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Good image intact despite negative headlines

Switzerland is best known for - its chocolate imagepoint

Switzerland continues to enjoy an excellent image abroad based on stereotypes about the country, according to a study issued on Tuesday.

This content was published on August 25, 2009 - 17:17

However, Switzerland's involvement in human rights and humanitarian issues is not well known, according to the authors of the survey conducted by the Graduate School of Public Administration.

The study was carried out among more than 13,000 people in seven countries, including the United States, Britain, Germany, France, Spain, Japan and China between 2000 and 2006.

"The aim was to identify differences in perception in the respective countries," said co-author Mirja Weiss Richard.

She added the study found that negative headlines about Switzerland did not have an exclusively negative impact. "The better informed people abroad are about Switzerland, the better is the picture that they have of Switzerland."

Even the more recent scandals about the UBS bank and the issue of banking secrecy will not damage Switzerland's image in the long run, she believes.

The image of pristine mountains, chocolate, cheese and watches is widespread, and such values as cleanliness and reliability are also widely associated with Switzerland, according to the study.

Much less recognised abroad are Switzerland's system of direct democracy which gives citizens a say in political matters, and the country's position at the cutting edge of innovation.

The foreign ministry said the results were hardly surprising. "The image of a country remains stable over a long period of time," said spokesman Georg Farago.

Urs Geiser and Corinne Buchser, swissinfo.ch

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