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Decoding Davos

Once again in 2017, the population of picturesque Davos has tripled as the world's movers and shakers gather to discuss the top global issues of our time. Top of this year's agenda: making leaders more responsive and responsible. We bring you the latest as it happens.

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The following content on this topic was first reported or is still being reported live. You will find the latest stories first. Then follow the timeline backwards.

20.01.2017 16:45Until next time...



Pointing the way. Davos even got new sets of sign posts during WEF.

Pointing the way. Davos even got new sets of sign posts during WEF.

(Keystone)

It's farewell from me and video journalist Carlo Pisani in Davos for another year. We started off in China and ended up in the US.

In between WEF has covered multiple subjects from central banking, industry 4.0, the climate, healthcare, gender divides, the ageing population, refugees and the political situation in a number of countries, including war-torn Syria and Iraq.

That's a lot to take in during one week.

During that time, the Swiss ski resort of Davos has been taken over by the 3,000 delegates attending WEF. We hope you liked our video portraits of Davos locals in the blog.

Who knows, maybe they won't have to worry about the town being turned upside down next year. We could be broadcasting from Trump Towers!


20.01.2017 16:15“Let’s not talk ourselves into trade wars”: WTO



WTO chief Roberto Azevédo makes his point after the WEF informal summit of WTO ministers

WTO chief Roberto Azevédo makes his point after the WEF informal summit of WTO ministers

(Keystone)

The head of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), Roberto Azevédo, has issued a warning at the World Economic Forum that protectionist policies and trade wars would cost jobs. His comments came hours before Donald Trump becomes President of the United States with an apparent purpose of redrafting trade relations with some countries.

“I have heard a lot of talk here [in Davos] about protectionism and trade wars. That would destroy jobs, it would not create job,” he said at a WEF press conference. “I am urging everyone to show caution, to show leadership. We must definitely not talk ourselves into a crisis.”

Azevédo did not refer specifically to the US, and told journalists at the press conference that he had not yet had any contact with the Trump team. “I have heard that the United States has concerns on trade,” he said. “That’s fair, everyone does.”

He added that challenges to the WTO could provide “opportunities” for positive change. “When an important delegation, like the US, tells us ‘we think the system can be improved’, that’s good news,” he said. “There is always an opportunity to improve.”

During his election campaign, Trump said he would withdraw the US from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) international trade deal negotiations.

In Davos this week, key Trump advisor Anthony Scaramucci told delegates that the US intends to re-write “asymmetric” trade conditions with some countries, most notably China. “If China really believes in globalisation then they have to now reach towards us and allow us to create symmetry,” he said.

Also at the press conference, Swiss Economics Minister Johann Schneider-Ammann said that the informal mini-WTO conference held on the fringes of WEF had been “intensive and constructive”. Schneider-Amman had chaired the meeting of 29 international ministers.

Reading from a prepared statement from all ministers, Schneider-Amman said “protectionism is not the right answer to anti-trade sentiment and concerns about technological change. Instead, trade should be made more inclusive and its benefits spread more widely.”

He added that there was now “a lot of work” to be done before the 11th WTO ministerial conference in Buenos Aires.

20.02.2017, 15:17Davos locals: the Sri Lankan human rights investigator

Here’s one of a series of locals we’re interviewing in Davos.


This content was published on January 20, 2017 2:00 PMDavos locals: the greengrocer

Here’s one of a series of locals we’re interviewing in Davos.

20.01.2017 11:56Chinese firms paint Switzerland red



Iconic bottle maker Sigg is one of a number of Swiss firms that have been taken over larger Chinese groups

Iconic bottle maker Sigg is one of a number of Swiss firms that have been taken over larger Chinese groups

(Keystone)

Chinese companies made the headlines in Switzerland last year with several notable merger and acquisition (M&A) deals, including the record $43.3 billion takeover of Basel agrochemical giant Syngenta by the China National Chemical Corporation (ChemChina).

Switzerland can expect to see a lot more firms coming over from China in the coming years, Dr Liu Jiren, co-founder and chairman of leading Chinese software firm Neusoft, told swissinfo.ch at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

Neusoft set up its European HQ in Appenzell in 2009, from where it now runs operations in Germany, Finland, Romania and Israel. Attracted initially by Europe’s strong automotive industry, for which it provides software, Neusoft now wants to expand into healthcare.

