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Swiss fear natural disasters above all

Natural disasters, including avalanches, are among the main safety concerns of the Swiss Keystone

Natural disasters and the large number of foreigners in Switzerland are the main concerns of the Swiss, according to a survey.

This content was published on December 1, 2004 - 21:22

Most Swiss still believe the country needs an army to defend its borders, and they want to maintain neutrality.

Three out of four people said they believed that natural disasters were a likely occurrence, according to a survey published by the GfS Zurich research institute on Thursday.

A similar poll two years ago showed that 60 per cent were concerned about such disasters.

Nearly 50 per cent of respondents are also worried about "technical" catastrophes, such as accidents in chemical or nuclear power plants.

More than two-thirds said they were concerned about a perceived high number of foreigners in Switzerland. This figure has remained stable over the past four years.

Fears of war or terrorist attacks remained stable, but about 54 per cent are concerned about growing radical tendencies by extremist groups.

Army, neutrality

Only one in ten fears Switzerland could be drawn into an armed conflict in the next few years.

Nevertheless, 71 per cent of respondents want Switzerland to keep its armed forces to defend its borders and to prevent terrorist attacks.

Other tasks for the army include assistance in cases of natural disasters abroad and peacekeeping missions.

The study also found that Swiss have become more interested in the issue of the country's neutrality over the past few years.

Forty-nine per cent of respondents said it was unthinkable that Switzerland would give up its traditional neutrality.

On the other hand, only 13 per cent said they thought this could happen.

The findings appear to contradict the latest security report by the Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, published in August.

It highlighted concerns about unemployment and social security and showed that the Swiss armed forces are losing support among the population.

The GfS-led survey is based on just over 700 interviews in the main German and French–speaking parts of Switzerland. The poll was conducted in February 2004.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

73% fear natural disasters.
68% worry about a perceived high number of foreigners in Switzerland.
56% are concerned about economic threats.

10% believe Switzerland could be drawn into an armed conflict.
71% want to keep an army.
90% want to ban potentially violent demonstrations.

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