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Subject: soc.culture.swiss FAQ

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Archive-name: swiss/faq Author: Marc SCHAEFER <schaefer@alphanet.ch> Posting-Frequency: monthly Last-Change: Mar 3 2002 Posting-Number: 96
soc.culture.swiss MONTHLY POSTING version: 1.68 This work is placed under the protection of the Bern Convention, except that it is hereby authorized to copy it as part of the normal USENET article transmission process and to archive it with other FAQs for anonymous FTP or WWW retrieval. All other copies are authorized as long as no money whatsoever is made from this work and if it is copied in full. Inclusion in CD-ROMs and selling it as part of another work is explicitly not allowed, except if a gift is given to a recognized charity organization or the FSF GNU Project, and I am asked first. 0. Table of contents 1 ......................................... Introduction 1.1 .................................... Original newsgroup charter 1.2 .................................... Changes since last posting 2 ......................................... Switzerland: the country 2.1 .................................... Introduction 2.2 .................................... History 2.3 .................................... Figures 2.4 .................................... Political system 2.5 .................................... Issues 2.6 .................................... Visiting Switzerland 2.7 .................................... Looking for a job 2.8 .................................... School system 2.9 .................................... Swiss citizenship 3 ......................................... Frequently Asked Questions 3.1 ................................... Internet in Switzerland 3.2 ................................... Military service / guns 3.3 ................................... Swiss navy 3.4 ................................... 5th Switzerland 3.5 ................................... Swiss German vs German 3.6 ................................... Universities in Ticino 3.7 ................................... Swiss laws 3.8 ................................... Swiss tax system 3.9 ................................... Rumantsch 3.10 ................................... Abortion 3.11 ................................... World War II (ambitious) 3.12 ................................... Health system 4 ......................................... Institutions/products abroad 4.1 .................................... In the US 4.2 .................................... In Australia 4.3 .................................... In other countries 4.4 .................................... Swiss products 5 ......................................... More information 6 ......................................... Credits 1. Introduction This newsgroup (in French, this is translated by ``forum'', or not translated at all) soc.culture.swiss, was created in February 1994. Its aim is to be a forum where Swiss nationals and those interested in Switzerland can exchange ideas and discuss politics, economics, and everything that has a more or less distant link to the word `swiss'. The newsgroup seems to focus itself on Swiss culture-related items and political discussions. However, as most of the readers of soc.culture.swiss are either non Swiss or do not live in Switzerland, soc.culture.swiss should NOT in general be used to contact Swiss people. The newly-reorganized Swiss newsgroups are probably best suited for that purpose. Those newsgroups are not distributed worldwide, but there are some sites willing to offer NNTP feeds for those newsgroups in the US. ch hierarchy newsgroups: ch.general Misc. items of interest to Swiss newsgroups readers ch.rec General info about recreational activity. ch.talk Discussions in general. ch.bulletin.avalanche Bulletins of the ISL Davos. ch.comp Computer related topics. ch.comp.networks Network technology and security. ch.comp.os.linux Linux and Unix in general. ch.comp.os.ms-windows The MS-Windows operating system. ch.market Want to buy/sell. ch.market.comp Want to buy/sell computers and peripherals. ch.market.jobs Need/search a job. ch.test A place for test postings. Beware that those newsgroups are multi-lingual (especially German, English and French, but also Italian). Long distance companies or toll call companies and other commercial postings are NOT appropriate, please use one of the biz hierarchy newsgroups. Thank you. People interested by genealogy may want to use the soc.genealogy hierarchy (French-speaking: fr.rec.genealogie). Also note that Swiss genealogy is mostly discussed in the newsgroup soc.genealogy.german (don't be afraid of the ``german'' :-)) As a general advice, please consult the newsgroup news.announce.newusers and follow the discussion in soc.culture.swiss for some time before your first posting. Articles cross-posted to another newsgroup are normally NOT appropriate for soc.culture.swiss. Recently there has been quite a lot of discussion in soc.culture.swiss about recurrent topics: guns, Europe, service providers and so on. There have also been a lot of inappropriate or irrelevant postings; this FAQ may help reduce the noise in the newsgroup. The question about what language this FAQ should use is difficult to answer. My first language is French. Many languages are spoken in Switzerland. However, people in this country do frequently know English as a second or third language: the fact that most articles in soc.culture.swiss are in English proves me right. Thus, this FAQ's official language will be English. Feel free to translate the document into another language if you like, or to submit new information in your language (French, German, Italian) which I will be able to translate. Submit changes to the e-mail address shown at the beginning of this article. WARNING: This document contains some views of the political situation in Switzerland. If you do NOT agree with what I say, because you think differently, please send me a _mail_: the idea is not to use the newsgroup as a meta-discussion about the FAQ itself :-) In general, I try to be as open-minded as possible. WARNING-2: This document has been written in the hope it would be useful. There is absolutely no warranty on the content. Feel however free to spot errors and send corrections to me. This FAQ is available by WWW http://www-internal.alphanet.ch/~schaefer/scs/faq (soft-link to the master version) http://www.er.uqam.ca/nobel/r14160/swiss/swiss.html (Christian ZIMMERMANN) (this version is usually up to-date, and is faster for North America). Note that this posting is automatically archived somewhere in ftp://rtfm.mit.edu/pub/usenet/ Note for French-speaking people: there is a FAQ about accentuation in the USENET news system available in fr.usenet.8bits. To stay general, ISO Latin-1 (8859-1) accentuation _is_ tolerated on the news system, MIME base-64 or even quoted-printable is not. 1.1 Original newsgroup charter PURPOSE AND MISSION This newsgroup will serve as a common ground for the exchange of ideas and information about Switzerland and the several cultures that inspire the alchemy of this special land. Switzerland is one of the world's smaller nations, but its impact on science, technology, art, statesmanship, and education has been greater than its size would suggest. It has been the seat of religious revolution, home to political dissidents, bastion of neutrality, and cauldron for a national character that is at once diverse and unified -- hard-working, independent, and resolute. The paradox of the modern Switzerland is that its independence rests on its inter-nationalism. The Swiss are all over the globe, and the world's architects of commerce and state-craft are constant visitors to Switzerland. Switzerland is a microcosm of Europe and an outpost for observing change and development within the European Community. This newsgroup should provide a place for those with an interest in Swiss culture, politics, and national affairs to trade thoughts, and for those who want to learn more about this unique land to do so. For the Swiss Abroad -- known as the "Fifth Switzerland" (after the German, French, Italian, and Rumantsch) -- this newsgroup should provide a way to keep in touch and to discuss the frequent referenda that typify the direct Swiss democracy and which are so important in maintaining a sense of national unity and full participation in the life of the country. For the Swiss in Switzerland the newsgroup should be an additional way for the three language cultures to interact. RULES (a) Contributors may use any written language they would use in Switzerland, as well as English. But if a sender chooses to use a dialect, it will be an understood courtesy of the newsgroup to offer a summary translation for others. Any message can be answered in the same, or a different language. The newsgroup should not be a "club" for any one language community. (b) Within the general purpose of the newsgroup, there will be no restrictions on topics or message content. However, contributors will emphasize the decorum and respect that typify Switzerland, even when there are disagreements. Thus, the newsgroup should try to become a model of meaningful, but respectful communications, so sorely needed in the world. (c) Contributors should use best efforts to distinguish messages of general interest from personal mail. It is perfectly proper to seek specific help or information, but if the result is a strictly personal exchange, contributors should consider direct E-mail, instead of postings to soc.culture.swiss. (d) This charter is provisional and subject to the wishes of the community it serves. It is not "owned" by any person, language community, or commercial interest. Users with ideas for amendments or improvements should post them to soc.culture.swiss or to the present contact person. 1.2 Changes since last posting - UNO membership 2. Switzerland: the country 2.1 Introduction Switzerland is a small country in the center of Western Europe[1], next to Germany in the north, France in the west, Italy in the south, Austria and the tiny principality of Liechtenstein in the east. Its size is 41,290 km2 (15,942 sq mi), which is about one and a half times the size of the US-state Massachusetts. Time zone is MET [ DST ] or CET [ CED ]. Daylight saving time is one hour ahead, in the summer, and is called Sommerzeit in German, and Heure d'ete in French. The standard denomination for daylight saving times is in square brackets. The country has a long tradition of federalism[2] and direct democracy, which helped sustain its multi-cultural and multi-lingual character. The official languages in Switzerland are German, spoken by 2/3 of the population (in a variety of dialects collectively known as Swiss German); French, spoken by about 20%; Italian, spoken by 8%; and Rumantsch spoken by less than 1% of the population. Switzerland is called in German: Die Schweiz, in French: La Suisse, in Italian: La Svizzera, and in Rumantsch: La Svizra. The official name is in Latin: Confoederatio Helvetica, which lead to its international (ISO) acronym: CH. International telephone country code is 41. The federal capital of Switzerland is the picturesque city of Bern/Berne (Italian: Berna), located close to the center of Switzerland. The largest city in the country is Zuerich, an international financial center. Geneva, on the western tip of the country (French: Suisse romande; German: Welschland) on the shores of Lake Geneva (properly called Lac Leman in French), is the largest city in the French-speaking area. It is home to the United Nations, the World Trade Organization, the World Health Organization, the International Committee of the Red Cross, CERN, and many other international organizations. Despite hosting many international organizations, Switzerland is not a member of the European Union, and wasn't until recently (2002-03-03) a member of the UNO neither. Switzerland is, however, member of the European Council, of the EFTA and although it wasn't UNO member was active for a number of years in many international organizations (such as HCR, WHO, UIT, IMF and so on). Neutrality has been one of the pillars of Swiss foreign policy and has not