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

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
Trains in French-speaking Switzerland lack punctuality. Photo by Pixabay

Victim of Zurich kidnapping identified

Reports over the weekend about an abduction of a Swiss man in late March in Zurich referred to the victim only as the “vaccine commission chief”.

On Sunday, the person’s identity finally became known: it was Christoph Berger, whose name had appeared often in the Swiss media during the pandemic.

Berger himself issued a statement to the media in which he revealed his identity, saying “the perpetrator… had me in his power for a good hour. During this time he confronted me with a demand for a substantial amount of money”.

“I am aware of the great emotional and social tensions that vaccination issues have received over the past two years”, Berger noted, adding that “beyond this information, I will only comment on this incident to the law enforcement authorities”.

Berger’s kidnapper, a 38-year-old German corona skeptic living in Zurich, was shot dead by police on Saturday. 

READ MORE: Swiss man kidnapped in Zurich ‘is vaccine commission chief’

Trains are less punctual in French-speaking Switzerland

According to a confidential report of the Swiss Federal Railways (SBB) obtained by Blick newspaper, the company  “confesses to a lack of punctuality in the French-speaking regions”.

As an example, in French-language regions the punctuality objective of 90.5 percent that SBB has set for its trains was only achieved on 133 days out of 365 during the past year. In comparison, the network as a whole recorded 271 days of punctuality, with the eastern (Swiss-German) areas  registering 341 days of punctuality in 2021.

The situation is expected to deteriorate,  SBB says, because railroad works planned in French-speaking parts will disrupt rail traffic even further.

Also, according to company spokesperson Frédéric Revaz, the number of passengers has “increased in French-speaking Switzerland in recent decades”, and the time required for the arrival and departure of each train is no longer provided for in the timetable.

To remedy the situation, the company wants to modify travel times, a move that would, however, result in longer journey times and more train changes.

READ MORE: Why Swiss trains are less punctual — and what is being done about it

Number of immigrants in Switzerland among Europe’s highest

A new study focusing on how many foreign-born residents live in various countries, found that while on a global scale Switzerland finds itself in the 16 place, it ranks fourth in Europe.

The findings, based on data from the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, shows that only four ‘micro-nations’ — Liechtenstein, Monaco, Andorra, and Luxembourg  — have the highest proportion of foreigners in Europe, with 72.8 percent, 67.9 percent, 50 percent, and 47.9 percent, respectively.

Switzerland’s share is 28.8 percent, which means 2.49 million residents, out of the total population of 8.7 million, were born abroad.

According to Watson news outlet, “if only countries with at least one million inhabitants were taken into account, Switzerland would be in the first place in Europe”.

READ MORE: In numbers: What we know about Switzerland’s foreign residents

Justice Minister: “No cap on the number of Ukrainian refugees’

To date, Switzerland has granted over 25,000 S permits to Ukrainian refugees, with Justice Minister Karin  Keller-Sutter telling RTS public broadcaster on Sunday that there is “no cap” on how many more will be allowed in.

“I don’t see how Switzerland could turn away women and children at the border”, she said.

On March 16th, Keller-Sutter predicted that between 35,000 and 50,000 Ukrainians will arrive on Switzerland by June, and recent numbers seem to be confirming the upward trend.

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]