“We utilize a lot of intensive R&D (research and development) in our products. We need the know-how and talent in Europe. We used to concentrate on trading [as overseas strategy] but now we are looking more intensively at co-operations,” said Liu. “If we locate R&D in Europe and manufacturing in China, we can leverage both sides.”

This is also a win-win situation for European companies who can gain access to the vast, and growing, Chinese market place, according to Liu.

“Every start-up wants the opportunity of access to China, so it makes it very easy to talk to them” he said. “A lot of European companies come to China at a very early stage. Globalisation is in their DNA.”

Chinese companies are expanding their horizons abroad as they transform their business models. The domestic Chinese market is evolving from a manufacturing-heavy model to a services-based economy, he added.

To meet this demand, Liu believes Chinese firms will seek established expertise abroad. “There will be more and more Chinese companies coming to Europe and to Switzerland,” he said. “They need to find a different direction to create new value.”

““The image of Switzerland in China is of a very stable country that is very transparent, friendly and tops all the rankings in ease of doing business.”

It also helps when diplomatic relations between the two countries are at a high point, as witnessed by the free trade agreement and the recent visit of Chinese President Xi JinPing.
 

20.01.2017 12:30Davos locals: the hairdresser

Here’s one of a series of locals we’re interviewing in Davos.


20.01.2017, 11:30Davos locals: the king of the ice rink

Here’s one of a series of locals we’re interviewing in Davos.

WEF 2017 Markus Caviezel

Markus Caviezel is in charge of the Davos ice rink. He says the World Economic Forum (WEF) means change, as the army takes over part of the rink ...


20.01.2017 11:10Meet the robots

The fourth industrial revolution is again a big issue at Davos this year. Here is a sample of some of the cutting edge technology on display.


20.01.2017, 9:00Davos locals: the policeman

Here’s one of a series of locals we’re interviewing in Davos.

WEF 2017 Hermann Hassler

Hermann Hassler is a cantonal policeman from Davos with a lot of WEF experience. For four years he has been in charge of the checkpoints on the ...


20.01.2017 08:00Trump era looms



Workers assemble the stage for the post-President Trump inauguration party

Workers assemble the stage for the post-President Trump inauguration party

(Keystone)

A great deal of time at Davos has so far been spent watching in awe at China’s relentless upwardly mobile progress. But the collective gaze will shift westwards today with just a few hours to go before Donald Trump becomes the 45th President of the United States.

Not many Davos delegates will be viewing the inauguration with positive thoughts, but there was at least one voice who defended the much maligned billionaire. Anthony Scaramucci, one of Trump’s top advisors, tried to persuade delegates that they would be pleasantly surprised by his boss.

“If some of you guys are getting a little bit upset by the tweeting and some of the things he is saying, I want to put your minds at ease,” he said. “This is a super-compassionate man, he is a generous man. He loves people.”

The “genius” of Trump is his ability to talk directly to the common person, he added. Many of these comments are simply being misinterpreted. “It’s setting off alarm bells and people lighting matches to their own hair matches and setting their own hair on fire, and they’re running around in rooms all crazy – and they really don’t need to do that.”

“President Trump could be one of the last great hopes for globalization because he is focused on something that we have to fix internally in the United States in order to create more burgeoning markets.”

That “something” is recalibrating international trade deals that are “asymmetrically” stacked against the US, Scaramucci explained. Now it is up to the likes of China to agree to create a more level playing field.

“If China really believes in globalisation then they have to now reach towards us and allow us to create symmetry,” he said.

That message will be following Chinese President Xi Jinping as he travels home from Davos.

18.01.2017, 16:00Davos locals: the teacher

Here’s one of a series of locals we’re interviewing in Davos.

19.01.2017, 18:30Davos locals: the heliport neighbour

Here’s one of a series of locals we’re interviewing in Davos.

Davos locals Elisabeth Mani-Heldstab

Elisabeth Mani-Heldstab lives next to the temporary WEF helipad, where officials and delegates attending the annual forum sometimes land.


19.01.2017 17:30IOC boosts commercial power with Alibaba deal



Jack Ma and Thomas Bach exchange gifts to seal the deal

Jack Ma and Thomas Bach exchange gifts to seal the deal

(Keystone)

The Olympic Games movement has reached a new pinnacle of commercialism, teaming up with Chinese e-trading platform Alibaba to better sell branded mascots and other merchandise to the world.

