In the news this weekend: fallout from Switzerland’s vote on corporate taxation, a rail contract in question under US President Trump and conflict over Swiss payments to the European Union. A round-up of reports from Switzerland’s Sunday press.
After Swiss voters turned down a corporate tax reform package on February 12, France’s business promotion organisation “Business France” has been actively trying to convince corporations in Western Switzerland to relocate to France for better tax treatment. The day after the vote, many businesses with headquarters in Switzerland received an e-mail from Business France telling them that “France offers the most attractive tax terms in the European Union”. Canton Vaud Finance Minister Pascal Broulis told the NZZ am Sonntag that countries like the US, Luxembourg, Belgium and the Netherlands are also vying to offer more attractive tax terms to Swiss-headquartered companies.
Following the defeat of his corporate tax reform plan at the ballot box, Swiss Finance Minister Ueli Maurer has said the government will come up with the basics of a new concept by this summer. Although the reason for such a tax reform package is largely international pressure from the likes of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Alfred Heer of the conservative right Swiss People’s Party told the SonntagsBlick that he doesn’t think such international pressure actually exists. “Neither the European Union nor the OECD can agree on how to punish tax havens,” he said.
Stadler Rail, a train manufacturer based in the Swiss canton of Thurgau, won a $551 million (CHF555 million) contract last August to provide the state of California with new double-decker trains. However, under President Donald Trump’s administration, the US Department of Transportation (DOT) has blocked $647 million in planned federal subsidies for the project. According to a Stadler spokesperson, the funds were to have been in place by the beginning of March but have been delayed because of the questions surrounding the new presidential administration and DOT administrators. Stadler is continuing to fill California’s order, however.
The seven-member Swiss cabinet can’t agree on the conditions under which it will pay Switzerland’s “dues” to the European Union, amounting to CHF1.3 billion. Foreign Minister Didier Burkhalter and Economics Minister Johann Schneider-Amman both wanted to pay the contribution without conditions, according to the SonntagsZeitung and Le Matin Dimanche newspapers. They feared that certain aid organisations will have to close if the money is not paid out quickly enough. However, after Swiss President Doris Leuthard intervened, the majority of the cabinet voted for putting the payment on ice until better terms can be negotiated with Brussels.
Switzerland is one of the few countries in Europe that does not allow women to donate their eggs. For that reason, about 250 to 500 women travel abroad every year to become egg donors, according to the NZZ am Sonntag. The newspaper cites a study showing that more than 60% of Swiss voters support allowing egg donation, although critics say it’s a further step along the path to industrialised human reproduction. A parliamentarian from the centre-right Conservative Democratic Party wants to submit a motion next week to call on the government to take steps to legalise egg donation.
swissinfo.ch and agencies/vdv