the national song. 

The five core values of the Constitution are that Swiss people and the cantons are:

Mindful of their responsibility towards creation; 

Resolved to renew their alliance so as to strengthen liberty, democracy, independence and peace in a spirit of solidarity and openness towards the world; 

Are determined to live together with mutual consideration and respect for their diversity; 

Conscious of their common achievements and their responsibility towards future generations; and 

(Aware) that only those who use their freedom remain free, and that the strength of a people is measured by the well-being of its weakest members.

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For members


Three scenarios: How Switzerland plans to fight a Covid resurgence

Swiss government has devised three contingency plans that could be implemented to fight a new outbreak. What are they?

Three scenarios: How Switzerland plans to fight a Covid resurgence
Authorities want to prevent overcrowded hospitals if new wave comes. Photo by Fabrice Coffrini / AFP

Although Switzerland relaxed a number of coronavirus rules from June 26th and 28th, “the pandemic is not over”, as Health Minister Alain Berset said at a press conference on Wednesday.

Berset said Switzerland should not become complacent, with last summer a warning against feeling that the battle is won. 

He added, however, that the new wave is unlikely to be as large as the previous ones due to the country’s vaccination campaign.

This situation leaves a degree of uncertainty for which the government wants to be prepared as well as possible, Berset noted.

The Federal Council established a “just-in-case” procedure on Wednesday for three possible scenarios that could take place in the autumn and winter. 

These plans focus mainly on the rapid detection of variants and the continuation of vaccination, testing, and tracing.

The best-case scenario: status quo

In this scenario, the number of cases remains at a low level, though small outbreaks are still possible.

The number of infections may increase slightly due to seasonal factors — the virus is known to spread slower in summer and faster in autumn and winter—  but does not place a significant burden on the health system.

If this happens, no measures beyond those already in place would be necessary.

READ MORE: ANALYSIS: Is Switzerland lifting its Covid-19 restrictions too quickly?

Not so good: more contaminations

In this second scenario, there is an increase in the number of cases in autumn or winter.

There may be several reasons for this, for example the large proportion of unvaccinated people, seasonal effects — people tend to stay indoors together in cold weather, and contaminations are easier — or the appearance of new, more infectious variants.

This situation could overburden the health system and require the reintroduction of certain measures, such as the obligation to wear a mask outdoors.

Booster vaccinations may also be necessary.

The worst: new virus mutations

In scenario three, one or more new variants appear, against which the vaccine or the post-recovery immunity are less effective or no longer effective.

A new wave of pandemic emerges, requiring strong intervention by the public authorities and a new vaccination.

Which of the three scenarios is most likely to happen?

The government hasn’t said, but judging by the comments of health officials, the latter two are the strongest contenders.

Firstly, because the highly contagious Delta mutation, which is spreading quickly through many countries, is expected to be dominant in Switzerland within a few weeks.

It is expected that the virus will spread mostly to those who are not vaccinated and, to a lesser degree, to people who have only had one shot of the vaccine, according to Andreas Cerny, epidemiologist at the University of Bern

READ MORE: How Switzerland plans to contain the Delta variant

Another concern is related to the appearance of the new variants which could be as or possibly even more contagious than Delta and not as responsive to the current vaccines.

The government said the best chance of avoiding the second or third scenarios is to ensure people are vaccinated. 

“Widespread vaccination of the population is crucial to relieve the burden on the healthcare system and to manage the epidemic. A possible increase in the number of coronavirus cases in the autumn will largely depend on the proportion of the population that has been vaccinated,” the government wrote in a press statement.

The government has also indicating it is preparing for booster vaccinations to take place in 2022 and are encouraging cantons to keep their vaccine infrastructures in place.