For members


How will the US-Russia summit in Geneva affect local residents?

US president Joe Biden and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin will meet in the Swiss city of Geneva on Wednesday. This is how the lives of local residents will be disrupted.

How will the US-Russia summit in Geneva affect local residents?
Geneva's Mont-Blanc bridge is closed to traffic. FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

Switzerland is mobilising a “titanic” security effort for Wednesday’s meeting between US President Joe Biden and
Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, deploying around 4,000 police, troops and security personnel to guard the summit from all angles.

The two presidents will meet in a historic Villa La Grange located in the Eaux-Vives section of Geneva.

The location is off limits to members of public during the summit, but other parts of the city are under tightened security as well. 

Around 2,000 police staff — 95 percent of the total Geneva police workforce — have been mobilised, backed up by 900 officers from elsewhere in
Switzerland. The police in neighbouring France, a few kilometres away, are also on alert.

 Around a thousand troops have also been deployed, while the Swiss air force will be policing the sealed-off skies for up to 50 kilometres around the city.
Helicopters and fighter jets will be on duty.

Let’s start with the airport

From June 15th to 17th, the Federal Council “has approved a temporary restriction on the use of airspace in the Geneva area”, the government said.

“The Swiss Air Force will provide air policing and airspace surveillance”.

The army will station a battalion at the airport, while a surface-to-air defence system has been deployed

The use of airspace in the zone above the Place des Nations — the section where UN agencies are located — will be restricted from Tuesday 8am until Thursday  5pm, authorities said.

They added that “commercial flights will not be affected”, though some disruptions could happen as delegations arrive and depart.

READ MORE: Putin-Biden Geneva summit set for lakeside villa

What about the city itself?

From June 15th to 17th Genevans will  have to deal with increased police presence, along with restricted mobility and limited parking in certain sections of the city.

Camouflaged soldiers with backpacks and automatic weapons have been on duty outside La Grange, while police sniffer dogs have been checking out vehicles
parked near the perimeter.

READ MORE: Feeling of excitement: Americans in Switzerland welcome Joe Biden’s visit

Mobile military radar stations with spinning scanners have been deployed on the lakeside, normally the domain of ice cream eaters taking a stroll past the
small boats moored along the waterfront.

Across the city, several blocks around the five-star Intercontinental Hotel, where Biden will be staying, were blocked off with barbed-wire fencing, with
parking banned throughout the neighbourhood and police redirecting traffic.

The Geneva Council of State set up the security zone in which the movement of people and vehicles will be suspended during the summit Geneva. These sections will be cordoned off.

The “forbidden” zone goes from the Perle du Lac, right bank, along the Quai Wilson, passes by the Rousseau island, including the Mont-Blanc bridge, and then goes up the Gustave-Ador quay. It integrates the whole of Parc La Grange and Parc des Eaux-Vives, ending at the foot of the Cologny ramp.

This map shows (in red) which areas will be inaccessible during the summit.

Map by Canton de Genève

Given that all traffic in these areas will be suspended, Geneva officials are urging that companies allow their employees to work from home on June 16th.

Will there be protests and demonstrations?

It is possible, but so far the only one scheduled for Wednesday is by members of the local American community, who are celebrating Biden’s presence in Geneva.

They will rally from 11am to noon in front of the Cornavin train station.

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For members


Is Basel the best Swiss city for foreigners and Geneva the worst?

Switzerland’s cities usually nab top rankings in international quality of living studies. But in a new survey, only one Swiss town made it to the top 10. Here’s why.

Basel is Switzerland’s best city for international workers. Photo by Nadine Marfurt on Unsplash
Basel is Switzerland’s best city for international workers. Photo by Nadine Marfurt on Unsplash

Basel is ranked in the 9th place out of 57 cities surveyed in the new Expat City Ranking 2021.

Carried out by InterNations, the annual survey rates cities around the world in terms of advantages they offer to foreign nationals who move there for professional reasons.

READ MORE: The best commuter towns if you work in Basel

The survey, which polled 12,420 people for its 2021 edition, ranks cities based on criteria such as Quality of Urban Living, Getting Settled, Urban Work Life, Finance & Housing, and Local Cost of Living, along with their sub-categories.

