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Budget cuts eat into Swiss abroad magazine

The Swiss Review is the only medium that systematically reaches expatriates

(swissinfo.ch)

The Swiss Review magazine is facing editorial cutbacks following parliament's decision to reduce federal subsidies to the official publication for expatriates.

The move comes despite opposition by the Organisation of the Swiss Abroad (OSA), which represents more than 750 expatriate associations around the world.

The magazine is presently published six times a year in the national languages - German, French and Italian - as well as in English and Spanish.

It has a print run of 408,000 and is seen as the only medium to systematically reach the 700,000-strong Swiss expatriate community.

"The Swiss Review serves as a link between expatriates and their country of origin," said OSA President Jacques-Simon Eggly.

He added that the funding cut is paradoxical since the organisation has a government mandate to inform Swiss citizens abroad on their political rights, including about votes and elections.

More than 120,000 expats have registered to take part in ballots throughout the year.

Eggly said the bi-monthly publication acted as a regular and high-quality source of information.

The parliamentary decision appeared to fly in the face of increasing international mobility.

The number of Swiss citizens living abroad has been growing by up to 20,000 annually in the past few years to reach about 700,000 - according to official figures - nearly ten per cent of the Swiss population.

Disappointed

The OSA says it is disappointed with parliament's decision to reduce its annual subsidies to Swiss Review by SFr500,000 ($432,000).

"As a result of the 27 per cent cut in our budget we will have to reduce the number of editions of the magazine from six to four in 2009," said OSA director Rudolf Wyder.

He says the expatriate community will be encouraged to access the Swiss Review online edition.

"But I doubt whether this is enough to make up for the budget cutbacks."

The organisation also highlights the role of the Swiss abroad for the country's image, its economy and for international contacts.

The foreign ministry said budget cuts to the Swiss Review were driven by the need to save money and came in the context of public spending cuts.

Last year the ministry spent a total of SFr3.2 million on Swiss abroad institutions, including the OSA, Swiss youth organisations, Swiss schools abroad, and the Swiss Review.

Logistics

During Monday's final debate in parliament Senator Filippo Lombardi hoped to win a majority for a compromise to give the OSA more time to boost internet access.

"It takes quite a long time to familiarise readers of a paper edition with an online version and set up an electronic data base," Lombardi added.

However, his proposal to halve the planned cuts was rejected. Opponents said the magazine's mailing costs amounted to SFr1.5 million annually.

Finance Minister Hans-Rudolf Merz argued in favour of trimming the expenditure of the Swiss Review saying its information content would not be cut.

"The authorities are convinced that transport costs can be reduced, and everybody who wishes will still receive a paper edition," he said.

swissinfo, Urs Geiser

In brief

The bi-monthly Swiss Review has a print-run of 408,000 and is published in six languages, including English.

It is distributed free of charge to all registered Swiss expatriates.

The Swiss Review, funded by public subsidies, has a budget of SFr1.8 million annually. Its mandate is to inform expatriates of their political rights.

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Swiss Expatriates

668,107 Swiss lived abroad in 2007 (+3.6% on 2006), compared with 7.5 million residents in Switzerland.

More than 60% of the expatriates lived in EU members countries, particularly in France, Germany, Italy, Britain, Spain and Austria.

The main expatriate community outside Europe is in the US, Canada, Australia, Argentina, Brazil, Israel and South Africa.

Some 120,000 expatriates aged over 18 have registered to vote.

There is currently no Swiss expatriate in parliament.

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