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

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 Thursday
An increasing number of people in Switzerland are in favour of 5G technology. Photo by NICOLAS ASFOURI / AFP

Bern tightens sanctions against Belarus

Minsk is considered Russia’s accomplice to war in Ukraine, and the Federal Council has decided to tighten the sanctions against Belarus, following steps that the European Union had already taken earlier this month.

They mainly concern trade and financial sanctions and are very similar to the measures already imposed on Russia

The measures that went into effect on Wednesday include export bans on dual-use (military and civilian) goods; import of the goods Switzerland typically buys from Belarus, such as wood and rubber products, iron, steel and concrete; and the end of public funding and financial assistance for commercial exchanges or investments.

Also, transactions with the Central Bank of Belarus are no longer permitted. The Federal Council has also published a list of banks excluded from the SWIFT international messaging system.

READ MORE: Sanctions on Russia: Is Switzerland still a neutral nation?

Switzerland to allow Ukrainians to hold jobs

The heads of the Swiss Employers’ Union, the Swiss Trade Union, the Swiss Union of Arts and Crafts, and Travail.Suisse met with Justice Minister Karin Keller-Sutter to discuss ways of facilitating employment for the refugees while ensuring protection against abuse and wage undercutting.

For the Federal Council, access to employment will allow Ukrainian refugees to participate in social and economic life, and become financially independent during their stay in Switzerland.

However, the exercise of a gainful activity remains subject to cantonal authorisations, which must ensure that the conditions of remuneration and work comply with the usual practices of the place, profession and branch concerned.

Ukrainians are granted special S status, which allows them to work or study in Switzerland for up to a year.

READ MORE: Switzerland’s special ‘S permit’ visa program: What Ukrainians need to know

Swiss mortgage interest rates continue to rise

Mortgage interest rates have risen to multi-year highs for many homeowners.

With the start of the Ukraine war, interest rates for fixed-rate mortgages initially fell significantly. However, they have been rising sharply for about a week, according to comparison service Moneyland.

Since the beginning of the month, the median five-year mortgage rate rose 0.15 percentage point to 1.35 percent. The average interest rate for 10-year mortgages is 0.18 percentage points higher, at 1.73 percent.

Overall, interest rates have risen significantly since the start of the year. At the beginning of 2022, five-year mortgages were still around 1 percent, more than 0.3 percentage points lower. Ten-year mortgages even jumped more than 0.5 percentage points over the same period.

“The war in Ukraine is fueling the already high inflation, which causes a tightening of monetary policy or interest rate hikes,” said Moneyland analyst Felix Oeschger

More Swiss favour 5G technology

Switzerland was among the first countries to begin deploying 5G, but health fears over radiation from the antennas have sparked much opposition to the new technology.

In a Swiss survey conducted in 2020, the majority of respondents were against 5G network antennas in the vicinity of their homes.

However, a  similar study released this week by consumer site, shows that nearly half (49 percent) of those surveyed  support 5G technology, compared to only 35 percent in 2020. Only 27 have an unfavourable opinion, compared to 44 percent two years ago.

In the new survey, 55 percent cited technological advances as a reason for their  support of 5G networks, followed by those who see advantages of this technology — such as improved speed — and the reduction in energy consumption.

On the other hand, fears for the environment and for cybersecurity are gaining ground compared to 2020, according to the survey.

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: 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]