yet given way to membership in supranational organizations (even if the reason for refusing those might not have been so rhetorical, and UNO is probably the precedent now.). In 2000 the population of Switzerland reached 7'204'000, of which 19.8% are foreigners. This used to be the fastest growth in Europe, mainly due to immigration: now Ireland apparently grows faster than Switzerland. In 1994, life expectancy at birth is 78 years. There are 1.6 children born per woman (Sensitive people may prefer 8 children for 5 women, but as polygamy is illegal, they must be from different fathers :-)) Switzerland has many lakes and is situated between two mountain ranges: Jura (> 1000 m/3000 ft) and the Alps ( > 3000 m/10,000 ft). The country has no natural resources other than salt, water (electricity) and stones. Main export products are machines, chemical products (including pharmaceuticals), instruments and watches. Other revenue is from services (banking, insurances) and tourism (skiing is one of the national sports) as well as exporting some electricity. As for tourism, it should be mentioned that Swiss tourists spend more than 10 billion CHF abroad, compared to the 13 billion CHF visitors spend in Switzerland. The Swiss flag should be constructed as follows: A free floating white cross on red square ground. The arms of the cross are of equal length and of 1/6 longer than wide (established in 1815). [1] In the geographical sense, not the European Union. [2] Switzerland consists of 26 Cantons and half-Cantons. There are 6 half-Cantons. See section 2.4.2 2.2 History 2.2.1 Some dates Founding date of the Swiss Confederation by the central Swiss cantons of Uri, Schwyz, and Unterwalden: 1291 (traditionally 1st of August 1291, national day, but this was set in the 19th century) Battle of Morgarten: 1315 Battle of Sempach (Arnold Winkelried): 1386 Battle of Morat/Murten: 1476 (a defeat of Charles the Bold) Battle of Marignano: 1515 (first mention of neutrality) Savoy attacks Geneva: the Escalade: 1602 First official mention of the separation of the Swiss federation from the Holy Roman Empire: 1648 Invasion by Napoleon (Helvetic Republic): 1798 Armed Neutrality internationally recognized (Vienna congress): 1815 Chocolaterie Cailler founded at Vevey: 1819 War of Sonderbund (Civil war): 1847 Jesuits expelled: 1847 Federal Constitution: 1848 Shoe manufacturer Bally founded: 1850 1st Geneva Convention establishes International Red Cross: 1864 1st Socialist International meets in Geneva: 1866 Nestle founded: 1866 Federal Constitution revised: 1874 General strike: 1918 Youngest Canton Jura: voted 1974, created 1978 Women allowed to vote on federal matters: 1971 Women allowed to vote on Canton matters in all Cantons: 1991 About the Women's suffrage: On the Federal level, it was introduced in 1971. The last Cantons to accept it at their level were AR and AI: Appenzell-Ausserrhoden (at the 1989 Landsgemeinde) and Appenzell-Innerrhoden in 1991 (by a Federal Court decision). It is interesting to note that the Women's suffrage was voted by the male population, not by a legislative entity (except for AI). 2.2.2 Well-known Swiss people (past and present) NOTE: there is no point in submitting new items for this section, we don't want it to grow. Alain Tanner, film-maker Alberto Giacometti, sculptor Arthur Fraucci, aka Arthur Artousov, first chief of soviet counter-intelligence Auguste Piccard, scientist C.F. Ramuz, novelist and essayist Carl Gustav Jung, psychologist (1875-1961) Charles-Edouard Jeanneret, known as Le Corbusier, architect Domenico Tresini, architect (Peter and Paul cathedral in St. Petersburg) Dr. Hofmann, LSD discoverer. Ferdinand de Saussure, linguist Frederic Sauser, known as Blaise Cendrars, writer Friedrich Duerrenmatt, novelist and play writer Henri Dunant, founder of International Red Cross Horace-Benedicte de Saussure, naturalist Huldrych Zwingli, priest/reformator Isabelle de Charriere, writer Jean Piaget, psychologist Jean-Jacques Rousseau, philosopher, born in Geneva Jean-Luc Godard, film-maker Johann Pestalozzi Johann Sutter (owned much of California, initiator and victim of the Gold Rush) Karl Brunner, economist Leonhard Euler, mathematician Mario Botta, architect Marthe Keller, actress Max Frisch, novelist Michel Simon, actor Napoleon III, in Canton Thurgau (spoke German, French, Italian and English) Niklaus Wirth, `father' of many programming languages (Pascal, Modula, Oberon) Paracelsus, physician (1400, Basel) Pirmin Zurbriggen, skier Tony Rominger, cyclist Ursula Andress, actress Vreni Schneider, skier and more ... Note that Albert Schweitzer is Alsatian and *not* Swiss, as the name might wrongly imply (most SchweiTzer are Alsatian). 2.2.3 Well-known people who have lived (or live) in Switzerland NOTE: there is no point in submitting new items for this section, we don't want it to grow. Alain Prost Albert Einstein, became Swiss Byron Charlie Chaplin, actor/comedian/movie director, 1889-1977 David Niven Elias Canetti, Nobel prize for literature. Friedrich Nietzsche Georges Simenon Gustave Courbet Hermann Hesse, writer, Nobel Laureate for Literature (1946), 1877-1962, became Swiss in 1923 Igor Stravinsky Jackie Stewart James Joyce John Calvin, priest/reformer, 1509-1564 Mussolini (studied at the Gymnase Cantonal de Neuchatel) Paderewsky Peter Ustinov Rainer Maria Rilke, became Swiss Richard Burton Richard Wagner The Aga Khan Thomas Mann, Nobel Laureate, in Kuesnacht (ZH), later in Kilchberg. Tristan Tzara Vilfredo Pareto, social scientist, 1848-1923 Vladimir Ilitch Oulianov (Lenin) Voltaire various dictators and many, many more ... 2.2.4 Swiss Nobel Prize winners 1901 Henry Dunant, Peace (red cross) 1902 Elie Ducommun, Charles Albert Gobat (Peace) 1909 Emil Theodor Kocher (Medicine) 1913 Alfred Werner (Chemistry) 1919 Carl Spitteler (Literature) (from Liestal) 1920 Charles Eduard Guillaume (Physics) 1937 Paul Karrer (Chemistry) 1939 Leopold Ruzicka (Chemistry) (born in Croatia) 1946 Hermann Hesse (Literature) (born in Germany) 1948 Paul Hermann Mueller (Medicine) (DDT) 1949 Walter Rudolf Hess (Medicine) 1950 Tadeus Rechstein (Medicine) (born in Poland) 1975 Vladimir Prelog (Chemistry) (born Sarajevo) 1978 Werner Arber (Medicine) 1986 Heinrich Rohrer (Physics) 1987 K. Alexander Mueller (Physics) 1988 Jack Steinberger (Physics) 1991 Richard Robert Ernst (Chemistry) 1996 Rolf M. Zinkernagel (Medicine) Sources: World Almanac 1991 (quite wrong) "Der Neue Brockhaus", Encyclopedia, 1991 http://www.slac.stanford.edu/~clancey/Nobel/Nobel-Physics.html http://www.theo1.physik.uni-stuttgart.de/~marlow/physics_nobel.html http://www.chem.ethz.ch/D-CHEM-Prof/ernst/ernst.html It should be noted that for many nobel laureates who changed nationality in their life, most prominently Einstein, but possibly also Canetti, Prelog, Ruzicka, Hesse, nationality is/was simply a non-issue; thus a list as the one compiled above is only of informative value, without any nationalism intended. A more interesting list could be which nobel laureates received their prizes for work done at swiss institutions. The "Bureau International permanent de la Paix", Berne, founded by Ducommun/Gobat, was awarded the prize for Peace in 1910. The ICRC (Comite International de la Croix-Rouge), Geneve, was awarded the prize for peace in 1917, 1944 and 1963. See: (http://www.icrc.ch/icrcnews/242a.htm) 2.3 Figures These figures where found in "La Suisse - de la formation des Alpes a la quete du futur", Ex Libris, 1975. This book is a very interesting overview of Switzerland, even if it is a bit old now. Some were also found in the CIA World Fact-book, even if not all information there is correct. 2.3.1 Languages Swiss citizens living in Switzerland (1970) German and Swiss-German (many dialects): 74% French: 20% Italian: 4% Rumantsch: 1% All people living in Switzerland: German and Swiss-German (many idioms): 65% French: 18% Italian: 11% Rumantsch: 0.8% Others: 5.2% There are no dialects in the French speaking part: however, there are some ``patoits'' which are not spoken by the new generations. There also some swiss expressions and specific words: for example, 70 is called ``septante'', 80 ``huitante'' (in Vaud) or ``quatre-vingts'', 90 is called ``nonante''. For reference, consult the book Glossaire des patois de la Suisse romande / elabore avec le concours de nombreux auxiliaires et redige par L. Gauchat, J. Jeanjaquet, E.Tappolet avec la collaboration de E. Muret. Neuchatel : V. Attinger, 1924-. - 6 v + 8 unbound parts. Library has v1-4, A-C and index; v5-6; v7, fasc. 85-86, 88-89, 91,93,95-96 f - fille; v.8, fasc. 94 g-gale. - There is a ticinesi dialect, which is being slowly suppressed by the use of the (official language) Italian. 2.3.2 Main cities Zuerich, (`ue' replaces the German umlaut), business and industrial center, one international airport, only 350,000 inhabitants. Basel, Chemicals, and gateway to France and Germany, Rhine waterway, chemical and pharmaceutical industries, International airport. Geneva , many international organizations, International airport. Bern, Federal Government. Lausanne, International Olympic Committee, Federal Court, Cinematheque Suisse. Lucerne, with its brand new bridge, Federal Insurance Court (not _because_ of old covered bridge burned lately :-)). Lugano. Locarno, Cinema Festival. Davos, the World Economic Forum (which is a very small city, indeed). Neuchatel, where I live. 2.3.3 Miscellaneous "BIGGEST" glacier: Aletschgletscher (VS), 117.6 km2 and 23.6 km long lake (entirely in Switzerland): Lac de Neuchatel (NE/BE/FR/VD), 218.3 km2 lake (partially French): Lac Leman (VD/GE/France), 581.3 km2 Canton (size): Graubuenden (GR), 7108.9 km2 Canton (inhabitants): Zuerich (ZH), 1'211'600 (end 2000) "HIGHEST" mountain: partly Swiss Dufourspitze/Pointe Dufour (Monte Rosa) 4634m entirely Mischabelsdom 4545m 2.4 Political system The political system is mainly composed of three levels: the communal (city), the state (Cantonal) level and the federal level. At all levels, the voters have the right of active participation through elections, petition, initiative and referendum, and of course by running for public office. - voters: the people who can elect people. It should be noted that the participation rate is usually very low (about 33%, except for the canton SH, where the rate is usually about 65% because any voter not voting pays a fee of 3 CHF per missed voting date, if not excused.) - eligible: the people who can be elected for public office - petition: non-binding request for legislative action through signatures. - initiative: proposition from a group of voters which becomes a law if there are enough people signing it and it passes the vote (majority of people FOR it. Note that at the federal level, the double majority of citizens and Cantons is necessary, because it only allows currently Constitutional changes; in the now proposed reform, however, the initiative for laws would be allowed at the federal level). - referendum: popular vote on a bill that has been passed by a legislative corpus (federal level: Federal Assembly). A fixed number of signatures (at federal level: 50,000) is required to request a (facultative (== non compulsory) referendum on an ordinary law. Constitutional changes, international treaties, or executive emergency decrees are followed by a compulsory referendum vote. Some Cantons require a referendum vote for expenditures exceeding a certain amount. The law/constitutional change/treaty/budget item comes into effect if a simple majority of voters approve it. Note: There are no non-binding, informative referendums in Switzerland. There is also an administrative entity called a district (county) and the rough concept of a region. Public officials face re-election every four years. There are usually 4 to 6 ballots a year on multiple subjects (mainly referendums) and elections, on all levels. Women and men have equal rights, as guaranteed by the Constitution. 