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TODAY IN SWITZERLAND

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

From the question of social aid for foreigners to where is the best Gruyere cheese — here's a roundup of the latest news from Switzerland on Monday.

Today in Switzerland: A roundup of the latest news on Monday
A Gruyère cheese wheel is checked during maturing operation in a giant cellar in a Gruyère (not Emmental) dairy. Photo by FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

Parliament debates social assistance to foreigners

Since 2019, foreigners who receive social assistance over an extended period of time can be deported from Switzerland. This topic is now being discussed at the Federal  Assembly, creating divisiveness among the MPs.

The narrow majority of the Council of States commission shares the position of the Justice Minister Karin Keller-Sutter  — that is, that a ‘proportionality test’ must be carried out  before withdrawing a residence permit. For instance, it must be determined whether people who depend on social aid found themselves in a precarious financial situation  “without being responsible for it”.

Given the contentious nature of this issue,  MPs want the law to specify the conditions under which a permit can be withdrawn.

Debate over S status for Russian army deserters gains ground

Until now the S status has been granted only to Ukrainian refugees fleeing the war in their country.

However, a number of Swiss MPs and trade associations have asked the Federal Council to extend this special protection status to those who desert Russian army to avoid fighting against Ukraine.

“If this is done, it will give an important impetus to anti-war sentiments [in Russia] and will send a very clear message to Vladimir Putin”, trade unionist Paolo Gilardi told RTS public broadcaster.The status should also cover those in Russia who speak out publicly against the war and whose lives are therefore in danger, supporters of the initiative say.

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

Increasing numbers of Swiss rely on the third pillar for their old age

As Switzerland’s two obligatory pension schemes — OASI, also known as AHV in German-speaking regions, and as AVS in French and Italian cantons, as well as the occupational pension (BVG / LPP) — often don’t provide enough income in retirement, more people are turning toward the third pillar for more revenue.

This is the finding of a new survey by Comparis consumer site, which shows that 69.8 percent of Switzerland’s employees now use this optional private pension plan to increase their income in retirement — up from 63.1 percent in 2018.

“The Swiss are realising more and more that the pensions from the AVS and the obligatory pension fund no longer allow them to make ends meet. They are therefore relying on other pension solutions,” according to Leo Hug, pension expert at Comparis.

More information about the three pillars of Swiss pension scheme can be found here.

EXPLAINED: How does the Swiss pension system work – and how much will I receive?

And the best Gruyère cheese is made… in Emmental?

Switzerland’s famous Gruyère cheese is continuing to make news.

It has previously stirred controversy after an American court ruled in January of this year that this cheese doesn’t have to be manufactured in Gruyère— or even in Switzerland, for that matter —  in order to bear the name. 

READ MORE: Why are Swiss angry with Americans about Gruyere cheese?

That was bad enough, but another slap comes from Switzerland itself: Michael Spycher, a producer from Sumiswald, a village in  Emmental — another of Switzerland’s famed cheese making regions —was recently awarded the gold medal at an international competition for making the best Gruyère cheese.

Although this regional mish-mash may not be to Gruyère producers’ liking, Spycher said in his defence that a dozen Emmental companies are making Gruyère cheese, even though it is a protected trademark (AOP) in Switzerland.

READ MORE: Ten varieties of cheese you should be able to identify if you live in 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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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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