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TODAY IN SWITZERLAND

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

Swiss forest rangers fear thieves will target trees for firewood, flights to US and Canada back to pre-pandemic levels and other news from Switzerland on Thursday.

Today in Switzerland: A roundup of the latest news on Thursday
Rangers fear Swiss forests will be targeted by people looking for firewood. An aerial view taken on October 18, 2017 shows European larch trees in autumn colours in a forest near Cries, in the Swiss Alps. (Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP)

Swiss forests could be targeted by those looking to stock up on firewood

With Switzerland and other European nations threatened by a shortage of gas or electricity this winter those who have fireplaces have taken to stocking up on supplies fo firewood. 

The chairman of the Federal Electricity Commission, Werner Luginbühl, even recommended on Sunday that people should build up reserves in the event of a disaster scenario.

But as a result forest rangers fear many will take to the forests to illegally build up their supplies.

Neighbouring Germany has already seen people take to the forests to chop down trees for firewood, but so far Switzerland has been spared this kind of phenomenon.

But perhaps not for long.

Thomas Studer, director of a forestry operation in the canton of Solothurn told 20 Minutes: “Wood supplies are melting like snow in the sun.”

He fears there will be a rise in thefts in the coming weeks in the Swiss forests.

He said many walkers were already picking up branches that have fallen to the ground. He urged people to be responsible but warned that thieves would be punished because Swiss forests were not “self-service”.

“It’s theft and therefore punishable,” he said.

Airline tickets from Swiss to US and Canada reach pre-pandemic levels

Airline Edelweiss, a subsidiary of Swiss, has reported that its takings for July exceeded pre-pandemic levels, thanks in part to the renewed interest in flights from Switzerland to the US and Canada.

The carrier suggests it has seen “record” monthly figures for July thanks to the rebound in tourism and travel during the summer season.

In July, Edelweiss carried 304,039 passengers, up 3 percent compared to July 2019, the company said in a statement on Wednesday.

Flights to the United States, Canada and the Dominican Republic were particularly popular.

Parent company Swiss returned to profit in the first half after two years of losses caused by the coronavirus pandemic. The company is now aiming to return to operational profitability for the whole of 2022.

Swiss could represent Ukraine diplomatically in Russia

Ukraine has asked Switzerland to represent it diplomatically in Russia, Bern confirmed Wednesday, stressing though that
Moscow would need to accept the arrangement for it to go ahead, AFP reported on Wednesday.

Ever since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24, Switzerland — renowned for its neutrality — has said it stood ready to provide diplomatic assistance and to serve as a go-between.

The foreign ministry said Wednesday that Ukraine had requested that Switzerland “assume a protecting power mandate” for Kyiv in Russia, confirming a story in the Luzerner Zeitung newspaper.

The foreign ministry explained that such protecting power mandates “allow states to maintain low-level relations and provide consular protection to nationals of the other state concerned”.

“The corresponding negotiations have been completed,” a ministry spokeswoman told AFP in an email.

Switzerland to impose stricter welfare rules for Ukrainian refugees

So far, refugees from Ukraine have received preferential treatment when it comes to social assistance applications, SRF reported. Unlike refugees admitted from other countries, wealthy Ukrainians have also been able to receive social assistance in Switzerland.

However, from now on, their assets in Ukraine will be taken into account during the applications, the report stated. This includes jewellery, cars, but also bank assets or properties in Ukraine.

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TODAY IN SWITZERLAND

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

Another way to cut healthcare proposed, Switzerland ranks as the "best country in the world", and other Swiss news in our roundup on Thursday.

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

Non-emergency treatments raise the cost of healthcare

The Federal Council has recently issued its recommendations on curbing the spiralling costs of healthcare, and MPs are discussing the ways to keep expenses under control as well.

One of the many reasons for high costs is that many people use hospital emergency services for minor injuries or trivial symptoms.

According to Martin Kuhn, managing director of Regio-144 emergency transport, the number of minor cases for which the ambulance service is called is increasing sharply.

“Non-serious hospital emergencies contribute to high costs and premium growth,” said Matthias Müller, spokesperson for Santésuisse, an umbrella group for insurance companies.

Both suggest that in order to stem the sharp rise in healthcare costs, people who use emergency resources unnecessarily should pay for the service out of their own pocket, rather than have it billed to insurance companies.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: How Switzerland wants to cut soaring healthcare costs
 

Home working could be back this winter

Working from home became a widespread practice during the Covid pandemic but now a number of Swiss employers are considering this option again — though for a different reason.

In order to save on heating fuel, as urged by the government, some companies, including Novartis, are looking into the possibility of “leaving employees at home”, and making them work remotely.

This would save energy in the long run, as the web platforms used by companies for their work activities would use less electricity compared to the physical sites.

READ MORE: Swiss employers to reinstate working from home in winter in event of gas shortages

Switzerland ranked ‘Best Country in the World

This may come as no surprise to those familiar with various international rankings and have seen Switzerland get high scores numerous times in the past.

Now the new US News & World Report has also ranked Switzerland the ‘best in the world’ in 2022.

The reason for the top position, according to the Report, is that Switzerland has “low unemployment, a skilled labour force and one of the highest gross domestic products per capita in the world. The country’s strong economy is powered by low corporate tax rates, a highly-developed service sector, and a high-tech manufacturing industry”.

Out of 10 criteria on which countries were rated, Switzerland got 100 points (out of 100 maximum) for its business sense, also ranking high (96.7) for quality of life.

Switzerland should better promote its languages, Council of Europe says

French and German should be  promoted more in Swiss cantons where they are non-official languages, while Italian and Romansh need to be pushed more in economic and social life, according to a report released by the Council of Europe on Wednesday.

The report also welcomes “the financial assistance provided by the federal authorities to the bilingual cantons of Bern/Berne, Fribourg/Freiburg, Graubünden/Grischun/Grigioni and Valais/Wallis for their measures in connection with multilingualism” .

READ MORE: How did Switzerland become a country with four languages?

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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