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Proposed cutbacks incense Swiss in Germany

Elisabeth Michel, ASO president in Germany, with consul general Werner Ballmer

The Organisation of the Swiss Abroad (ASO) in Germany has rejected proposed cuts at swissinfo by the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation (SBC).

At its annual presidential conference, the ASO in Germany also elected the board of governors for the next four years.

The ASO in Germany is calling on decision makers at the SBC to maintain swissinfo’s nine-language service “in its current scope and in its current quality”.

The organisation justified its resolution with the need of information for Swiss living abroad, but added that swissinfo is also read in non-national languages “by people who don’t have access to comparably neutral reporting”.

Government funding

The delegates of local associations from across Germany met in Siegen, in North Rhine-Westphalia, for their annual conference. They passed almost unanimously (two abstentions) a resolution in favour of swissinfo/SRI.

The resolution demands that those responsible secure the foreign mandate as an element of SBC’s public-service remit – and ultimately as an element of the Swiss Confederation.

On May 3 the House of Representatives’ traffic and communications commission said it was against proposed cuts at swissinfo.

The commission said a majority of its members – 14 to seven – had agreed that the government should once again co-fund the internet portal.

This government contribution was cancelled in the restructuring programme of 2003.

Political signals

After the closure of radio broadcasts and the consequent job losses last year, swissinfo/SRI had an annual budget of SFr28 million ($23 million).

Peter Sutter, from the department at the Swiss foreign ministry responsible for the Swiss abroad, told ASO delegates that the political signals were “very good” that swissinfo would once again receive government support.

The decision rests with parliament, which will deal with the government contribution for swissinfo when it meets to try to iron out differences in the new radio and television law. The new law is set to come into effect in 2007.

Internet voting

Sutter also spoke about e-voting in elections and referendums, indicating that 2010 was a realistic date for the introduction of widespread implementation. Cantons are responsible for the actual conversion.

Since the board of governors’ four-year period of office had expired, elections were on the agenda.

Elisabeth Michel, president of the ASO in Germany since 1997, was re-elected for a further four years.

swissinfo, Andreas Keiser in Siegen

The second-largest Swiss community abroad is in Germany, with 70,000 people.

More than 166,000 Swiss live in France.

At the end of 2004 more than 623,000 Swiss lived abroad, an increase of 10,500 in a year.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR