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TODAY IN SWITZERLAND

Today in Switzerland: A roundup of the latest news on Tuesday

Find out what's going on today in Switzerland with The Local's short roundup of the news.

Swiss volunteers are getting ready to deliver blankets and other essential supplies to refugee centres, like this one. Photo by Wojtek RADWANSKI / AFP
Swiss volunteers are getting ready to deliver blankets and other essential supplies to refugee centres, like this one. Photo by Wojtek RADWANSKI / AFP

MPs debate the rearmament of Switzerland

After the outbreak of war in Ukraine, a number of Swiss politicians and security experts are concerned about the country’s safety and readiness to defend itself.

“Switzerland has woken up from the dream of eternal peace,” said Dominik Knill, president of the Swiss Society of Officers. For security expert Niklas Mashur, Russia’s  invasion will influence the debate on increasing defense preparedness and armament budgets.

Among the MPs, some are already calling for more military spending.

“The current situation in Eastern Europe shows that the increase in budget is absolutely necessary”, said Werner Salzmann, chairman of the  parliamentary Security Policy Commission.

Another MP, Thomas Hurter, is also pushing not only for a higher budget, but more soldiers as well.

“The army is there to protect and defend the population against possible external attacks. This principle has been too neglected in recent years”, he said.

Fewer visas for Russian citizens 

Justice Minister Karin Keller-Sutter spoke in favour of tightening conditions for visa eligibility for Russian citizens, favouring a more restrictive approach.

She said the Secretariat for Migration (SEM) is already in the process of investigating this issue and establishing how many visas had been granted to date to Russian natonals currently in Switzerland.

Swiss cantons come to Ukraine’s aid

Residents of several cantons are preparing to send essential goods for Ukrainians seeking refuge at the Polish border.

“Our goal is to be on site with relief supplies as quickly as possible,” said Jörg Köhler, head of the Office for Military and Civil Defense of the canton of St. Gallen who will be shipping blankets, mattresses and other material to the border.

In the Basel region, volunteers are loading three vehicles with relief supplies.“People are dying practically on our doorstep. We have to help”, they explained.

In Bern too volunteers are gathering necessities in an effort coordinated together with the Ukrainian embassy. “We expect to be at the border in 15 to 20 hours and hand over the goods to local helpers who will ensure onward transport to Ukraine.”

Medical material, baby food, hygiene articles and diapers are currently in demand. But power banks and flashlights are also needed because of the many power outages.

READ MORE: How Switzerland reacted to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

Sunrise and SBB also step in to help Ukrainians

Two Swiss companies have also decided to do their part for Ukrainian citizens.

Telecommunications company Sunrise UPC announced it is waiving the costs of calls to and from Ukraine on its network, while Swiss Federal Railways (SBB) are offering free long-distance train journeys to Ukrainian refugees.

Both offers are effective immediately and will remain valid until further notice.

SBB will allow people who have fled Ukraine to travel from the border to a certain destination in Switzerland or to cross the country by train. This move is in line with the decision of the Federal Council and in agreement with the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM), the company said.

If you have any questions about life in Switzerland, ideas for articles or news tips for The Local, please get in touch with us at [email protected]

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TODAY IN SWITZERLAND

Today in Switzerland: A roundup of the latest news on Monday

From a solid approval of all the issues in Sunday's referendum to higher beverage prices: find out what's going on today in Switzerland with The Local's short roundup of the news.

Today in Switzerland: A roundup of the latest news on Monday

The Swiss say ‘yes’ to three proposals in Sunday’s referendum

Voters in Switzerland have accepted all three of the Federal Council’s proposals, rejecting, at the same time, opponents’ arguments.

The law making organ donation opt out across the country was approved by 60.20 percent, providing more money and staff to controversial EU border protection agency Frontex passed with 71.48 percent, and Lex Netflix – which makes streaming services pay a percentage fee to support Swiss filmmaking – passed with 58.42 percent.

READ MORE: Swiss back ‘Netflix’ law and steer clear of ‘Frontexit’

Read about the reactions in Switzerland to the vote results in our article to be published later today.

Price of beverages is soaring in Switzerland

Another popular product is becoming more expensive: non-alcoholic beverages.

“The price of PET [bottle] is skyrocketing, and with it that of mineral water and soft drinks”, according to a report in 20 Minuten.

“And there is a risk of further price increases.”

For instance, prices per litre of mineral water are now 5 to 10 cents higher, depending on the retailer. 

Of the four major retailers that the newspaper surveyed — Migros, Coop, Aldi and Lidl — only Coop has not yet increased the price of beverages, although its spokesperson conceded the company “cannot currently rule out price adjustments,” due to higher cost of raw materials, the shortage of packaging material, and the increased transport and energy costs.

Beverages have joined a growing list of other everyday products whose prices have increased due to inflation and war in Ukraine.

READ MORE: Seven products that are becoming more expensive in Switzerland

Migros gets tough on “unscrupulous” customers

Due to a growing number of shoplifters, some self-service Migros stores in Zurich are installing special barriers allowing only those who pay for their purchases to exit the store.

Customers who pay at self-checkout terminals must now scan the QR code of their receipt to open a barrier and leave with their purchases.

This is a rather drastic measure, “as Migros and Coop have so far relied on individual responsibility and random checks”, according to Tagblatt newspaper.

Russians critical of the Putin regime want to remain in Switzerland

A number of Russian women in Switzerland, who have criticised the war on social media and are therefore afraid of repercussions from the Kremlin, are asking the Federal Council to grant them asylum.

“I can understand that these women are concerned,” said Ulrich Schmid, Professor of Russian Culture and Society at the University of St. Gallen. “It is possible that the Russian secret service reports on people who are critical of the war”.

Should Russian deserters and opponents of the war get asylum in Switzerland? MPs’ views diverge.

For a Green MP Balthasar Glättli, Switzerland should grant these war objectors humanitarian visas.

However, according to Thomas Aeschi from the Swiss People’s Party (SVP), “Switzerland should treat all asylum seekers equally”, pointing out there are many people in other countries “who are also threatened”.

According to the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM), Russians who remain in Switzerland can apply to their canton of residence to extend their existing residence permit. “It will be checked whether they meet the legal requirements for this”, SEM said.

READ MORE: Reader question: Do Russians now have to leave Switzerland?

If you have any questions about life in Switzerland, ideas for articles or news tips for The Local, please get in touch with us at [email protected]

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