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Swiss news that got international attention in 2021

‘Marriage for all’ referendum was among Swiss news that made international headlines. Photo: Niels Christian Vilmann/Ritzau Scanpix/AFP
‘Marriage for all’ referendum was among Swiss news that made international headlines. Photo: Niels Christian Vilmann/Ritzau Scanpix/AFP
Switzerland doesn’t often make headlines abroad outside of financial or banking news. But some issues got quite a bit of international media coverage this year. Can you guess what they are?

In its new report, Presence Switzerland, a government agency mandated with monitoring Switzerland’s image abroad, compiled news reports that ‘trended’ in the foreign press and on social media outside of the country in 2021.

These are the news items, in chronological order, that foreign media covered this year.

The US-Russia summit, June

Because of the high-stakes summit which was held in Geneva, both Geneva and Switzerland have received “by far the greatest media exposure in recent years and the image of our country that was given was positive”, according to Presence Switzerland.

Swiss president Guy Parmelin also managed to get his 15 minutes of fame by slipping between Vladimir Putin and Joe Biden for a photograph.

Too bad nobody told them to say ‘cheese’. Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP
 
 

European Football Championship, July

No, Switzerland did not win, though it did, to everyone’s surprise, beat world champions France in the Round of 16 before finally losing to Spain in the quarter finals. 

But the real face of the championship, literally, was an avid supporter of the Swiss national team, Luca Loutenbach, who became a meme on social networks.

‘Overwhelmed’: Unaware Swiss super fan stunned about viral fame

Unbeknownst to him, his wild range of emotions while watching the ‘Nati’ play went viral, making him an overnight international sensation.

 

Go, Switzerland, go! Photo:Twitter

READ MORE: ‘We don’t like France, Germany or Italy’: How linguistic diversity unites Swiss football fans

His image was shared across the globe and was retweeted by millions, including the mayor of London. 

“Marriage for all” referendum, September

This event “drew considerable interest worldwide”, Presence Switzerland said.

Its president, Nicolas Bideau, pointed out that some foreign media “were somewhat surprised and concluded that Switzerland was apparently more liberal than stereotypes suggest”.

READ MORE: UPDATE: Swiss voters say big ‘yes’ to same-sex marriage

Covid-19 Act referendum, November

The renewed support for the Covid-19 Act met with greater interest against the backdrop of the worsening crisis all over Europe.

In the run-up to the vote, international media widely reported on the heated tensions between supporters and opponents of the measures in Switzerland.

According to foreign media, “the simultaneous acceptance of the nursing care initiative also sent a clear message to the government that measures to combat the pandemic needed to be accompanied by corresponding social measures for employees in the nursing sector. Media in the neighbouring countries also discussed possible impacts of the nursing care initiative on their own labour markets” Presence Switzerland noted.

 “The fact that the Swiss population can regularly vote on a number of specific issues is mentioned each year in the media as a characteristic specific to Switzerland”, it added.

READ MORE: How Switzerland voted in the Covid referendum

Other lesser-known events also appeared in some foreign media outlets.

One such example was a debate in Argentina comparing the security situation in that country with Switzerland’s.

While this issue was not widely reported in Switzerland itself, “it received wide coverage in both traditional and social media in Argentina”, the organisation said.

The debate was sparked by Argentinian security minister Sabina Frederic’s comment that Switzerland was safer than Argentina but also more boring.

These remarks met with fierce criticism in Argentina, and the minister left her post several weeks later.

However, “the tone of coverage was mostly very positive with regard to Switzerland, which was depicted as a safe country and a very pleasant place to live”, Presence Switzerland noted.

The Swiss ambassador’s response to the comparison went viral: he posted on social media a promotional video by Switzerland Tourism in which Robert De Niro complains to Roger Federer about Switzerland’s lack of drama.

“The tweet was very widely shared, and numerous Argentinian media outlets praised it as a successful response to an inappropriate comparison”.


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