The Lausanne-based International Olympic Committee (IOC) made the announcement together with Alibaba at the World Economic Forum’s gala Davos event on Thursday. The deal gives the IOC access to one of the world’s biggest digital retail platforms while Alibaba will benefit from access to a vast pool of sports fans buying goods on its platform.

Neither party was prepared to sully the announcement of their “marriage” with talk of finances. It is unknown, for example, how much of a cut Alibaba will get from each sale. Jack Ma, Alibaba’s founder and executive chairman, preferred to talk about the currency of helping to make young people’s lives “healthier and happier” with his company’s involvement.

It will also do this by providing cloud computing services to help the IOC manage Olympic Games and partnering in the Olympic Channel – a digital platform for fans to watch videos of their sports heroes and keep in touch with events.

In the 2013-2016 cycle between summer Games, the IOC has forecast revenues of $5.6 billion (CHF5.6 billion). Of this amount, only about 3%-4% is generated from licensing – or the sale of goods branded with the IOC label. As a non-profit organisation, the IOC distributes its profits back into its national members and into developing grassroots sport.

Alibaba has been experiencing some bad publicity from counterfeit goods being hawked on its platform. How would each side cope with this problem, journalists asked at Davos press conference.

Ma said it is was difficult keeping up with 1.2 billion products traded on its site every year. “We have been fighting against counterfeit products since the day we set up,” he said. “The whole world is in a big mess over counterfeiting and it is not easy to kill human greed. But I promise the IOC that we will clean the carpets in every room.”

IOC President Thomas Bach said Alibaba’s centralised retail platform should make it easier to trace goods being bought and sold across the world than with the present system that is currently fragmented between different countries. “This will offer us better potential to control the problem,” he said.

During his visit to Switzerland this week, Chinese President Xi Jinping became the first Chinese head of state to visit the IOC’s Lausanne HQ. Beijing will stage the 2022 Winter Olympics, making it the first city to host both summer and winter events. 

19.01.2017, 16:00Climate grannies take their message to Davos

A group of senior Swiss citizens have travelled to Davos during the annual WEF meeting to raise awareness about the dangers of climate change.


19.01.2017, 15:30Davos locals: the Iranian psychologist

Here’s one of a series of locals we’re interviewing in Davos.

WEF 2017 Nahid Ahmadi

Six years ago Nahid Ahmadi fled Iran for Switzerland. She is now a registered asylum seeker and lives in an apartment in Davos. A return to Iran ...


19.01.2017 12:30Banks uncertain about May’s Brexit vision



British Prime Minister Theresa May makes the case for a "global" Britain at WEF Davos

British Prime Minister Theresa May makes the case for a "global" Britain at WEF Davos

(Keystone)

Just as British Prime Minister Theresa May confidently announced at WEF that Britain will continue to attract foreign investment in the post-Brexit world, some banks - including UBS - are making noises about reducing their footprint in the country.

“Britain is, and always will be open for business,” May told delegates in Davos on Thursday. Britain will become a more confident country, in charge of its own destiny after leaving the EU, she added. And this will open to the door to a new “global Britain” that can take better advantage of international opportunities.

But UBS chairman Axel Weber struck a less confident note in a BBC interview in Davos. He said that 1,000 of the 5,000 jobs the bank has in the country are directly affected by the European Union ‘passporting’. This is an arrangement that allows bankers from one EU country to trade all over the European bloc.

The details of Britain’s divorce from the EU are not yet known, but it could conceivably involve the loss of this EU passport, making London a less attractive financial centre. For Swiss banks, this is particularly relevant, as Switzerland is not part of the EU and relies on obtaining its passport via operations in EU states.

UBS is looking at various options for the 1,000 affected employees in Britain, Weber told the BBC. “For them we have to look at how the ultimate [Brexit] will be mapped out,” he said.

HSBC has already confirmed plans to move 1,000 staff to Paris and there are rumours that Goldman Sachs is also exploring such options.

Earlier this month private bank Edmond de Rothschild said it would move parts of its asset management business from London to EU countries to achieve “greater focus”. However, the bank will not pull out of London altogether.

And doubts over London's attractiveness has also infected real estate investors, according to a survey from the European Association for Investors in Non-Listed Real Estate Vehicles (INREV).

Post-Brexit London has dropped from first to fourth most coveted city for those with anough cash to invest in office space this year.

This from IPE Real Estate, a publication that monitors property developments, and which attended an INREV roadshow in London.

