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Walkers stroll along 9-ton concrete blocks of the Toblerone line, in Begnins, in the Canton of Vaud, Switzerland, Sunday, June 9, 2024. The Toblerone line is a 10 km long defensive line made of "dragon's teeth" fortifications built during the Second World War between Bassins and Prangins. The 2,700 9-ton concrete blocks that make up the defences are similar to the shape of the Toblerone chocolate bar, which gave its name to the line. Since the line has been left to nature since its construction, it was decided to keep these concrete blocks and to make a hiking trail along their route.

Switzerland Today

Dear Swiss Abroad,

Passengers at Basel’s main railway station must have felt they were travelling backwards in time when they saw the station clocks spinning in reverse this morning. The cause: a huge temporary power outageExternal link that hit the city centre at 7am, causing traffic jams and other havocExternal link.

Read on for other news and stories from Switzerland.

a mother and small child wade through water near a sign which reads "Gottlieben" at a pier.
Shore promenades, car parks, and garden restaurants are under water, for example in Gottlieben in canton Thurgau. Keystone / Gian Ehrenzeller

In the news: storms in Geneva/Lake Constance, assisted suicide, worker checks and culture prizes.

  • While most Swiss voters rejected it, almost 51% of the Swiss Abroad approved the initiative to reduce healthcare premiums. On the other three issues decided on Sunday, the diaspora voted in line with the rest of the country, supporting the Electricity Law even more strongly.
  • Geneva was hitExternal link by heavy storms yesterday evening resulting in several flooded roads. Last night a thunderstorm worsened the flooding situation on Lake Constance in northeast Switzerland.
  • Geneva will continue to guarantee the option of assisted suicide in nursing homes and care institutions. Yesterday, 76.56% of voters rejected an amendment to health legislation which challenged this possibility.
  • The Federal Office of Culture announced the 28 winners of the 2024 Swiss Art and Design Awards today. Their work will be presented during Art Basel, which takes place this week.
  • Around one in five checks carried out on workers employed in Switzerland has revealed violations of Swiss wage and working conditions. Swiss employers also engaged in wage dumping when employing foreign workers, a government report has found.
The artwork ASPIRING TO PUMPKIN'S LOVE, THE LOVE IN MY HEART (2023) by Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama
Keystone / Georgios Kefalas

Art Basel opens its doors today for its 54th edition.

Despite slightly weaker market conditions, the organisers of Art Basel, the world’s most important art fair, are optimistic about the success of the upcoming event.

This year is overseen for the first time by Maike Cruse, who was previously Art Basel’s communication manager.

She says the upcoming edition of the art fair will serve as a benchmark for the current state of the market. The art salon opens amid a volatile economic situation. Last year saw a 4% slowdown in the global art market following the post-pandemic upswing, according to the latest art market report by Art Basel and UBS.

But some places saw even bigger drops. The latest auction season in New York was down 22% on 2023 while sales at art fairs from New York to Hong Kong have been more muted. “It’s not a disaster, but there is a volatile background with high interest rates and wars in Ukraine and the Middle East. So there is a little less urgency [in the art market], but still a lot of vibrancy,” Cruse toldExternal link the Financial Times.

She underlined the geographical “diversity” of the current edition’s exhibitors, though these are still dominated by North American and European galleries. This year there are 41 galleries from outside these regions, up from 33 last year, while first-timers include six from Asia.

She also identifies “a generational shift” within the art market and “a bigger need from a younger crowd to connect, network and have fun”. 

The biggest differences to Art Basel this year are not in the main convention centre, where 288 galleries will be showing and selling their works, but rather outside, spilling into the city of Basel beyond the main trade’s business hours with an expanded Parcours section, the FT notes.

View from Bürgenstock resort.
Keystone / Urs Flueeler

Ninety states and organisations signed up for Ukraine peace summit.

Ninety states and organisations have so far registered to take part in the Ukraine peace conference that Switzerland will host from June 15-16. A total of 160 invitations were sent out.

Russia has not been invited to the summit at the Bürgenstock resort (photo above) overlooking Lake Lucerne and has dismissed it as a waste of time. But Swiss President Viola Amherd told reporters today that the gathering would aim to “jointly define a roadmap” on how to involve both Russia and Ukraine in a future peace process. Nuclear security, humanitarian aid and food security are also on the summit’s agenda.

“This is not propaganda,” said Amherd. “This is about the basis of humanitarian aid provided by Switzerland … and to initiate a dialogue.”

The Swiss president added that most participants – about half of whom will be represented at the level of head of state or government – are country leaders, but “a handful” are from organisations like the United Nations. They include Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

Amherd said the Swiss government was not disheartened that fewer than 100 have so far announced participation in the first phase of the peace process.

Swiss authorities said the final list of participants was due by Friday, but key developing countries like Turkey, South Africa and Brazil hadn’t indicated whether they would attend. India said it would take part but it isn’t clear at which level. Brazil and China said they wouldn’t take part unless both sides – including Russia – were at the table, according to Swiss officials.

Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis also addressed reporters, saying Switzerland has repeatedly acknowledged that there cannot be a peace process without Russia. “The question is not whether Russia will be on board, the question is when.” He also said Switzerland is in frequent contact with authorities in Moscow about the conference.

Up to 4,000 military personnel will be deployed to provide security and support.


Hosted by: Katy Romy

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