2.4.1 Communal Those 18 years of age or older are eligible to vote. In some cantons, such as Neuchatel, non-Swiss long-time residents (C permit, 5 years) may also vote. Eligible are usually the same as the voters (even foreigners in some cantons, except for special offices). The main apparatus is the Communal Council (executive) and the General Council (legislative branch). The mayor is usually called a chairman; sometimes he is called `maire' (Jura) or `syndic' (Vaud), and he is called a Gemeindeamman or Stadtamman in AG. In BE, there is the Gemeinde-(or Stadt-)praesident, and the Gemeinderatspraesident.. There are usually initiative, petition and referendum possibilities. 2.4.2 Cantons Voters are women or men aged 18 (no foreigners). Eligible are same. There is usually a `Grand Council' (legislative branch) and a `State Council' (executive). The Cantons have a very high degree of independence. See 2.5.1. Basically each canton has its own political model and a generalization is only possible to a certain extent. Foreigner's vote has been discussed in Neuchatel (voted and refused), Geneva and AR, but has not been accepted yet. Some Cantons (Swiss-German) have a very special democratic assembly called a Landsgemeinde where all important decisions are made. This public assembly is held on the central square of the Canton's capital. These are the following Cantons and half-cantons, along with their entry dates into the Swiss Confederation: Aargau (AG; 1803), Appenzell Ausser-Rhoden (AR/half; 1501), Basel-Landschaft (BL/half; 1501), Basel-Stadt (BS/half; 1501), Bern (BE; 1353), Fribourg (FR; 1481), Geneve (GE; 1815), Glarus (GL; 1352), Graubunden (GR; 1803), Appenzell Inner-Rhoden (AI/half; 1501), Jura (JU; 1978), Luzern (LU; 1332), Neuchatel (NE; 1815), Nidwalden (NW/half; 1291), Obwalden (OW/half; 1291), Sankt Gallen (SG; 1803), Schaffhausen (SH; 1501), Schwyz (SZ; 1291), Solothurn (SO; 1481), Thurgau (TG; 1803), Ticino (TI; 1803), Uri (UR; 1291), Valais (VS; 1815), Vaud (VD; 1803), Zug (ZG; 1352), Zuerich (ZH; 1351). You can find a map of Switzerland with the Cantons and lakes at the following URL: http://www-internal.alphanet.ch/archives/gfx/maps/suisse2.gif 2.4.3 Confederation The Federal Constitution from 1848 has been largely influenced by the constitution of the USA: a Parliament made up of the representatives of the People and of the States. Voters are the same as in Cantons. There is the `Federal Assembly', the legislative branch, composed of two chambers (National Council, or People's chamber, and the Council of States). Members of both chambers are elected by the people; the election procedures are, nevertheless, different for the two chambers: each state has a number of seats in the National Council proportional to its population and the election modus is proportional and handled at the federal level. On the contrary, the Council of States is meant to represent the Cantons (there are 2 senators per Canton, 1 for half-cantons) and councillors are elected with rules varying from Canton to Canton, usually majoritarian. Originally, the role of this chamber was to prevent a single Canton (e.g. Zuerich for Swiss-German, or Geneva for French-speaking) to control the decisions. A bill becomes law if it passes both chambers (assuming the law is not subject to compulsory referendum, or referendum, where the people have the last word). Differences in opinion between the two chambers are conciliated in a joint conference committee. There is no Constitutional Court: thus federal laws and acts sometimes conflict with the Constitution. As a last resort, the Federal Court can hear specific cases and emit a jurisprudence. The executive power is vested in the Federal Council, composed of 7 Federal Councillors, each of whom is the head of a federal department. The presidency and vice-presidency are held every year by a different member of the Federal Council (by rotation). The Federal Council is elected by the Federal Assembly after proposition by the main Parties. The 1999 Federal Councillors and their portfolios are: Ruth METZLER, AI [ CVP ] Department of Justice and Police Joseph DEISS, FR [ CVP ] Department of Foreign Affairs Kaspar VILLIGER, LU [ FDP ] Department of the Treasury Samuel SCHMID, BE [ SVP ] Department of the Defence [ Formerly ``of the Military'', now including again sports ] Ruth DREIFUSS, GE/AG/BE [ SP ] Department of Internal Affairs Pascal COUCHEPIN, VS [ FDP ] Department of Public Economy Moritz LEUENBERGER, ZH [ SP ] Department of Energy, Transport, and Communications [ naming has slightly changed, but we don't care, really ] President for 2001 is Kaspar VILLIGER (2001: Moritz LEUENBERGER; 2000: Adolf OGI; 1999: Ruth DREIFUSS; 1998: Flavio COTTI; 1997: Arnold KOLLER; 1996: Jean-Pascal DELAMURAZ; 1995: Kaspar VILLIGER). The Federal Council differs from the executive branch in other countries. While it resembles a Cabinet, there are distinct differences: (1) There is no prime minister. All seven members of the Council are of equal rank (Minister). (2) The Council is not subject to a non-confidence vote in Parliament. Technically, Switzerland is therefore not a parliamentary democracy. (3) The parliament appoints the Councillors every four year. No repeal is practically possible during the tenure (early retreat is possible, see e.g. Mrs. Kopp, or recently Mr. Stich). (4) There is really little control on what the government does since most of its activities are classified. There can be Parliament Commissions mandated to audit on special cases. Switzerland has been governed by a grand coalition since 1959. The `magic formula' defines the composition of the grand coalition of the executive. It permits almost all important Swiss Parties (both right-wing and left-wing) to have a seat (or more than one). Another `magic formula rule' states that there must be 4 Swiss-German, 2 Swiss-French, and, if possible 1 Swiss-Italian. The rule in the Constitution forbidding more than one Councillor from one Canton (the goal was to prevent a single Canton, e.g. Zuerich for Swiss-German, or Geneva for French-speaking region, to get too much power) was abrogated after a few clever circumventions (election of Ruth DREIFUSS, see [4]). The parties represented are: Center Democratic Union (center-right[1]) (1) [ SVP ] (This can be translated also by Swiss People's Party or the Agrarian Party) Radical Democratic Party (moderate right) (2) [ FDP ] (This may be translated as Liberal Democratic Party, however, there is another Liberal party mainly in the French-speaking part, thus I took the French translation.) Social-Democratic Party (moderate left/left) (2) [ SP ] Christian Democratic Party (moderate right) (2) [ CVP ] These four are the major parties in Switzerland, but there are many more, on both sides of the spectrum. It should be noted that the same party can have quite different points of view depending on the canton, a well-known example is SVP Bern and SVP Zurich. CVP, FDP and SVP are all considered on the right, with SVP usually being the most conservative and sometimes linked to rural communities. FDP is the big business's party, and CVP is predominant in Roman Catholic cantons. SP is the only major party of the left, but often has alliances with the Green Party (ecologists) and other groups with common interests. Other Swiss Parties: Liberal Party (LPS) (right) Swiss democrats (SD) (extreme-right) Communist Party (extreme-left) Partei der Arbeit (PDA) Parti du Travail (PdT) Parti Ouvrier Populaire (POP) Liberty Party (right to extreme-right) Green Party (GPS) (moderate left) Independent Party (LdU) (center-right) Ticino League (right to extreme-right) SolidariteS (moderate left) While the representation of parties in the executive has been constant for the last decades, their seats in the Parliament depends on the vote shares. Here is the current representation (next elections October 1995): National council: seats (200 total) FDP 44, SP 42, CVP 37, SVP 25, GPS 14, LPS 10, AP 8, LdU 6, SD 5, EVP 3, PdA 2, Ticino League 2, other 2. Council of States: seats (46 total) FDP 18, CVP 16, SVP 4, SP 3, LPS 3, LdU 1, Ticino League 1 There is a federal right for initiative and referendum. The procedure for an initiative is as follows: a) form a committee and compose the text of the proposed new law b) try to find 100,000 signatures in less than 18[3] months c) if you have them: deposit the initiative in the federal chancellery d) the Federal Assembly either rejects or accepts the initiative (usually based on a government proposal). In some cases the Assembly introduces an alternative version. e) on that basis, the federal chancellery sends a small information booklet to each voter outlining the parliament's position on the initiative and the arguments of the committee. f) the people must vote on the initiative and on a possible alternative. Usually, the people vote in conformity with the position taken on the issue by the Federal Assembly and Council. In rare instances, the people vote against the explicit suggestions of the government; then, however, the people are right :-)[2] [1] In some Cantons, it is more right than center-right (e.g. Zuerich). [2] In some rare and specific cases, some initiatives have been declared invalid. Usually it is because the committee did not respect the unity of content (i.e. do not mix up subjects demagogigally). One could argue that the Parliament itself does usually not propose votes which respect the unity of content. [3] Referendum needs 50.000 in 3 months. [4] In March 1993, the Federal Counciler Rene FELBER announced his resignation. As he was SP, and because of the ``magic formula'', the seat was implicitly reserved for SP, and possibly for a French-speaking representative. Francis MATTHEY, a Neuchatel SP was elected (the official candidate was Christiane BRUNNER, with almost no votes). The President of the SP party, Peter BODENMANN and the feminists of the SP Party declared that a woman was necessary and Francis MATTHEY was forced to refuse its election, against the wishes of the Neuchatel section's President (which was a woman, BTW). As it was clear that Christiane BRUNNER would never be elected (not as a woman, but as a person) and that SP could lose a seat, the SP party proposed Ruth DREIFUSS, a lot more moderate. The problem was the one-counciler-per-canton Constitutional rule. Ruth DREIFUSS promptly officially established to Geneva to circumvent the rule. The whole event has been presented by SP as being the great victory for feminism. Strangely enough, feminist deputies from other parties, and some from the SP Party, were not quite sure that this dramatic ``mise-en-scene'' was necessary. 2.4.4 For more information For a more extensive chapter on Swiss foreign policy you might want to access http://www-scf.usc.edu/~sschmidt/swiss.html The Federal Constitution was revised and adopted in june 1999. The Swiss Confederation has announced on 15/09/95 a WWW server at http://www.admin.ch/ it contains very interesting information about the federal sessions, members and issues. 2.5 Issues 2.5.1 Federalism and multiculturalism One of the riches of Switzerland is its multi-cultural fabric: recently, the Parliament recognized Rumantsch as an official language (before, it was only a national language, i.e. not used in the administration). After the mandatory vote (March 96) for the change in the Federal Constitution, Rumantsch is now a national and an official language in Switzerland. Most people in Switzerland want to preserve the national cohesion: however, there are differences between cultural regions (and between town and rural areas) and sometimes it poses problems (recent votes have shown the distance between, for example, French-speaking regions and Swiss-German-speaking region, and between small towns and rural areas and big cities). About Rumantsch: The URL http://xmission.com/~pengar/non-profit/PUNTS points to a newspaper in (Grischuns) Rumantsch. While there are 4 more Rumantsch dialects, this one appears to be the most popular one. Please note that Rumantsch uses umlauts so make sure your WWW browser can handle that. This multi-culturalism is possible because Switzerland is federalist. The Confederation only takes care of some important charges (such as military, social insurance, treaty with other countries, and so on). Everything else, for example education, police or public assistance is of the domain of the Cantons (or the cities). Laws are usually the same between Cantons, with some local exceptions (notably, polizeistunde (close-down for pubs) or legality of abortion). Some Cantons do apply Federal law differently than others: for example, the French-speaking region (Welschschweiz, Suisse romande) is very restrictive regarding the consumption of drugs: some cities (such as Zuerich) have been very permissive. With `conscience objectors' (ie people not wanting to do the compulsory military service), the situation is somewhat inverted. There are also multiple religions in Switzerland. However, people are usually not very active. Some Cantons include Church Tax (usually catholic and/or reformist) in the taxes. People can circumvent those by quitting church, whereas companies always have to pay. Most Cantons are however separated from the Church, but recognize some churches as official. Like the Old Confederation, the constitution of 1848 discriminated against Jewish people (in fact, against all non Christian religions). Parliament abolished the relevant paragraphs in 1864/65 under the threat of economic sanctions by the USA, the Netherlands and France. Also, until recently, the establishment of monastical retreats and bishoprics was also subject to the authorization of the Confederation (this is/was in the Constitution). 