"Eric Byrne, head of global multi-manager and securities at UBS, told delegates that City of London offices would be avoided by the investor in the short to medium term as a consequence of the UK’s Brexit negotiations."


19.01.2017, 12:30What's it like inside WEF?

We go on a short walkabout with swissinfo's WEF correspondent Matthew Allen inside the main congress centre.


19.01.2017 11.20Melting business prospects

The threat of shrinking pack ice to polar bears is well known, but the risks to businesses are less apparent. WEF speakers open the eyes and ears of executives to this problem.


19.01.2017 9.30What should Donald Trump do about climate change?

Former US vice-president Al Gore and Christiana Figueres, one-time executive secretary to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), talk about Donald Trump's green credentials and what the US should do next to deal with global warming.


18.01.2017 23:00The future of Europe

Switzerland's chief negotiator with the EU, Jacques de Watteville, says the post-Brexit vote European bloc should stop blaming outsiders for its problems, but look within for solutions.

Also speaking at the Open Forum debate in Davos was Nestlé chairman Peter Brabeck. "The political environment is getting more and more emotional and less and less factual. When you allow emotions to become stronger than facts you end up with populism," he said.

Watch the whole debate here:

External Content

The following content is sourced from external partners. We cannot guarantee that it is suitable for the visually or hearing impaired.


18.01.2017 20:00Davos locals: the sports shop owner

Here’s one of a series of locals we’re interviewing in Davos.

18.01.2017 17:00Tunisian PM: frozen Ben Ali Swiss funds are ‘peanuts’



Tunisia’s Prime Minister Youssef Chahed hopes to drum up political and economic support in Davos

Tunisia’s Prime Minister Youssef Chahed hopes to drum up political and economic support in Davos

(Keystone)

Tunisia’s Prime Minister Youssef Chahed has more important things to do in Davos than chase the CHF60 million ($59 million) in assets stolen by the Ben Ali regime – frozen in Swiss banks for the past six years.

“Politically speaking it’s sensitive and important for the Tunisian population,” he told swissinfo.ch at the World Economic Forum’s gala event. “This money belongs to the Tunisian people. But it’s peanuts compared to our national budget.”

He added: “This is not the primary goal of my visit. Switzerland is only one country in the world where there are frozen assets from the previous regime. It’s a global issue.”

The CHF60 million haul remains frustratingly beyond the grasp of Tunisia as a legal battle rages in Switzerland over its rightful owner. The lion’s share (CHF43 million) was deposited in Swiss banks by Belhassen Trabelsi, brother-in-law of deposed dictator Zine-el Abidine Ben Ali.

In 2014, the Federal Criminal Court overruled a decision by the Swiss attorney general to release the funds to Tunisia on the grounds that Trabelsi was not given a reasonable chance to contest the origins of the funds.

Chahed said he had faith in the Swiss authorities to keep the funds frozen while Tunisia continues to search for documentation to prove its case. The Swiss Attorney General’s Office confirmed that investigations into several people suspected of money laundering, bribery and fraud were ongoing. “Mutual legal assistance between Tunisia and Switzerland is working well,” it said in an emailed statement.

But so far, only CHF250,000 has been released from Swiss banks to Tunisia.

Of far more interest to Chahed during his Davos trip is drumming up political and economic support for the fledgling democracy that emerged from the 2011 Arab Spring uprising. He will use his visit to show off Tunisia’s “new image” and persuade Western countries to engage more with his country to “reinforce this young democracy” that “protects the borders of Europe”.

Chahed will meet Swiss delegates at Davos to develop bilateral ties. “We can learn more from Switzerland’s experience in renewables, pharma and vocational training,” he said.

Switzerland has been actively engaged in helping set up vocational training systems in Tunisia for several years.

“The main focus of my government is fighting unemployment,” said Chahed, who came into power last year. “We are trying to adapt our education system to make it match the requirements of the employment market. We need to learn from the Swiss system.” 

18.01.2017 14:00Fixing the climate ‘more urgent than ever’



Al Gore, speaking at Davos, said the jobs that could be created by solving the climate problem are 'exactly what the economic doctor ordered'

Al Gore, speaking at Davos, said the jobs that could be created by solving the climate problem are 'exactly what the economic doctor ordered'

(Keystone)

Christiane Figueres, who brokered the COP 21 climate agreement in Paris, is “hugely concerned” about the environmental credentials of the incoming Trump administration in the United States and urges the world to act faster towards implementing the 2015 deal.

