The violent protests in Bern at the end of February and the cooling of relations between the European Union and Switzerland are just some of the issues making the Swiss newspapers. Also featured, the ever thorny problem of the merits of learning English in primary schools.
The head of security for the city of Bern, Reto Nauseexternal link, has criticised the mild sentences handed down after the latest clashes between police and protestors over squatting rights. On the night of February 25, around 50 protestors set up barricades, threw objects and used laser lights to blind police officersexternal link. In total, ten members of the security forces were injured.
Nause told the SonntagsBlickexternal link that the impression that some of the perpetrators had been arrested on Saturday but went to work on Monday was “not entirely wrong”. He felt left in the lurch over how to deal with members of violent extremist left-wing groups by the legal situation, public prosecutors and the courts, which had handed down very mild sentences. Over the five years violence, particularly against the authorities, had increased, he said, also in places like Zurich and Basel and in other groups, like football hooligans.
European Union relations
Foreign Minister Didier Burkhalter says that Switzerland is not under pressure over a bilateral agreement with the European Union to better regulate market accessexternal link, which has been under negotiation since 2014. “We can afford to wait a long time,” Burkhalter told the NZZ am Sonntagexternal link of the stalled deal. If no compromise can be found, the agreement would “not have a chance” at the Swiss ballot box, he said. Even if a solution was reached, the Swiss political process needs time, he added.
Burkhalter told the newspaper that since 2014 vote which approved limiting “mass immigration” from the EU – which led to a cooling in Swiss-EU relations – the EU had blocked or been hampering several dossiers. “It’s now 2017 and not 2014, so things have to move forward,” he said.
English in primary schools
Also in the NZZ am Sonntagexternal link are the findings of the latest study into teaching English in primary schools – a much debated issue in Switzerland. According to a report by the University of Zurich, introducing English early may not be as advantageous as thought, in particular because the effort needed for the lessons generally outweighs the results.
The study took into account pupils’ skills in the cantons of Aargau, where English was introduced earlier, and Solothurn. It found that the Aargau pupils were only between six months and a school year ahead of their Solothurn counterparts.
Asylum guest families
SonntagsBlickexternal link showed how a Swiss Refugee Councilexternal link project to house asylum seekers in Swiss families, launched in 2015, is having success. Currently 234 people are living with host families. The project was launched in four cantons – now 22 are taking part (Switzerland has 26 cantons). However, eight still have no asylum seekers living with a host family.
Dementia on the rise
There are more people than ever living with dementia, the SonntagsZeitungexternal link reported, citing the latest statistics from the Swiss Alzheimer’s Associationexternal link. In 2016 there were more than 144,000 people living with the condition, this is more than the 122,000 figure originally estimated. Studies show that the disease is under-recognised, especially among women over 90 years old. Numbers are expected to rise as society gets older, and the political world must be aware of the associated care needs, the association warns.