1980: Roman Catholic: 47.6% Reformed Church (Protestant): 44.3% Others: 8.1% 2.5.2 Transportation If Switzerland wants to continue to be the gateway between the North and South of Europe (and of course also between Western and Eastern Europe), the transport infrastructure must be further developed. A recent example of such investments is the NEAT project, a transalpine railroad line. This project is projected to cost 15.000.000.000 Swiss Francs. There has been a vote on it, and now there are financial problems. Following a vote for a constitutional amendment, no construction of new roads for transit traffic is allowed and all transit traffic is supposed to use railways rather than road trucks, at the latest from 2020 on. The goal is to force transportation of goods via the railways, due to public concerns about the ever-increasing heavy truck traffic passing through towns and ecologically-sensitive alpine passes. 2.5.3 EU and participation in other international organizations Currently these are hot topics in Switzerland. Switzerland is not a member of EU. As of 2002-03-03, Switzerland is now a member of UNO (initiative accepted by the people): in addition, Switzerland has participated, in the past, in most UNO offices and projects and tries to set up/has bilateral agreements with the EU. Switzerland *is* a member of the European Council and holds full membership in other pan-European and international organizations: the OSCE (formerly CSCE), the ESA (European Space Agency) the OECD, the WTO, the World Bank and the IMF to name only a few. Joining or not joining the EU is really one of the hottest topics in Switzerland. It is a pity that both the defenders and attackers of the participation in the European Union are using demagogic arguments. A key issue is the complete mobility rights enjoyed by EU citizens to move within the EU. If Switzerland joined the EU, many citizens are concerned that the traditional character of the Swiss people would be swamped by an influx of foreigners no longer controllable by Swiss law. (Remember that Switzerland already has one of the highest levels of foreigners--more than one out of seven inhabitants--of any country in the world. Some Cantons have rates above one third). 2.5.4 Military See question 3.2 2.5.5 Immigrants, Foreign Workers, and Refugees Switzerland has a long tradition of being a country prone to accept refugees. It has also a relatively high percentage of foreigners (19%, 1995), which is explained only partly by the real difficulties foreigners may have to become swiss (12 years staying). A nice and entertaining movie on that subject, even if a little outdated, is "Schweizermacher" / "Swiss makers" with Walo Luoend and Emile. The policy of the government, especially regarding refugees has become harsher. Despite that, many new laws have been adopted to distinguish between economic refugees (which do not have the right to be accepted) and political refugees. There have also been votes on recurrent anti-foreigner laws, but they have not been accepted by the people. However, recently, the proposition to diminish the restrictions on foreigner's flat and houses buyings has been disapproved by the people (Lex Friedrich, June 95). Also a simplification of the Swiss naturalization (which would have made much easier for young foreigner living in CH to become swiss) has been refused at the federal level. However, some Cantons (e.g. Neuchatel) have however a lot more relaxed laws: the possibility for a foreigner to vote and to be elected at the communal level; however, no extension to the Cantonal level has been accepted. Recently, a new law authorizing the immigration service to use more powerful means of controlling immigration has been accepted (Constraints measures). This however applies mainly to refugees. Switzerland has made apologies (1995) to the Jewish people for the attitude in World War II (Swiss official policy was not to accept Jews; fortunately, however, many Swiss citizens have ignored the law, fortunately. This is discussed in details in section 3.11). The statute about foreigners who come to work for a season in Switzerland (seasonal workers, A permit) is also being debated, being considered unfair status by the EU as part of the bilateral agreements. University students can work to some extent (REALLY?) but are not at all allowed to bring their families to Switzerland (including wife and children), like A licensees (see section 2.9.1 for details on the Swiss permits and Swiss citizenship). 2.5.6 Working conditions Unemployment rates are again lower in 2001 (tendance: rising, notably because of the general slowdown and the Swissair crisis), at about 1.9%, down from 5% as of 1997. Switzerland's competitiveness has fallen, mainly du to the value of its money, and the high prices on goods. However, the conditions are still very good, partly thanks to the Work Peace (an agreement between unions and owners) and partly due to the political stability and to the efficient infrastructure (plus still relatively low tax levels). Note that there are differences between Cantons. For example Geneve has more than 7% percent, and most Swiss-German Cantons are below 5%. However, Geneve is more than a specific case, since, e.g. Fribourg, Neuchatel and Vaud are about 5% (July 1995). In most Cantons, the rate is decreasing. 2.6 Visiting Switzerland Switzerland has excellent tourist offices in many places, see 4 for details. They offer you lots of free information. Don't forget that voltage and frequency are different. USA is 110 V at 60 Hz and Switzerland is 230 V at 50 Hz (soon: 240 at 50 Hz). Most plugs are also different even if they look the same. Modems must be approved by the Swiss Federal Communication Office (German: BAKOM; French: OFCOM). Foreign versions usually work, except you may have problems with the tax impulsion at 12 KHz. Using non approved modems is illegal and may lead to fines and of course confiscation of the equipment. You must also pay attention to the fact that telephone connectors are different. Not only for historical reasons you will encounter in Switzerland three different type of connectors (round, rectangular, seldom RJ), but standard RJ connectors don't have exactly the same wire-layout as in the US and Canada. Adapters are available in stores in the US and Canada but are quite expensive. You can find some previews of Switzerland here: http://www-internal.alphanet.ch/archives/gfx/postcards/ The official website of the Swiss Tourism Board is at: http://www.myswitzerland.com NOTE: Those images have been posted to USENET newsgroup soc.culture.swiss, and thus I assume that using them is not infringing any copyright. Please inform me if it is. 2.7 Looking for a job in Switzerland Switzerland is not an immigration country. You only have a chance to get a work permit (see section 2.9.1) if your profession is in high demand in Switzerland. To be successful you must first find a company willing to hire you. If you work in "high-tech" it is definitely possible to find such a job. Best companies to try are large technological companies, universities, institutes and banks. 2.8 School system Compulsory school (and also non compulsory school, Universities, except the Federal Institute of Technology) is set up by the Cantons. Thus, there are differences between Cantons. Most of the Cantons have however a compulsory school system as follows: 5 (or 6) years of primary school (6,7 to 12) 4 (or 3) years of secondary school (12 to 15) The secondary school is usually separated in different sections, such as Scientific, Classic and Modern. Some cantons do implement a pre-professional section. Among others, you learn at least three languages (yours, one other Swiss language, and another). Usually this is French/German/English for French-speaking people, or French/German/Italian. Most (if not all) Swiss-German Cantons teach French. Then, people may choose one of the following options: a) do an apprenticeship (French: apprentissage/German: Lehrling) while working, and obtain the Federal Certificate of Capacity. b) go to technical school to become technician or engineer (this is the same as an engineer in Germany or England). There are a lot of technical schools / engineer schools. There is currently a reform going on. c) go to Gymnasium/Gymnase/Lycee (4 years) and get the Federal Certificate of Maturity in Science, Letters or General matters (the latter is not federally recognized, but there are agreements between some Cantons). This is like a Baccalaureate in France. d) go to Commercial School and get a Federal Certificate of Maturity. e) go to private schools which deliver similar certificates. Most of the Private schools are for dropouts, generally, who want to stay in school, and these are not frequent cases. This does not include the many Private schools for foreign people sending their children in Switzerland, or Elitist (read: expensive) or Religious schools. Option c and d allows to enter the Universities or ETH/EPF (Federal Institute of Technology, two in Switzerland). There are some ways to enter ETH/EPF with unrecognized certificates and gateways for ETS/HTL, as long as you have solid math basis and you speak at least two swiss languages (this is of course a big problem for ``Auslandschweizer'', foreign Swiss citizens). There are many Universities, especially in the French-speaking part, a lot less in the Swiss-German-speaking region, and one in Tessin. They are in the process of merging somewhat because of the costs involved. The Universities are: Geneve (http://www.unige.ch), Lausanne (http://www.unil.ch), Fribourg (http://www.unifr.ch), Neuchatel (http://www.unine.ch), Bern (http://www.unibe.ch), Zuerich (http://www.unizh.ch), Basel (http://www.unibas.ch), Sankt-Gall (http://www.unisg.ch), and Tessin (http://www.unisi.ch). The Federal Institutes of Technology are: ETHZ: Zuerich (http://www.ethz.ch) EPFL: Lausanne (http://www.epfl.ch) There are also a lot of technical schools (ETS/HTL), and some are currently merging. To enter an HTL/ETS, you need a completed apprenticeship Note that very few Swiss people go to University, since the practical formation is very good and because, even if the direct costs for studying is low (most universities and both EPF are under SFr 500.- per semester) and the openness is high, the indirect costs (flat, books, food) are quite high. For example, a shared flat in Lausanne near the EPFL is more than 400.- SFr per month. An independent ``studio'' costs 500 to 600.-. Also note that the women/men distribution is not equal (a lot less women), especially in the technical and scientific world. In Tessin, a study has shown that 35% of the people get a Certificate of Maturity, and of them 90% go to Universities or Institute of Technology. These numbers are fairly high for Switzerland. Bildungsstatistik 1994 about the educational level of people age 20. 16 % has a Matura/Baccalaureate degree from a Gymnasium (Automatic University Admission including Law and Med.) 3 % have a Education degree (elementary and high school teachers) 65 % have a professional degree (apprentice, vocational, technical schools) (This includes people as skilled as branch director of banks or nursing) 16 % have just the mandatory 9 years of elementary and high school Note that the first category has 16% male and female, and the last 11% male and 21% female. A ``matura-reform'' is currently being undertaken: the goal is to diminish the number of compulsory courses (for example even removing the compulsory German course for French-speaking people and vice-versa) but to allow a lot more freedom in course selection (``a la carte''). It is also to change the old professional degrees into something more ``European'' (people having a CFC will then have a Technical Matura instead, a little like the French baccalaureate). This is not easy to do (because the school system is cantonal) and is not always seen as a good thing if this augments the number of people frequenting universities at a time of ``numerus clausus'' proposals. The reform is supposed to take 8 years until all cantons will have harmonized their legislations. The principal changes are summarized as follows: - creation of ``fundamental courses'' which must be followed; - definition of ``specific courses'', which is the main orientation a student chooses; - definition of ``complementary courses'', which are options; - introduction of a final presentation on a specific subject (written and oral form). 2.9 Swiss citizenship 2.9.1 The swiss permits Switzerland has a complicated permit system. The permits define how long the owner is able to stay, what are his rights, and so on. Many international organizations have criticized it for being protectionnist (especially the EU) and discriminatory against families and Human rights. There have been discussions about changing the policies, but nothing has really changed yet. There are four types of work-permits in Switzerland: the A permit (seasonal, 9 months, no right to bring the family), the B permit (yearly, partial right to bring the family), the C permit (unlimited, like Swiss citizenship except for voting rights and military service. It allows the owner to establish freely and work in Switzerland), and of course Swiss citizenship. A permits can be changed into B after 4 years; B to C after 5 to 10 years. Work permits are issued by Cantons, based on quotas from the Confederation, and always on request by a company, not an individual. The permit is granted for a particular position with a particular employer; the request therefore has to be filed by the employer. As a rule, you have to prove that you cannot find an appropriate candidate in the Swiss job market (i.e. Swiss and legal immigrants, holders of a permit) for that particular position. The so-called ``three circles policy'' defining countries more-or-less prioritized actually prevents people from some countries to get a permit. Easier is for people from the 1st circle (EU, mainly), and from the 2nd circle (USA, Australia). The ``three circles policy'' is being dismantled into a binary system, basically restricting further the admissions. There are exceptions of course for diplomats and international organizations, students, husbands and wives of Swiss nationals. The policy is quite protectionist and will probably evolve towards more openness for EU countries, USA and Australia. Others (non-EU) may find it even more difficult. The law can be found at http://www.admin.ch/ch/f/rs/select.html in French, German or Italian. 2.9.2 Obtaining the Swiss citizenship Time spent as a student is definitely valid for residence when applying for Swiss citizenship. Also note that, if you apply for Swiss citizenship before 24, and you are a male, you have great chances of doing the military service. With some countries (Italy, Germany, France), it is possible to keep the original nationality under some conditions. 2.9.2.1 When married to a Swiss person When you get married to a Swiss man/woman (the new legislation does not make any difference, the old one did allow automatic Swiss citizenship when a woman was married to a Swiss man), you'll have to spend 3 years in Switzerland with your wife/husband in order to qualify for naturalization. You are entitled to a B-permit for the five first years, then a C (or you might apply for Swiss citizenship, nothing is automatic out here). Note that those three years account for the _same_ marriage. If you divorce and remarry to a Swiss person, the counting restarts at zero. The other possibility, when married, is having lived at least 5 years in Switzerland, no matter if as legally working, refugee seeking, student and/or husband/spouse of a Swiss (even of a former marriage. This residence persiod has to be legal. Living illegally in Switzerland doesn't count (of course). The real difference with standard non-Swiss-married B-permit owners is that, as you have the right to live in Switzerland, it is renewed in one week. For other people with a B permit, there is much more hassle. You have the same chances to find a job as swiss nationals, except if your activity requires a Swiss passport (quite rare) or if you are a MD (there is a huge amount of protectionism in medicine). Children born of unmarried parents may apply for ``facilitated Swiss citizenship'', provided that the father is Swiss and the child has been living is Switzerland or with his father for 1 year, and the child is under 22. 2.9.2.2 When not :-) Patience, and money should help :-) (really, is there someone wanting to complete that section in a non Schweizermacher way ? :-) 3. Frequently Asked Questions 3.1 Internet in Switzerland 3.1.1 Service Providers See http://www.yoodle.ch for a list of access (service?) providers in Switzerland. (temporarily unavailable, use http://www.asdi.ch/providers/ instead) 3.1.2 Internet Coffee Shops French-speaking part: Geneva: Sports Palace, rue Michel Servet (behind the Cantonal Hospital) Global Cafe, rue des Rois 71bis (> 15 SFr/hour) Cours Commerciaux de Geneve (rez-de-chausse/cafeteria) Fribourg Neuchatel: Le 21. Lausanne (Ecublens): Club Internet, Tir federal 80, (021) 691 25 93, but this is not quite a coffee. German-speaking part: Basel Bern (only 2 workstations and it is around 10 CHF for half an hour; Berner Zeitung) Aarau (Herzogstrasse 26) Bremgarten (Restaurant Krone, Obertorplatz 7) Olten (Heutronic Shop: six workstations, 15 CHF per hour, refreshments included) Zurzach (Promenadenstrasse 6; 10 workstations) Zuerich (Rotwandstrasse 4, Uraniastrasse 4 and Bahnhof (by IBM it seems, Stars American BAR & BISTRO, http://www.cybergate.ibm.ch)) Italian-speaking part: Lugano (Hotel Colorado) And it's not forbidden to drink virtual coffee here :-) [ A list is available as: http://www.easynet.co.uk/pages/cafe/ccafe.htm (this is not a mistyping, BTW, it is really .htm and not .html) ] 3.2 Military service / guns 3.2.1 Military service Military service is compulsory for every male Swiss. There is no civil service to substitute armed service (this was refused two times in a vote). Every male Swiss citizen has to go to the army unless physically or mentally handicapped or unless he can "prove" to a jury of officers that he has sound religious reasons for refusing to do service (Barras Law). In rare cases, unarmed military service (e.g. medical or postal units) is available for conscience reasons. Conscientious objectors are put in prison. This fact has led to several citations of Switzerland by the Human Rights Court in Strasbourg, with little avail. For that reason, objectors often try to circumvent military service citing medical reasons. If declared unable for service, a citizen must serve on the civil protection (similar to a fire brigade, however it is separate from it and is only necessary in case of war, natural disaster (floods, storms, avalanches) or industrial (chemical/nuclear) incidents) and pay a military substitute tax (3% of total gross income). Every soldier keeps his military outfit, his weapon, and war ammunition at home at all times. The ammunition is sealed. The weapon can be used for compulsory and voluntary shooting exercises, which are quite popular (also drawing large female participation). The ammunition shall only be opened in case of war. After a basic (Academy) training of 100 days at about age 20, active service requires 3 weeks long training courses approximately every other year (or two weeks per year, depending on the affiliation) until the soldier has served a total of 300 days. In addition, every soldier must complete yearly shooting exercises, usually done in local shooting ranges. After completion of the basic training, a soldier can volunteer or can be asked (and sometimes forced by law!) to become a non-commissioned officer (corporal) and then officer. This costs a lot of time in grade-``paying'' (one must do special schools and then redo a basic training as corporal or officer). All military personnel (including the Corps Commander, the highest ranking officer in peacetime) started as private soldiers in Switzerland's militia army. The Swiss army has approximately 400,000 soldiers (compared to 600,000 in Germany, a 15 times bigger country). Women can join the military voluntarily. Their duties are often not the same, but lately their chores can be almost everything except what would be considered a direct exposure to the front in case of war. A soldier (basically every male under 35) who leaves the country for a period longer that 6 months, has to take leave from the army, must deposit his military equipment and has to register with the embassy abroad, and pay the military fee for three (or 5 ??) years. In 1989 a left-wing/pacifist (not officially supported by the social-democratic party, this party having officially stated for the army in June 1989.) initiative led to a popular vote (this means a vote by the people. Of course this vote WAS popular, too :-)) to abolish the army. The initiative was rejected by 64.4% against 35.6% of the votes. Other anti-military initiatives are in preparation (e.g. for cutting the military budget in half, this one supported by the social-democratic party). The 1989 vote made the Armee 95 military reform easier: this reform's goals were to reduce the individual service period, diminish the number of active soldiers by one third, and improve the technical equipment. Also this vote probably changed the way Swiss people see the Military. Note that the right-wing and center-right parties consider the social-democratic party's attitude as duplicity (not supporting the Army but being part of the government in the so-called ``Magic Formula''), with more or less demagogy (because on other subjects, like EC, those parties also experience internal ``divergences''). There is a heated debate in Switzerland on the following topics: o Role of the military (defense against whom, role in national union) o Humanitarian missions of the military o Use for UNO missions (this has been specifically rejected in a vote in 1995) o Professionalization of the military (i.e. no more compulsory service) Some French-speaking Cantons (mainly Geneva) are critical of the military; most others (including Tessin, most French-speaking and all Swiss-German) are not against it but would like to see it reformed. The way it should evolve is not quite clear. The French-speaking Swiss would like the military to help the UNO and be humanitarian. On the whole, the (majority of) Swiss-Germans dislike the UNO but are not against the other proposition. The (majority of) French-speaking Swiss are in support of a professional military; the Swiss-Germans usually think that this would cost too much and that the integrative role the military service plays would disappear. The military tax (depending on your income) is to be paid for every year that you are prevented from attending a course. It is refunded as soon as you keep up with the number of courses you have to do, PROVIDED YOU ASK FOR IT, of course :-) You keep your weapons till your military service is _OVER_ which means not only your annual/bisannual courses are over, but also you are freed from military service (around 42 nowadays I think). You can keep it further provided: - you did all the annual shootings even the non-compulsory ones - you did at least one two-days gun course in the last year. Ammution HAS to be returned when military service is over. The equipment (also the weapon) can be deposited free of charge in the Zeughaus/arsenal as long as you do not have any more compulsory courses OR if you live in a foreign country. People leaving in foreign countries must deposit their material at an Arsenal (Zeughaus) and must still pay the tax. They are dispendedd after 3 years. Military post is free up to 2 kilograms during service, and outside service for official requests. Most courses are during the week and week-end is free (except if something must be guarded). 3.2.2 Regulations on guns (most of this contributed by Emmanuel BAECHLER) NOTE: A new law has been adopted by the Parliament in June 1997. This new law should enter into effect by the end of the first semester of 1998. Some points of application (Ordonnance) are not yet clear. The English translation of that law is available at: http://www-internal.alphanet.ch/~schaefer/scs/gun_law_1998 It has been translated by Emmanuel BAECHLER. Please pay attention to the disclaimer and copyright on that document. The following information is still accurate until 1998. First of all, firearms are regulated by a Federal law, but it has to be applied by Cantons, thus there are 26 practices. Happily most of them agree, in a sensible way, on how to apply that law. Note that a new federal law is being prepared. Its content is not yet known. In order to buy a handgun, you must get a purchase license from the police. To get it, you must be over 18, you must be member of a shooting society (at least for the first ones) and, if you live with other people, they must somewhat agree with that (I really don't know what can happen if they don't). You must also produce a good-morality certificate. The first license takes a little bit of time, around one month. all the other ones come in a few days (between a week and two weeks and a half in my experience). On each license, you must mention your motivation. The most current one is ``shooting and collection''. In fact it is so frequent that it has been proposed to directly print it on the sheets. Unhappily the police did not like the idea. As long as your motivation is ``shooting and collection'', the policy is that a .22 is *STRONGLY* recommended as a first handgun. However you will be able to buy a 9mm, a .357 or a .45. The handguns that you won't be able to get for the first licenses are pocket handguns (snubs) and monsters (>= .44 Magnum). Pocket handguns remain difficult to get, unless you are a collector, or if you ask for a purchase license, with ``defense'' as a motivation. The practice about ``defense'' licenses varies over time. A few years ago, the police was rather restrictive and you really needed ``good reason'' to get them. They are more liberal, now. This makes more sense as concealed carry is permitted in many cantons (for example Vaud). Full auto rifles are submitted to licenses. In order to get one, you must be considered as a collector. In some cantons, this is automatic after the fifth firearm. People in that situation can get almost whatever they want. However, people cannot use full auto rifles. There are some exceptions, but they are quite rare and require quite a lot of effort to get them. The only real one is that you can use your privately owned full auto Stgw90/Fass90 in the OFFICIAL ranges under the same conditions as military ordonnance Stgw90/Fass90, or the old model 57. Note that the weapon kept at home by soldiers is a fully working Stgw90/Fass90 (or 57), or a handgun for officers. Repeating and single action rifles are free of license. Repeating and self loading shotguns require a purchase license, unless you block their capacity at three shots and have a hunting permit. In this case, they are considered as hunting firearms and do not require any license. In many German speaking Cantons, both self loading rifles, repeating and self loading shotguns can be owned freely. Finally, carrying is not regulated in some Cantons. So, when you get a handgun license, you are totally free to carry it, if you want: this is your responsibility. The practice is such that unless you are a money carrier or something like that, you should carry your(s) weapon concealed. Carrying a weapon openly cannot cause you real problems, but you risk much more controls from the police (ID checks, ALWAYS carry an ID in Switzerland -- and five francs, but that's another story). The exceptions: - Geneva and Basel forbid full auto rifles. - Geneva almost forbid semi-autos rifles (they make *very* difficult to get them). - Basel authorizes the purchase of at most 4 self loading rifles per year. - Geneva and Zurich require a concealed carry permit which is very difficult to get. - Basel requires a concealed carry permit, which can be obtained without motivation. In many cantons silencers are forbidden. About ammunition: There is no restriction, in the sense that you can buy whatever you find on the market without any quantity limitation. If you buy ten tons of 9mm Para, I am however sure that the police will become highly interested by your activities. Private companies can import ammunition freely, but they must have a pretty serious material and financial base. Note that individuals can import privately batches of 500 rounds of ammo. In Vaud, there is no limitation about the quantity of firearms that you can own. However, if you buy 4 AK-74's a week, the police might ask you some questions. Finally, established foreigners have the same rights that Swiss citizens about firearms, but I don't know the situation for people with 1 year-renewable working permits. 3.2.3 Guns popularity Guns are very popular in Switzerland: there are a lot of Shooting Clubs and shootings are organized almost every week (not counting the compulsory shooting for each citizen-soldier every year, and some week-ends). Moreover, there are Shooting Festivals organized usually once a year (e.g. in Neuchatel the ``Tir Cantonal''). There is also the Federal Shooting. A lot of young people (teenagers usually) are training voluntarily in Shooting Clubs. The fact that most weapon users are experienced may explain the relatively low injury rate due to weapons in Switzerland. 3.2.4 Guns abuse Compared to the amount of weapons kept at home because of the Military, and because a lot of people like weapons in Switzerland (and the laws are somewhat permissive), people wonder why there is so little gun abuse in Switzerland. It is very difficult to answer this question. Some readers suggested the following reasons: - every male who has an army gun at home is trained to use it. He knows the effect an automatic rifle can have and therefore will hesitate to use it in private matters. Moreover, spontaneous use of guns in personal fights related to jealousy are less probable because Swiss people don't usually blow their top or fly off the handle :-) - Swiss people learn to hate their gun so much during the army service, that they're very happy to store it in the closet and never touch it again until the next service. In fact, the gun is a pain: It's heavy, you have to carry it everywhere, you have to clean it thousands of times, there are frequent quality controls, etc. So you're nothing but happy to leave it alone as long as possible. This does not apply to the ones active in any shooting association, of course, who are many. On the contrary, a gun you buy is usually kept near you, ready to shoot, and this may lead to accidents or crimes. Military weapons are kept unloaded, and most of the times ammunition is kept separately. - Swiss people are used to living close each other, with no shortage of police on the beat. Well, if you travel to other countries you may not quite agree. - Switzerland has one of the highest standards of living worldwide. Violence and crime arevery low in general. So is gun related crime. One way to put it is: "The swiss are rich enough - so there's no need to steal anything from somebody else.". But, then how did we get rich in the first place ? :-) 3.3 Swiss navy Switzerland is land-locked. However, following the experiences in the last World Wars, Switzerland has a merchant navy in order to facilitate transportation in times of crisis. Sea port is Genova in Italy and the navy counts some 18-odd ocean-going ships (1994, ``tendenz sinkend'' :-)). Not counting the many ships on the lakes and on the rivers :-) 3.4 5th Switzerland There are 4 cultures in Switzerland. However, there is a fifth: the Swiss who have left the country. They keep their voting right (at the federal level only) and they can keep contact with Switzerland. Every year, a delegation of young foreign Swiss is received in Berne. It is certain that a lot (if not most) of the readers of soc.culture.swiss are indeed foreign Swiss. The Swiss Abroad have a ``Secretariat'' in Berne: Secretariat for the Swiss Abroad Alpenstrasse 26 3000 Berne 16 SWITZERLAND 3.5 Swiss-German vs German You have to know that Swiss-German is very different from German. Also, there is not one Swiss-German, but on the contrary a lot of dialects: The dialects spoken in Bern (one of the easiest to learn, though native German may prefer anything closer to Germany (SH/TG/SG or even ZH)) is different from the one which is spoken in Graubuenden or Zuerich. Also, there is no real written form (they tend to also be written nowadays, e.g. on advertising). Virtually all Swiss-Germans know German from the compulsory school, with a strong ``Swiss'' accent. In the technical world, however, English is becoming very popular. It is better to know (or at least understand) Swiss-German if one wants to be integrated: besides, a lot of Swiss-Germans know English and French as well. In almost all German speaking countries, such regional dialects are used (Germany, Austria) and in the Romandie (French speaking part of Switzerland), the regional dialects (patois) have disappeared only in the last two centuries, leaving very small regions where only a few people still know their patois. Ticinesi used to speak the Lombardic dialect of Italian, very different from the Tuscan standard. Tom BUTZ says about spoken Swiss German: If translated literally, colloquial language may come across as a bit rude, so be careful when attempting translations for the squeamish/politically correct. For example: `Da isch an Huraseich' -- that's a load of bull dust - literally translates to: that's a prostitute's urine. `Am Sunntig goent mr i'd Beiz go fraesse' -- on Sunday we'll go to the pub and eat there. `Fraesse' normally is what animals do (humans `aesse'). And there are a few pitfalls, even if you thought you were fluent in (ordinary) German: slippery roads are not `glatt' but `iisig'. If they are `glatt' they are fun. `Riechen' (to smell) is `schmoecke' (to taste): so `do you smell something ?' becomes: `schmoecksch oeppis ?'. Another reason a foreigner would want to understand/read/speak Swiss German ? Apart from fitting in, this would be planning to go to the Basel Carnival (Morgestraich) and being able to find out what it's all about. All printed matter will be in Swiss German, just like everything else on parade. If that one's a bit hard on you, try Neuchatel's carnival: there it's `only' (ordinary) French. 3.6 Universities in Ticino At the moment there is one Italian speaking University in Switzerland, founded by Mario BOTTA (http://www.rtsi.ch/rete2 (RealAudio format)). This university has three departments: Economics, Communications (both in Lugano) and Architecture (in Mendrisio). Italian-speaking people may go to Italy if they want to be taught in Italian for all the matters which are not present in the Ticino University. However, most of the time they go to Zuerich or other Swiss-german towns, or in the Suisse romande (french-speaking, e.g. EPFL, UNIGE, UNIL, ...), thus they usually learn German and French. However, the time is currently a ``shrinking budgets'' one, thus the creation of a bigger university or of a university in Svizra Rumantscha is not to be expected in the near future. 3.7 Miscellaneous legal questions 3.7.1 Introduction Swiss laws may vary from Canton to Canton. However, some matters are handled by federal laws. For example, the legal age for marriage (male and female) is 18 (before that you need authorization from parents). 3.7.2 Rape or sexual prosecution or discrimination There are laws, even against rape in marriage (e.g. a husband may not force his wife to have sexual contacts with him). Also with the new laws (since 1992 or 1993), the abuse of relation of dependency for sexual purposes is punishable too: for example, an employee in a company is protected against her boss or if a drug addicted person needs money and the only way to get it is prostitution, a suitor could be prosecuted for abusing the misery of the addicted person. 3.8 Swiss tax system Switzerland due to its federal nature has a complex tax system, at the three federal, cantonal and communal levels. 1. Federal income tax, also called ``Direct federal tax'', the same everywhere. 2. Cantonal income tax (usually lower in industrial/non-rural Cantons) 8-20% of the income. 3. Communal income tax There is also a value added tax (TVA) at 6.5% (before 1996 it was called Wust/ICHA at 6.2%, with a different scheme). Generally, residents of Switzerland have an unlimited tax liability, viz. they are taxed on worldwide income and wealth. Excluded from Swiss taxation is immobile property located abroad as long as it is taxed in the foreign country. Some very wealthy people may ask to be taxed on spendings rather than fortune or income, but this is rare. The federal tax authority issues (every year?) a publication outlining all the different taxes with detailed schedules of rates of the federation and the cantons. More information can be obtained at http://www.admin.ch 3.9 Rumantsch The fourth language of Switzerland, also called ``Rhaeto-Romanisch'' in German, and ``Romanche' ' in French is spoken by less than 50'000 people, in the Graubuenden Kanton. Efforts are being made to revive it: it is being tought in schools in those areas now. It is rooted in the ancient roman language. Rumantsch consists of five different dialects (Sursilvan, Surmiran, Sutsilvan, Vallader, and Putèr), and there's also a constructed standard language, Rumantsch Grischun, which was created in 1982 to serve as an ``Einheitssprache'' or common language, which can be understood by the speakers of the five dialects quite well, with a little effort. If you would like to read some Rumantsch, please check http://www.luna.nl/~benne/rumantsch.html, where you can find links to some Rumantsch Web resources, like the on-line magazine PUNTS (http://www.grnet.ch/punts/), which is entirely written in Rumantsch (as well as in Rumantsch Grischun as in the various local dialects). 3.10 Abortion (most of it from Yvan BOTTERON) Abortion is defined in a federal law and is allowed only if the mother's health is jeopardized. Some of the Cantons interpret that law differently. Some, for example the most liberal ones, consider the psychological health of the mother while the other ones don't give that point much importance. The Cantons which are in majority Catholic (Valais, Fribourg) and some of the Founding (French: primitifs (non péjoratif); German: Ur-) Cantons (OW, NW, UR, SZ) have a more restrictive interpretation of the law whereas the Reformed (Protestant) Cantons are the more tolerant ones (with Glarus having a very permissive tradition: it is reported that any gynecologist who wants employment here has to state that he/she is able and willing to perform abortions). Of course, as we are in Switzerland, there are probably exceptions to that schematic explanation. 3.11 World War II (ambitious, please submit) 3.11.1 Introduction There have been recently a lot of questions about the comportment of Swiss people and Swiss government during WWII. There is also, in the ``real world'', a lot of discussions, attacks, and misinformation about what really happened, especially towards the Nazi and Jewish gold. This FAQ, and especially this section, will try to give you an impartial view on the facts, and a Swiss (partial) viewpoint of their meaning. Feel free to submit new material for inclusion here. We try to separate the FACTS from the INTERPRETATION in all of the subsequent subsection, in order to diminish the polemics around this extremely sensitive subject. 3.11.2 Switzerland's general situation in WWII FACTS: Switzerland, at least from 1941 onward, is completely encircled by the ``Power of the Axis'', namely Germany (Hitler), Italy (Mussolini), and France (Petain). Switzerland has no direct lead to the sea, and is not self-sufficient for food, nor goods. Also, in WWI, Switzerland had suffered from the lack of gold (there was still parity for the Swiss frank). There are right-extremist and left-extremist very active movements in Switzerland, especially among the Italian working in Switzerland. Also, there are some people at the head of the government sympathizing with Hitler's ideas. INTERPRETATION: The swiss government must find a way to maintain its ability to do commerce and to avoid invasion. Also, it fears an invasion from Germany and thus tries to accommodate with both the Allies and the Axis, e.g. producing goods for Great Britain at the same time as for Germany. At that time, there is no strong information regarding massive Jewish extermination. The Swiss government also fears massive immigration and anything that could destabilize Switzerland. Also, there was a fear, at the beginning of the war, more from the ``Red Danger'' (some communist parties had been previously outlawed, e.g. La Chaux-de-Fonds 1938), than from the right extremists. ABOUTS: About Switzerland's neutrality during World War II: http://193.5.216.35/newpd/F/News/INDEX14.HTM ( ^ yes, these are not typos ^). 3.11.3 Attitude towards Jews FACTS: Switzerland did ask the German to put the 'J' on German Jews' Passports. Switzerland did not accept many Jews and only when they had someone to pay for their stay in Switzerland. Thus the already-existing Jewish community had to pay for any new arriving Jew, with absolutely no support from the government. The head of the Foreigner Office (Police des Etrangers) was anti-jew. Switzerland officials made official apologies for the comportment of Swiss officials during the war in 1995 (Kaspar VILLIGER, President 1995). INTERPRETATION: Switzerland did not collaborate with the Nazis on that specific point. Switzerland only made more difficult for Jews (and others) to seek refuge in Switzerland. Nevertheless, most of the Swiss *population* did support the refugees. It is damageable to Swiss's reputation that these apologies were made 50 years later; however the cold war is one of the reasons. The Eizenstat report evaluates the number of Jews having found refuge in Switzerland as 50'000 (of which 20'000 left Switzerland during the war) plus 100'000 other refugees (this figure only counting after 1940). 3.11.4 The stolen gold / dormant accounts. In summary, the following actions have already been taken by the Swiss government, individuals and private banking institutes: - Money deposited by Jews and non Jews before and during the War, which was not reclaimed, or was reclaimed but without sufficient proof will be refunded. Meanwhile, a special 300 MSFr fund has been created (mainly privately funded) because it is expected enquiries will take a long time. - Two separate commissions have been launched, whose goals is to create a clear viewpoint on this part of History. - The Foundation for Solidarity, a project of the Swiss government whose goal is, from a National Bank-funded capital of 7 GSFr, to distributed 300 MSFr per year to persecuted and suffering population in the world (no direct link to the Jewish gold affair). There is a WWW server which contains the dormant account list and also instructions how to file a query: http://www.dormantaccounts.ch The current list includes all foreign owners, whether they were victims of the German Holocaust or not, of Swiss bank accounts which have remained dormant since May 9, 1945. A separate list of Swiss owners of Swiss bank accounts which have remained dormant since May 9, 1945, will be published later this year. As you will see, it is essential to distinguish between the gold bought by the National bank, and the money deposited freely by afterwards-dead people with private Swiss banks. FACTS: Switzerland (the National bank) did buy a lot of gold from the Axis and from the Allies during the war. The Eizenstat report says that ``It [Switzerland] conducted trade with the Allied countries as well as with the Axis powers. The Swiss National Bank kept gold accounts for and received gold not only from Nazi Germany, but from the United States, Canada, and Great Britain as well. Switzerland served as a key base for U.S. intelligence- gathering.'' INTERPRETATION: Due to the fear of not having enough gold to maintain the Swiss Franc, and to prevent any invasion from both the Axis and the Allies, Switzerland did buy a lot of gold from both belligerents. It is known that a lot of the gold sold to Switzerland by the USA was indeed still on USA's territory and thus much less valuable for Switzerland than gold from Germany. However, some people pretend that without this commerce of gold, WWII would have been shortened, at least in Europe, by two years (new book from Jean ZIEGLER). One thing can be said: as the gold was PAID by Switzerland, this money will never be refunded completely, especially since there is no proof that the Swiss government or the SNB governing board were aware of the fact that the gold was not from Germany but stolen from other countries (which anyway is ``authorized'' by common war practices) nor that some of it came from the KZ (Jewish gold from victim's teeth, etc.). Switzerland has paid to the Allies for Europe reconstruction in the amount of 28 million SFr in 1952 (whether the settlement was ``right'' and definitive is a very good question, but it has not been asked yet. Moreoever most of what is known today was known at that time). FACTS: A lot of people (not only Jews) had money in Swiss private bank accounts. When they died during the War, often in Germany's KZ, the proofs disappeared and the money was left dormant for many, many years. In the late 60's, when Swiss private banks started to computerize their accounts, a lot of those dormant accounts (sometimes confidential numbered ones, known only by a few persons at the bank, maybe dead at that time) were probably discovered. It would have been nice to do something then. A few years ago, some Jewish associations contacted the Swiss banks and there have been, since then, very slow progress being made. Recently, a few civil actions (usually wrongly targeted) have been taken from the USA and publicized: this seems to at least have triggered a little action from the Swiss private banks, but also brought much confusion to the debate. NB: The most vocal spokesman in the United States is Senator Alphonse D'Amato who is Catholic of Italian descent, not Jewish. INTERPRETATION: There have been for many years a tendency to minimize the amount of those dormant accounts; however, even if this is probably true (less than 100 M SFr are the current evaluation by the Swiss banks; approximatively 30 M SFr found currently; at UBS 3.5 M out of 10 M have already been given back), we could have avoided the current mixup stolen gold / dormant accounts if steps had been taken before. On the contrary, we waited too long and now false or incomplete information is being propagated by the mass-media (e.g. documents are now publicly available in ex-URSS and GB, after the 50 years period, but those documents are quoted incorrectly, mixing currencies, sometimes by a factor of 4-5; mixing facts). Probably the only way to get out is twofold: first, make the entire truth known, and secondly, all the unknown money should be put into a fund, kept there for some time (like the East Trust (die Treuhand) in Germany), and then given to a charitable organization like ICRC or the UNICEF. FACTS: Switzerland has was very reluctant to give German gold to the Allies at the end of the War. Switzerland (private banking institutes) was very reluctant to give any information or list of bank accounts. INTERPRETATION: One of the reasons is that: [Eizenstat report] ``Clearly, Switzerland's delay was intended to keep German assets under its control as a guarantee for settlement of Swiss claims against the Nazi regime.''