Speaking at the Arctic Basecamp event on the sidelines of WEF in Davos, Figueres said it was time for the climate change agenda to gravitate away from bickering politicians towards companies, investors and ordinary people.

The 2015 Paris Agreement committed 195 countries to restricting climate warming to no more than two degrees above pre-industrial levels, with an ultimate goal of 1.5 degrees.

Figueres was executive secretary to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change between 2010 and 2016, during which time the Paris Agreement was signed. But she is worried that a trend of political protectionism may hold back these objectives.

“National governments are going to have a difficult time with each other,” she predicted at the event hosted by the Davos-based Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research. “I’m hugely concerned about the incoming [US] administration.”

“We need to change the onus of action away from the political conversation to people who can really make a difference: businesses, cities and investors.”

The Arctic Basecamp gathering of scientists in Davos was set up to press home the message of how climate warming is affecting the polar regions. Another speaker at the event was former US Vice-President Al Gore, who warned that climate change could result in millions of “climate refugees”, adding further political and social instability to the world.

By contrast, solving the climate problem could create countless jobs and boost flagging economies around the world, he added. “This is exactly what the economic doctor ordered,” he said.  

18.01.2017 11:00Drugmakers shift focus to chronic diseases of poor



An albino girl in Tanzania who has skin cancer. Countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America need improved healthcare systems if patients are to benefit from the latest developments in medicine.

An albino girl in Tanzania who has skin cancer. Countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America need improved healthcare systems if patients are to benefit from the latest developments in medicine.

(Keystone)

Two decades after they were spurred into action to tackle AIDS in Africa, global drugmakers said in Davos on Wednesday they would invest $50 million (CHF50.1 million) over three years to fight cancer and other non-communicable diseases in poor countries.

Twenty-two companies, including Basel-based Novartis and Roche as well as Pfizer, Merck, Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline, will contribute funds and expertise to the project, which is backed by the World Bank.

The so-called Access Accelerated initiative was announced at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum and aims to improve both treatment and prevention.

Severin Schwan, chief executive of Roche, the world’s largest maker of cancer drugs, said his company and others were already implementing preferential pricing for the developing world but cost was only one obstacle.

Countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America also need improved healthcare systems if patients are to benefit from the latest developments in medicine.

“It has a lot to do with hospital infrastructure. You can’t administer modern cancer medicines if you don’t have sophisticated lab facilities,” Schwan told Reuters. “We’re going to institutionalise cooperation in this area.”

Cancer is the initial focus and drug companies will work with the Union for International Cancer Control to test new diagnostics and treatments in several cities around the world on a pilot basis.

In the past, the focus of healthcare in poorer parts of the world has been on fighting infectious diseases, whether through vaccinations, drug programmes or the roll-out of anti-malarial bed nets.

Today, however, the healthcare burden is shifting as deaths from these conditions decline and people in increasingly urbanised populations succumb to diseases such as cancer, diabetes, and heart and lung disorders fuelled by Western lifestyles.

Such non-communicable diseases (NCDs) are responsible for nearly 70% of all deaths worldwide and almost three-quarters of them occur in low- and middle-income countries, according to the World Health Organization.

18.01.2017 09:00Learning to run like a refugee

So this is what it feels like to be a refugee for an hour - in the basement of a luxury hotel in Davos. swissinfo.ch's Matthew Allen tried out the Refugee Run simulation alongside executives at WEF.

WEF 2017 Getting a taste of life as a refugee

An estimated 65 million people have been displaced from their homes in war-torn countries around the world. Is it possible to experience a little ...


18.01.2017 08:00We’ve only just begun



The fate of the Artic will be a big discussion point in Davos

The fate of the Artic will be a big discussion point in Davos

(Keystone)

It’s been an action packed start to WEF here in Davos which featured a well-received opening address from Chinese President Xi Jinping, defending the forces of globalisation on day one.

I started the morning yesterday experiencing the dubious pleasure of the Refugee Run simulation, learning what displaced people go through when they are forced from their homes – that video is now available on this blog.

I also spoke to Tunisian Prime Minister Youssef Chahed who was remarkably relaxed at the slow pace of recovering Ben Ali assets from Switzerland. More on that later.

This morning I’ll be hearing what Al Gore and an assortment of scientists have to say about the way global warming is affecting the Artic regions at the Artic Basecamp, set up at the nearby Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research SLF.

