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

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

Zurich Airport, Switzerland. Photo by Fabian Joy on Unsplash
Zurich Airport, Switzerland. Photo by Fabian Joy on Unsplash

Ukraine recruits Swiss soldiers

The Ukrainian International Legion, a  volunteer army composed exclusively of foreign nationals was set up at the request of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to fight against the Russian invaders.

The group has reportedly contacted some members of the Swiss military by email. In at least one case, it urged them to go fight against the Russians, and in another, to supply military equipment, in particular gas masks, to civilians in Ukraine.

The message also asked the soldiers to attempt to enlist others to fight for Ukraine.

The email was relayed to the Service for the Preventive Protection of the Army (SPPA), which depends on military intelligence and ensures the security of the army against espionage, sabotage and other illicit activities.

It is illegal, and punishable by up to three years in prison, for any Swiss citizen to serve in a foreign army without the authorisation of the Federal Council. Such authorisation has not been given since WWI, however.

READ MORE: Could Switzerland defend itself against invasion?

Switzerland purchases new anti-Covid medication

The Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) has concluded a purchase contract with AstraZeneca for 5,000 doses of an anti-Covid drug. This treatment — which has nothing in common with the manufacturer’s vaccine —  is intended for vulnerable people over the age of 12, who have weakened immune systems and can’t get vaccinated.

The contract is for a combination of two antibodies which are effective in protecting against Covid infection for at least six months.

The government will cover the costs of this preventive treatment until it is reimbursed by the compulsory health insurance. The first drugs will be available from May.

“As this treatment has not yet received marketing authorisation, it can only be prescribed on an exceptional basis”, FOPH said.

READ MORE: What is not covered by Switzerland’s compulsory health insurance

Switzerland will have its first Holocaust memorial

This idea, first launched in 2021 by MP Alfred Heer, was unanimously accepted by the Council of States on Thursday, paving the way to the creation a historic tribute honouring the victims of Nazism .

“Until now, there has been no national place commemorating the victims of the Holocaust and those who helped them”, the Swiss Federation of Jewish Communities (FSCI) said.

“The memorial will encourage future generations to reflect critically on prejudice and discrimination”, the association added.

The memorial will be located in Bern, but other details are not yet available.

Zurich Airport remains best in Europe

Airports Council International (ACI) has once again named Switzerland’s largest  airport the “Best European Airport” in the category “25-40 million passengers”.

The award recognises airports around the world which, based on the opinion of passengers, offer the best services in 34 different categories, including infrastructure, security control, catering facilities, and hygiene measures.

“The survey shows that Zurich Airport manages to flexibly adapt to the circumstances and put the needs of its passengers first”, the airport’s management said in a press release.

Zurich was already awarded this title in 2006, 2008, 2018, 2019 and 2020.

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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For members


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]