US President Donald Trump’s visit to the World Economic Forum (WEF), tennis star Roger Federer and the Swiss football team’s “double-headed eagle” controversy at the Russia World Cup dominated foreign and social media’s coverage of the small Alpine nation this year, Presence Switzerland reports.
“Donald Trump in Davos, Roger Federer in Australia and the “double-eagle” gesture at the World Cup in Russia were key moments for Switzerland's image in 2018,” said Nicolas Bideau, the head of Presence Switzerland, the promotional arm of the foreign ministry that carries out an annual monitoringexternal link of the foreign press and social media – essentially Twitter.
Bideau felt they reflected “the country's openness towards the world, its competitiveness, commitment and its cultural diversity”.
Trump was the first US president to attend the Davos summit since Bill Clinton in 2000 and gave a highly anticipated keynote speech. Federer, meanwhile, is back at the summit of world tennis and in the year-end top three ATP rankings for a record 14th time.
In June, Swiss players Granit Xhaka and Xherdan Shaqiri, who have ethnic Albanian heritage linked to Kosovo, sparked controversy in their goal celebrations during their last-gasp 2-1 victory over Serbia in a 2018 World Cup Group clash. The pair put their open hands together to mimic the double-headed black eagle on the Albanian flag. Captain Stephan Lichtsteiner also made the gesture during the match. Serbs were unimpressed. FIFA, world football's governing body, later fined them for “unsporting behaviour”. The incident led to a public debate about dual nationality in the Swiss football team.
In their reporting on migration and integration, foreign media also picked up the story of a Muslim couple in Lausanne who were refused citizenship and the full-face veil ban in canton St Gallen, Presence Switzerland said.
It noted that Switzerland's ongoing negotiations with the European Union for a framework agreement to cement bilateral ties was also popular for foreign journalists, alongside tensions between Switzerland and Russia over suspected Russian spying activities in Switzerland, and Catalan separatists residing in Switzerland.
Popular votes in Switzerland also generated interest abroad. These included the 'No-Billag' initiative to abolish the radio and television licence fee, the 'Vollgeld' (sovereign money) initiative to give the Swiss National Bank the sole authority to create money, and the 'cow horns' initiative.
Presence Switzerland said Switzerland's role as a financial centre drew less media attention than in the past, and this specific coverage was generally “more favourable”.
The foreign ministry department said the overall volume of articles about Switzerland by foreign journalists had steadily decreased since 2015. It said this was largely due to budget cuts to foreign news services.