Later in the evening, I’ll be hearing if Swiss State Secretary for International Financial Matters Jacques de Watteville believes Switzerland really could be a model for post-Brexit Britain in a discussion that looks at the changing face of Europe.

Stay tuned….
 

17.01.2017 22:00Forcing corruption out of the shadows



Let there be light! Panama unwittingly gave birth to the “Overcoming the Shadow Economy” project

Let there be light! Panama unwittingly gave birth to the “Overcoming the Shadow Economy” project

(Keystone)

Swiss anti-corruption campaigner and scourge of FIFA Mark Pieth has been busy in Davos promoting his recent paper on rooting out the root causes of corruption – be it money laundering, organised crime or tax evasion.

Ironically, the Panamanian government inspired the “Overcoming the Shadow Economy”external link report, following the Panama Papers scandal. Pieth and Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz co-wrote the paper after resigning from a Panama commission that was looking into the public exposé of its role in money laundering.

The pair decided to carry on their research and expanded it into a report on the global underground financial system. Published last November, the paper recommends public registers of beneficial owners of trusts, tougher penalties against lawyers and middlemen and disclosure of large cash real estate transactions.

Pieth and Stiglitz were at Davos talking on the theme of corruption. The Panama Papers scandal was “basically, nothing new”, to the 25-year veteran of global corruption investigations. “This is how the crooks of this world – organised criminals, kleptocrats and tax evaders – stash away their money,” Pieth said.

“The bigger issue for me is why we tolerate this, because we could stop it easily," the Basel Institute on Governance chairman added.

Pieth also aimed a swipe at his home country, Switzerland, for operating a legal system that impedes people who try to recover dirty assets. “The laws are such that you can easily waste 10 years trying to get to the money – even if the money is blocked,” he chided.

corruption vid

The following content is sourced from external partners. We cannot guarantee that it is suitable for the visually or hearing impaired.

17.01.2017 21:15Swiss scientists graduate from funding doldrums



The Swiss-based Human Brain scientific project has Horizon 2020 financial backing

The Swiss-based Human Brain scientific project has Horizon 2020 financial backing

(Keystone)

What a difference a year makes – particularly for Swiss researchers vying for coveted European Union research grants.

Last January, the Swiss scientific community was in the doldrums as negotiations to stay in the EU’s Horizon 2020 programme stalled in Davos. Swiss universities were threatened with a mass exodus of talent.

Roll on 12 months and the curtain of gloom has been lifted thanks to an EU-friendly method of implementing an anti-mass immigration vote and the extension of the free movement of people agreement with Croatia last month.

Swiss researchers have been top of class at winning European Research Council (ERC) grants (part of Horizon 2020) since the scheme was introduced in 2007. Some 22% of Swiss bids are successful – the best conversion rate by a clear distance and around twice the EU average.

That means that for every franc Switzerland invested in the EU research funding programme, it receives two back. Between 2007 and 2013, Switzerland contributed €240 million to ERC and received €500 million back in grants for researchers.

During last year’s WEF meeting, Switzerland was hanging on to the coattails of Horizon 2020 with only a year’s access to its ERC grants. Having satisfied EU demands in December, Switzerland now has full associate access to the €80 billion scheme that runs until 2020. 

“It’s great news for everyone that the road blocks have been removed,” ERC President Jean-Pierre Bourguignon told swissinfo.ch in Davos. “It would have been terrible if Switzerland’s participation had ended.” As it turned out, Switzerland beat the EU’s February deadline for sorting out the immigration impasse to stay in Horizon 2020 by only a few weeks.

Lausanne’s Federal Institute of Technology (EPFL) has consistently been the most successful Swiss university at winning ERC grants. Its president, Martin Vetterli (himself a one-time grant beneficiary), said Switzerland’s reputation as a competitive research centre would have taken a huge hit had EU funding disappeared over the horizon.

“When I interviewed people for positions at EPFL, the first question was always: ‘will Switzerland be back in Horizon 2020?’” he told swissinfo.ch.

And it’s not just the money that makes ERC funding so attractive. The highly competitive nature of applying for the funding, the freedom given to winners to spend cash on creative research and the lengthy five-year time span of grants, add to its appeal, Vetterli said.

“I lived in the United States for many years and I couldn’t find funding of this nature,” he said.
 