. The private banking institutes still charge SFR 500 _each_ for an account research. Maybe this amount corresponds to the actual costs, but this is not really a very good public relation policy. Note that since July with the publishing of the account list (a violation to the Swiss banking secrecy habits), this is no longer true. The Eizenstat Report says that ``Among the neutral countries, Switzerland has taken the lead.'' [in, at last, resolving this issue]. We can only regret that this issue has not been resolved earlier and with a broader audience (not just a few officials): maybe we could have prevented what happens recently, for the benefit of the Nazis's victims and ours. 3.11.5 Chronology 1995 Kaspar VILLIGER apologizes for the 'J'. 1994(?) First contacts from Jewish organizations to the Swiss banks, Ombudsman (mediator) is created. June 1996 Start of the USA media-blitz and civil actions. January 1997 Creation of a 300 M SFr private fund. Beneficiaries not yet known. Banks and private people are funding it. March 1997 The Swiss Confederation announces the creation of a generic 7 billion SFr with an estimated 500 M yearly revenue whose beneficiaries will be any persecuted or otherwise minorized group, half of which going to Swiss people. The fund will be created mainly by the revaluation of gold from the Swiss National Bank gold reserves. May 1997 Publication of the Eizenstat Report on gold transactions between Nazi Germany and other states (with a stress on Switzerland). http://www.ita.doc.gov/media/ July 1997 Publication of the first part of the dormant account list by the Swiss private banking institutes. begin 1998 First payments to Jews in the Baltic Countries from the 300 M SFr private fund. It has taken so long because of difficulties in finding the recipients (with little cooperation from the Jewish Congress). Payments to road people too (Bohemians). August 1998 Swiss Banks agree to pay 1.9 G SFr to the Jewish Congress's Representatives. What will happen to this money is unclear. This only solves the dormant account issue with US Jews. This does not solve the ``stolen gold'', stolen insurance policies, nor issues with non-US Jews and non-Jews. 3.11.6 More information An extensive collection of case studies, official documents and assorted commentary concerning German gold transfers to the SNB and abandoned bank accounts of victims of WWII can be found on the Embassy of Switzerland in Washington D.C. site at http://www.swissemb.org/ and on the Embassy of Switzerland in London site at http://www.swissembassy.org.uk/ 3.11.7 Money This is an approximate cost of the ``dormant account'' crisis. 300 MSFr as a goodwill for holocaust survivors in financial difficulties, money giving has started this week (it took more than expected because the non-Swiss Jewish organizations did not give the names before). Chairman is Mr. BLOCH, from Zuerich, head of the Swiss jewish association. Around 70 people have already been given money, Baltic countries have been choosen first because the Jews living there have not benefited from the help of the Russians nor the Germans for political reasons. 70 MSFr found as dormant accounts, will be refunded. Note that there are also ``non-Jews'' holding those accounts: for example Nazis or ``simple'' (ie non nazi and non jew) German people or from other countries who died during the war. And Swiss people too. 2 GSFr paid to the World Jewish Congress by Swiss Banks. NB: this is independant from the ``recycling'' gold affair, which is purely a national bank topic and has been settled after the war (at least up to now there have not been any official claim to rework this settlement in particular). and, as a general humanitarian cost 7 GSFr as the capital of the Swiss Foundation for Solidarity, a non-profit charity organization. 3.12 Health system To draw a few sketches (more answers might come from soc.culture.swiss, feel free to post there) specifically about the HEALTH care system: - since 1997 the health insurance is compulsory, yet still in private hands (corporations which must be ruled specially under governmental control compete in the health insurance market). - only the basic coverage is compulsory and standard. All the add-ons can vary from insurance to insurance in content. - the price of the basic coverage depends on the canton (state), and on other parameters, within specific rules. Also, there is a minimal amount which must be paid (``franchise''). This can be set as wanted (minimal for 98 is 150 SFR I think). The bigger, the smaller the insurance fees. This system is rather new and has a lot of problems. Added to the fact that Switzerland has very high medical costs (induced by a lot (too much?) of hospital capacity and physicians) and that most of the costs are state-induced (private insurers must make their clients pay for those very costly public hospitals), it gives an expensive system, which might get better --- currently it is getting worse, especially for the non-rural cantons. Hazard insurance (at work) is separat, as is welfare. Both are compulsory and state-handled. The professional hazard insurance is compulsory, and paid by the employer. The non-professional insurance is compulsory when you work more than 12 hours per week, and your employer might or might not pay it for you. This is around 1.1 and 2% of the income. Welfare (AVS (retirement), AI (disability), APG (military insurance)) is around 10.1 of your income. Unemployment insurance is another 3%. Half is paid by the employer. 4. Swiss institutions and products abroad 4.1 Swiss institutions/products in the US There are several Swiss tourist offices in the US even though it seems that some have closed recently (e.g. in San Francisco (?)). Chicago: Suite 2930 150 North Michigan Avenue Chicago, IL 60601 Tel (312) 630 5840 Fax 630 5848 LA: 222 No. Sepulveda Blvd, Suite 1570 El Segundo, Los Angeles, CA 90245 Tel (310) 335 5980 Fax 335 5982 NY: Swiss National Tourist Office Swiss Center, 608 Fifth Avenue New York, NY 10020 Tel (212) 757 5944 Fax 262 6116 Swiss consulates: New York: Rolex Building, 665 5th Av (8th floor), (212) 758 2560 Chicago: 737 North Michigan Avenue, (312) 915 0061 Washington DC: San Francisco Los Angeles Other numbers: Swissair: 800 221 4750 4.2 Swiss institutions/products in Australia Embassy of Switzerland: Canberra: 7, Melbourne Avenue, Forrest, ACT 2603, +61.6.2733977 Swiss consulates: Melbourne: Consulate General of Switzerland, PO Box 7026, Melbourne, Vic 3004, +61.3.8672266 4.3 Other countries Swiss National Tourist Office in Canada (the Swiss Consulate General is next door) Toronto: 154, University avenue, Suite 610 Toronto M5H 3Y9 Tel (416) 971 9734 Fax 971 6425 In Japan: Tokyo: CS-Tower, 2nd floor 1-11-30 Akasaka, Minato-ku Tokyo 107 Tel (03) 35 89 55 88 Fax 32 24 08 00 Great Britain: London: Swiss Centre, Swiss Court, W1V8EE Tel (171) 734 19 21 Fax (171) 437 45 77 Thailand: Bangkok: 35, North Wireless Road BANGKOK Thailand - 10330 Tel. 02 - 253-0156 FAX 02 - 255-4481 4.4 Swiss products The swiss products usually can be recognized with the ``arbalete'' (crossbow) weapon (but this is not nowadays a certain label). There is a move towards protecting the ``Swiss Army Label'', reserving it to Swiss companies making their production mainly in Switzerland. It should not be necessary to state that Swiss soldier *do not* have the luxury knives sold under that label :-) 5. More information More information can be found on WWW from the Switzerland Home Page, http://heiwww.unige.ch/switzerland/ There are some books which may be interesting (more are listed through the document): "Das neue Profil der Schweiz", Hans Tschaeni, Werd Verlag, 1990, also available in French. "La Suisse - de la formation des Alpes a la quete du futur", Ex Libris, 1975. About Swiss culture and military (in English): "La Place de la Concorde Suisse" The "Annuaire statistique de la Suisse" is available in German or in French in most bookshops (in CH). You can also find more Swiss statistics at the following addresses: http://www.zahlenspiegel.ch/ (German language) http://www.statistique.ch/ (French version) A real good source for Swiss and foreign maps is: Kuemmerly & Frey Geographischer Verlag Hallerstrasse 10 CH-3012 Bern http://tbw.ch/kufrei/ For all official Swiss maps, check for http://www.swisstopo.ch/ especially http://www.swisstopo.ch/en/maps/maps.htm (yes, it is really .htm, not .html). Touristical information can be asked there: Swiss Hotel Association Monbijoustrasse 130 P.O.Box 3001 Bern Tel (031) 370 4111 Fax 370 4444 Switzerland Tourism Bellariastrasse 38 Postfach 8027 Zurich Tel (01) 288 1111 Fax 288 1205 6. Credits Some of the following people contributed large parts of this document. Using the following information for mailing-lists or junk mail is of course forbidden. This information is of course also protected under the Berne convention. Marcel BIGGER <bigger@expert.cc.purdue.edu.spam.not.welcome.ch> Andrew MALAKOFF <ambler@eskimo.com.spam.not.welcome.ch> Ulrich SCHLAEPFER <us2b+@andrew.cmu.edu.spam.not.welcome.ch> Sarah EGGLESTON <Sarah.Eggleston@newcastle.ac.uk.spam.not.welcome.ch> Colleen D. WIRTH <wirth@phoenix.Princeton.edu.spam.not.welcome.ch> Urs GEISER <ugeiser@xnet.com.spam.not.welcome.ch> Hansruedi HEEB <heeb@diagonal.ch.spam.not.welcome.ch> Sven FELDMANN <feldmann@husc.harvard.edu.spam.not.welcome.ch> Thomas J. GROB <tomjgrob@halcyon.com.spam.not.welcome.ch> Nicola Tristian MARZOLINO <niccolo1@ix.netcom.com.spam.not.welcome.ch> Ernest BLASCHKE <ernest.blaschke@canrem.com.spam.not.welcome.ch> Dan POP <danpop@ues5.cern.ch.spam.not.welcome.ch> Christian Michel ZIMMERMANN <zimmermann.christian_m@uqam.ca.spam.not.welcome.ch> Leopoldo GHIELMETTI <ghielmet@lslsun.epfl.ch.spam.not.welcome.ch> Emmanuel BAECHLER <ebaechle@hospvd.ch.spam.not.welcome.ch> Wissenschaftliches Rechnen 2/wr44 <wr44@g26.ethz.ch.spam.not.welcome.ch> Eric von DAENIKEN <G0DAENIKEN@sgcl1.unisg.ch.spam.not.welcome.ch> Olivier BYRDE <byrde@patpserv.epfl.ch.spam.not.welcome.ch> Patrik Rene Celeste REALI <prreali@inf.ethz.ch.spam.not.welcome.ch> Peter M. KELLER <kellerpm@vptt.ch.spam.not.welcome.ch> Yvan BOTTERON <botteron@vlsi.enel.ucalgary.ca.spam.not.welcome.ch> Vlad LISSINE <vlis@glas.apc.org.spam.not.welcome.ch> Julius HEINIS <jheinis@mailer.fsu.edu.spam.not.welcome.ch> Oswald WYLER <wyler@POP.CS.CMU.EDU.spam.not.welcome.ch> Marc STEINLIN <stonelli@soziologie.unizh.ch.spam.not.welcome.ch> Werlin/Paris <mwerlin@sirius.com.spam.not.welcome.ch> C. Malte LEWAN <cmlewan@sdv.fr.spam.not.welcome.ch> Jason W. KING <jw2king@calum.csclub.uwaterloo.ca.spam.not.welcome.ch> Klaus-F. AUGUSTINY <augustiny@pupk.unibe.ch.spam.not.welcome.ch> Andreas KARRER <karrer@ife.ee.ethz.ch.spam.not.welcome.ch> Andre-Pierre BENGUEREL <apb@audiospeech.ubc.ca.spam.not.welcome.ch> Achille A. CASTIONI <achille@eskimo.com.spam.not.welcome.ch> Christoph KAUFMANN <100652.3517@Compuserve.com.spam.not.welcome.ch> Thomas STRICKER <tomstr@ares.nectar.cs.cmu.edu.spam.not.welcome.ch> Gaelle VANHOVE <Gaelle.VanHove@droit.unige.ch.spam.not.welcome.ch> Margaret Frances DISBURY <mfd@aber.ac.uk.spam.not.welcome.ch> Nicole BERNOUILLI <bernoul5@uni2a.unige.ch.spam.not.welcome.ch> Heinz GASSER <gasser@eckerd.edu.spam.not.welcome.ch> Tom WAUGH <tom.waugh@bluewin.ch.spam.not.welcome.ch> Ben den BUTTER <benne@luna.nl.spam.not.welcome.ch> Lorenzo DE CARLI <ldecarli@tinet.ch.spam.not.welcome.ch> Tiziano BIANCHI <tiziano@cyberramp.net.spam.not.welcome.ch> Marc SCHEUNER <marc.scheuner@bernoise.ch.spam.not.welcome.ch> Geoffrey KLEIN <gef1@kws.ch.spam.not.welcome.ch> Wolf SCHWEITZER <wschweitzer@access.ch.spam.not.welcome.ch> Stefano UNTERNAEHRER <stefano@galileo.pr.net.ch.spam.not.welcome.ch> Mark Edward HARRISON <harrison@autobahn.mb.ca.ch.spam.not.welcome.ch> Stephan Kocher <kocher@swisosnline.ch.spam.not.welcome.ch> Reviewers: Tom BUTZ <tomb@midland.co.nz.spam.not.welcome.ch> Samir KASME <samir.kasme@ge.maxess.ch.spam.not.welcome.ch> Jean-Emmanuel ROTZETTER <jer@pax.eunet.ch.spam.not.welcome.ch> Bob DOMBROSKI <mtbob@netrix.net.spam.not.welcome.ch> $Id: ALPHAMonthly18,v 1.16 2002/03/03 17:57:55 admin Exp $