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press review Stories making the Swiss Sunday papers

Reaction to the latest comments by Donald Trump on the Iran nuclear deal, freeriding on Swiss motorways, and budgetary cutbacks for federal polytechnic universities – here are some of the leading stories making Swiss newspapers on Sunday.

President Trump speaks on Friday.

(The Associated Press)

In an editorial, the NZZ am Sonntag laments the latest comments by Donald Trump hinting at a possible US withdrawal from the Iran nuclear agreement – a deal that saw the Middle East state pledge to limit its nuclear programme in return for the easing of economic sanctions.

“Twelve years were spent negotiating and debating before the United States, China, Russia, France, the United Kingdom and Germany signed a treaty in 2015 to prevent a nuclear conflict with Iran,” the paper says. But, following “flimsy arguments” by President Donald Trump this week, the diplomatic achievement is in danger.

The paper links the events to the more recent stand-off with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who now would have “even less reason to trust his potential negotiator, Trump.” “The United States has become less reliable,” says the paper; “the world is less safe.”

Freeriding

Le Matin Dimanche reports that up to 500,000 drivers on Swiss motorways are operating either with falsified vignettes, or none at all. (The vignette is an official sticker, payable annually, granting access to all Swiss motorways).

A 'vignette' for the year 2016.

(Keystone)

This amounts to an overall loss of CHF20 million ($20.5 million) for Swiss customs authorities, says the newspaper, quoting official statistics. And authorities are only collaring the tip of the iceberg; in 2016, less than 1,000 individuals were prosecuted for forging or forgoing the vignette.

For those caught in the act, the repercussions are just not worth it, says the paper, referring to a recent case of a French driver who had a hastily-affixed sticker on his vehicle: the fine of CHF1,100 would have paid for 27 years of motorway usage.

As for the authorities, the solution may lie in an electronic version of the system; replacing, or complementing, the sticker with electronic scanning of number plates. The system, backed by cabinet, could be in place by 2023.

Calls for help

The SonntagsZeitung reports on the growing number of Swiss citizens requiring consular aid abroad. “Distressed” requests came to a total of 463 in 2007; the number jumped to 819 by 2016. And in 2017, by the end of September, there had already been 649.

The paper mentions two recent high-profile cases, that of aid worker Margit Schenkel kidnapped in Darfur, and the Swiss journalist briefly arrested in Venezuela, both of which spurred the intervention of Swiss consular and crisis management services.

The reasons for the increase in number is not pinned down, but “increased travel activity” (more than ten million trips abroad are made by Swiss citizens each year) and the “avoidable” nature of some of the incidents (one involving a ladyboy thief in Thailand) are mentioned.

Overall, “most of these cases do not concern Swiss nationals living abroad,” but rather travellers such as businessmen and, above all, tourists.

Research cuts

The SonntagsBlick reports that Swiss Federal Institutes of Technology, some of whom regularly feature towards the top of world rankings, are to undergo a CHF50 million ($51.3 million) cut in state funding in 2018.

The haircut features in the budgetary plans of finance minister Ueli Maurer, who tells the paper that at a time when the state must find CHF1 billion in savings, an institute such as the Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich needs to “focus”, and ongoing projects can be evaluated.

President of the Institutes’ overseeing council Fritz Schiesser begs to differ, complaining that only last year the state was promising more funding for research, not less. He will be arguing his case before the finance committee in Bern on Wednesday, the paper says.


swissinfo.ch and agencies/dos

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