17.01.2017 14:00How to be a middle class, privileged refugee



WEF delegates get to return to their hotels after an hour - the real refugees endure this for months

WEF delegates get to return to their hotels after an hour - the real refugees endure this for months

(Keystone)

Sharing a tent with the chairman of pharmaceutical giant Roche, as we both pretended to be refugees of a war-torn country, is not how I usually start my day. But before I got the chance to know Christoph Franz better, he was dragged out by an armed guard who demanded to know where he had stashed his weapons.

He got off lightly. I had my bread roll roughly snatched out of my hand and was forced to weave past dead bodies to a holding cell for refusing to betray the identity of my leader. While my editor may be pleased with my loyalty, it was rather uncomfortable kneeling in the cell, facing the wall.

But there was a serious side to the exercise. Every year, wealthy delegates to WEF Davos voluntarily put themselves through this process to learn a little of what it is like to be displaced and under constant threat. The Refugee Run simulation is staged by the Hong Kong-based Crossroads Foundation charity.

Our guards for the day were former refugees and humanitarian workers who have witnessed the trials of displaced persons at first hand. It is staged, rather incongruously, in the basement of a luxury hotel in Davos. As we exited, signs pointed the way to the hotel spa.

The message, however, was real. As we were informed at the start of the simulation, at the end of World War II there were six million displaced persons – there are now an estimated 65 million.

According to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), around 4.8 million Syrian refugees have fled their war-torn state and another 6.3 million are displaced within this one country.

You can witness my trials on Wednesday morning when we post a video blog shot during my hour-long ordeal. United Nations officials have praised the simulation as a “very tame” version of the real thing.

17.01.2017 13:15The year of the Dragon?



President Xi is welcomed to the podium at WEF by Klaus Schwab

President Xi is welcomed to the podium at WEF by Klaus Schwab

(Keystone)

All the talk at WEF this year has been about the visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping. What would he say during his opening address? Would he make attempt to trump the United States? President Xi did not disappoint, over-running his time slot by 20 minutes.

His hour in the limelight included plenty of digs at the US and the threatened protectionist policies of incoming President Donald Trump. China appears to have assumed the mantle as global leader of free trade and economic innovation.

In a scarcely veiled dig at Trump’s intentions to “build a wall” between the US and Mexico while walking away from global trade negotiations, Xi said that “pursuing protectionism is like locking yourself in a dark room. While the wind and the rain may be kept outside, so will brightness and fresh air.”

Countries “should not develop the habit of retreating to harbour when encountering a storm”, he added.

Xi also demanded a level playing field and an equal voice for China in world organisations such as the International Monetary Fund.

By comparison to the US, Sino-Swiss relations could not look any brighter at the moment. President Xi has concluded a number of deals during his state visit to Switzerland, including enhancements to the current free trade agreement between the two countries.

China and Switzerland also jointly declared 2017 as a “year of tourism”, pledging to work together to boost bilateral tourist numbers. Xi said the Sino-Swiss cooperation should “serve as a model to other countries”.

“The Swiss government appreciates that China is assuming more and more responsibility amid many global challenges,” Swiss President Doris Leuthard said on Monday.

17.01.2017 12:15Swiss president opens WEF

Swiss President Doris Leuthard delivered the opening remarks, and took the opportunity to highlight some of the world’s problems.

“The past year has shown us that the world is undergoing a period of fundamental change. Extremism, violence and conflict draw ever closer to regions previously regarded as safe. The European Union, stable for so long, now has its work cut out. In many regions of the world, nationalism and protectionism are gaining the upper hand. I observe these developments with concern, for they challenge the cohesion of the international community and make multilateral relations more difficult, both in economic and political terms,” she said.

You can watch the whole speech here: 

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17.01.2017 12:00Ten things to know about WEF

How much does it cost to be a partner or member of the World Economic Forum (WEF) and to attend the annual meeting in Davos? How much does Switzerland spend on security during the four-day event? We answer your top questions here.


17.01.2017 11:30Getting registered

All 3,000 delegates at WEF start their journey, like me, at the registration station to get their coveted badges. Here’s what it looks like:


16.01.2017 20:00Business leaders confident amid global uncertainty

CEOs are more confident that their companies will grow in the coming year, but global trends in protectionism, labour markets and regulation have them worried ahead of this year's World Economic Forum.

