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This week in Switzerland

Nationwide votes and debates in parliament marked political life in Switzerland this week, but it was overshadowed by a fatal helicopter accident in which eight people, mainly tourists from India, lost their lives.

The week began with a series of crucial votes on immigration and energy policy. The electorate rejected a proposal to limit the proportion of foreigners to 18 per cent of the population, much to the relief of the government and business community.

Voters also turned down plans to introduce a levy on the use of non-renewable energy, dealing a blow to the government’s ecological tax reform.

In the capital, Berne, parliament discussed European integration and army issues during the second week of the regular autumn session.

The Senate refused to adopt a compromise on a people’s initiative to seek immediate talks on full European Union membership. The decision ends weeks of wrangling in parliament.

It is widely assumed that voters will reject the proposal at the ballot box next year, potentially blocking further Switzerland’s integration into Europe. Last May, Switzerland approved a series of bilateral treaties with Brussels.

The House of Representatives, for its part, approved plans to arm Swiss troops taking part in international peacekeeping missions. However, conservative groups and peace organisations will challenge the decision in a referendum.

The past week was overshadowed by a fatal air traffic accident in canton Valais. Eight people, seven of them tourists from India, died when two helicopters crashed on landing near the town of Sion.

In sport, Swiss athletes collected further medals at the Olympic Games in Sydney. The show-jumping riders and the mountain biker, Christoph Sauser, took the medal tally up to nine.

The one gold, six silver and two bronze medals is the best result for Switzerland since 1952.

The Swiss soccer champions, St Gallen, also made the headlines this week by qualifying for the second round of the UEFA Cup competition. St Gallen knocked out the wealthy English side, Chelsea, with a 2-1 victory on aggregate.

by Urs Geiser

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR