A free trade deal with Britain and plans to reform corporate tax to be voted on February 12 are in the headlines this Sunday. Another Gambian minister has also reportedly filed an asylum request in Switzerland.
Brexit and free trade
In an interview in SonntagsBlick newspaper, Swiss Economics Minister Johann-Schneider Ammann, said Switzerland must conclude a free trade agreement with Britain that it is ready as soon as it leaves the European Union. The paper said Britain’s International Trade Secretary Liam Fox declared during the recent World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting that he was very interested in a trade agreement with Switzerland.
However, the timing may be problematic, as Britain is not allowed to carry out an individual free trade accord negotiations while it is an EU member. The Brexit negotiations with the EU could last until 2019.
Former ministers on corporate tax
Former cabinet minister Ruth Dreifuss has joined another former minister, Eveylne Widmer-Schlumpf, in criticising plans to reform Switzerland’s corporate tax system, which will go to a nationwide vote on February 12.
Dreifuss told Le Matin Dimanche newspaper that she had written to all centre-left Social Democrat members criticizing the ‘monumental hole’ that the reforms will leave in public finances caused by the projected drop in corporate tax revenue. She says she is worried about the middle classes, who are likely to have to pay higher taxes for schools, nurseries, hospitals and culture.
However, another former minister, Ruth Metzler, said she supported the reforms, which will benefit both small and medium-sized Swiss firms as large international companies.
The reform seeks to put the Swiss corporate tax system in line with the norms of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, harmonising fiscal rates for foreign and domestic firms. It will also include new tax breaks on research and development carried out by companies.
Asylum request for second Gambian minister
According to SonntagsBlick which cites various sources, a second former Gambian minister – ex-health minister Omar Sey – has applied for asylum in Switzerland. He reportedly filed his request while attending a World Health Organization (WHO) conference in Geneva on January 18. The State Secretariat for Migration (SEM) says it is not aware of such a request, but adds that it could be possible if made under a false name.
Last week it was reported that Swiss authorities had opened an investigation into suspected crimes against humanity against a former Gambian interior minister, Ousman Sonko, who applied for asylum in Switzerland. Sonko was sacked by Yahya Jammeh, the dictator who ruled the West African country for 22 years, and then fled for Europe. He has been living in an asylum centre in canton Bern since last November. On Friday, the Bern authorities said that they had requested that Sonko be remanded in custody.
Drones take off
The sales of drones are booming in Switzerland. An investigation by SonntagsBlick with the electronic stores Media Markt and Digitec estimates that 100,000 are in circulation. The Federal Office of Civil Aviation claims there are several thousand. The Swiss authorities want to introduce a drone register, which could be coordinated globally. They want the drones to be identified via an electronic chip and part of civil aviation air traffic control measures. But no date has been put on the proposal.