More here:
 

16.01.2017 17:00WEF security costs spiral as terror risks increase



Both army and police forces contribute to the heavy security presence at WEF

Both army and police forces contribute to the heavy security presence at WEF

(Keystone)


The increased threat of terrorist attacks has inflated policing costs to CHF9 million ($8.9 million) at the World Economic Forum’s flagship event in Davos. That’s about CHF1 million above budget, according to canton Graubünden police, who organise security for the Forum. 

This year, some 3,000 delegates will attend the event, including Chinese President Xi Jinping. The recent attack on Berlin’s Christmas market has further highlighted the threat from terrorists, the canton’s police chief Walter Schlegel said at a press conference on Monday – the day before the event kicks off in earnest. 

Some 100 VIPs, including heads of state and royalty, will arrive in Davos with special protection measures, Schlegel said. Additional police have been recruited from other Swiss cantons and Liechtenstein, but Schlegel would not reveal how many total officers will be on duty this week. 

The army will provide 4,736 personnel for the week-long event, said General Jean-Marc Halter, who is in charge of military security for WEF. The army and air force are mostly responsible for securing air space and escorting VIPs to Davos, where they have an air base. 

The CHF28 million annual cost of military security is met by the defence ministry, which has set a ceiling on troop numbers of 5,000. This figure has remained constant over the last few years as policing costs have inflated.

Policing costs are splitexternal link between canton Graubünden (CHF2 million), the town of Davos (CHF900,000), neighbouring Klosters (CHF100,000), the Swiss confederation (CHF3 million) and WEF (CHF2 million). The confederation has pledged an extra CHF750,000 for the three WEF meetings between 2016-2018 if the CHF8 million budget is exceeded. 

In addition, the Swiss state will also cover 80% of extra costs of protecting VIPs should there be a significant incident (such as a terror attack or assassination attempt). 

But these costs are paid back with interest for Switzerland. The non-profit WEF foundation reported a CHF228 million turnover between July 2015 and June 2016, and a surplus of CHF1.2 million. 

A study by the University of St Gallen (commissioned by WEF) estimated that the annual Forum generated CHF50 million for Davos and the surrounding area, plus another CHF79 million for the rest of Switzerland (primarily in tourism money).

16.01.2017 11:00Things could heat up in chilly Davos



Workers clear away snow at the entrance to the Congress Centre in Davos

Workers clear away snow at the entrance to the Congress Centre in Davos

(Keystone)

A warm welcome from swissinfo.ch to a snow-clad Davos. The 47th annual meeting of the World Economic Forum kicks off in earnest on Tuesday.

Swiss resorts have been waiting a long time for the snow. It finally arrived over the weekend. There was so much, in fact, that it closed down the popular Schatzalp toboggan run on Saturday. The unpredictability of global temperatures and weather patterns will feature in a number of sessions on the environment in Davos. One session, on Wednesday, will ask if countries are living up to the commitments they made under the December 2015 Paris climate treaty.

Leading climate scientists will set up an Arctic Base camp alongside WEF to talk about changes to Arctic temperatures. Former US Vice President Al Gore will appear with Christiana Figueres, former head of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, at the WSL Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research in Davos.

I will be following that event, and much more besides.

President Xi Jinping will become the first Chinese leader to address WEF on Tuesday. He has arrived in Switzerland with a large entourage of politicians and business leaders. Chinese companies have been particularly active in Switzerland in recent years. The Chinese state-owned chemical company ChemChina, for example, has taken over the global Swiss agribusiness Syngenta for $43 billion. China's Haers Vacuum Containers snapped up Swiss bottle maker Sigg. Chinese conglomerate HNA Group swallowed airline support services Swissport and Gategroup.

On Friday, as the Davos meeting is in full swing, Donald Trump will be sworn in as the 45th President of the United States. He has sent representatives of his transition team to Davos. At the same time, outgoing US Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State John Kerry will be speaking in Davos.

I’ll also be finding out what Switzerland’s full admission to the European Union’s Horizon 2020 scientific funding programme means for the host country. And I’ll also be following up on what Switzerland is doing to return billions of francs in frozen dictator funds to Tunisia.

WEF will also focus on the ongoing tragic conflicts in Syria and Iraq and the consequent refugee crisis that has deeply impacted on Europe. In the Western world, leaders are looking over their shoulders at the rise of populism with a perceived middle class voter backlash – what will 2017 bring?

That’s just the tip of the metaphoric iceberg. The World “Everything” Forum is bound, as always, to throw up a few surprises.

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