Of the four Swiss cities analysed in the study — Geneva, Zurich, Basel, and Lausanne — only Basel was highly rated, and is one of only three European cities ranked in the top 10 (the others are Prague, in 7th place, and Madrid in 10th).

This is why

A popular destination for international employees because of its pharmaceutical industry, including giants like Roche and Novartis, Basel ranked well across all categories.

For instance, it is in the 1st place for its public transportation network, in a 2nd position in terms of Quality of Urban Living, and in 3rd for Safety & Politics.

All expats in Basel (100 percent) are satisfied with public transportation, versus 69 percent globally. The public transportation system is excellent”, one respondent said.

Nearly all participants (97 percent) feel safe there, against 84 percent globally. The city also performs well in the Urban Work Life Index (6th), particularly for the state of the local economy, which is in the 1st place and the working hours (8th); additionally,  75 percent are happy with their working hours, compared to 66 percent globally.

More than four in five expats (84 percent) find their disposable household income enough or more than enough to cover their expenses (versus 77 percent globally), and 77 percent are satisfied with their financial situation (against 64 globally).

Where Basel is doing less well is in the  Finance & Housing Index (34th place), though it still ranks ahead of other Swiss cities: Zurich (37th), Lausanne (39th), and Geneva (53rd).

But the city ranks 48th in the Local Cost of Living Index: 69 percent of foreigners living there are dissatisfied with the cost of living, more than double the global average (34 percent).

The Getting Settled Index (39th) is another of Basel’s weak points. Internationals struggle with getting used to the local culture: more than one in four respondents (26 percent) state that they find this difficult — this figure is 18 percent 1globally.

It is worth mentioning that in the 2020 InterNations survey, Basel ranked in the 24th place, so it progressed impressively this year.

What about Geneva?

Switzerland’s most “international” city due to the presence of a number of United Nations agencies and multinational companies, places near the bottom of the ranking, in the 47th place.

“It has the worst results among the Swiss cities included in the report and is the only one that does not rank in the global top 10 of the Quality of Urban Living Index”, InterNations said.

Similar to the other Swiss cities, Geneva ranks among the top 10 for political stability (1st) and in the bottom 10 for the affordability of healthcare (56th). However, it lags behind for all other factors, with expats particularly dissatisfied with the local leisure options (23 percent versus 14 percent globally).

“Interestingly, the comparably low quality of life does not make Geneva any easier to afford: on the contrary, it is the worst-ranking city worldwide in the Local Cost of Living Index (57th) and by far the worst-rated Swiss city in the Finance & Housing Index (53rd)”, the report noted.

It added that “while Geneva comes 26th in the Finance Subcategory, it ranks 55th in the Housing Subcategory, only ahead of Dublin (56th) and Munich (57th). Expats find housing in Geneva unaffordable (87 percent  vs. 39 percent globally) and hard to find (63 percent vs. 23 percent globally).”

READ MORE: Why is Geneva’s rent the highest in Switzerland?

Geneva has a fairly average performance in the Urban Work Life Index (28th) but receives worse results in the Getting Settled Index (43rd). It ends up in the bottom 10 of the Feeling Welcome (52nd), Local Friendliness (50th), and Friends & Socializing (48th) subcategories.

“It is certainly not easy to integrate into the local culture and community,” said one respondent. In fact, 35 percent find the locals generally unfriendly, against 16 percent globally).

The difficulty is making friends in Switzerland is a well-known phenomenon among the international community.

READ MORE: ‘Suspicious of the unknown’: Is it difficult to make friends in Switzerland?

Maybe this is also why they find it hard to get used to the local culture (32 percent versus  18 percent globally) and do not feel at home — 33 percent compared to 19 percent  globally).

Zurich and Lausanne

The two other Swiss cities with a high proportion of international residents fall between the “best” and the “worst”, with Lausanne in the 21st place and Zurich in the 34th.

“All of them rank among the bottom 10 worldwide for the local cost living but among the top 10 for the local quality of life— except for Geneva, which lands in 21st place.”, the survey noted.

This InterNations chart shows how the four the cities are doing in each category. Please click here for a larger version of the chart. 

Image: Internations

You can find out more about each of the four cities from these links. 

READ MORE: Ten things Zurich residents take for granted

Zurich versus Geneva: Six big differences between Switzerland’s two biggest cities

Swiss town ranked the ‘world’s best small city’