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Terror perception Swiss feel safer at home, more threatened abroad

Britain's terror threat level has reached critical following two attacks this year


Swiss people feel relatively safe from terrorist attack in their own country, but have growing concerns about deteriorating security conditions in other countries. A Center for Security Studies (CSS) survey found that a third of respondents had changed travel plans in light of perceived levels of threat abroad.

The annual survey revealed growing confidence among the Swiss about safety inside their own borders. Some 93% of the 1,209 people who were asked said they felt fundamentally safe in Switzerland – up from 86% in 2016.

The questionnaire was released as Britain’s official terror threat level was raised to critical following a suicide bombing in Manchester last week and a car attack in Westminster in March. These two attacks may have come too late to influence the results of the CSS survey, but terror attacks in Berlin last December, Nice on Bastille Day in July and Brussels in March 2016 have helped to heighten concerns.

The perception of threat abroad increased among people who took part in this year’s survey – carried out by the CSS department at the Zurich’s Federal Institute of Technology (ETHZ)external link. Nearly three quarters of respondents were either “very pessimistic” or “pessimistic”, compared to 41% in 2014.

This has had a material impact on the way Swiss people organise their leisure time. Some 29% of those surveyed said they had changed their foreign travel plans in the light of security issues in the last year, particularly in European cities.

More security reforms

Earlier this month, the Federal Intelligence Service (FIS) said it was facing “increasingly complex” challenges in its annual reportexternal link.

“The European order is under extraordinary pressure, which has consequences for the strategic environment of Switzerland,” the report read. “An armed attack on Switzerland remains unlikely. However, it is undeniable that the European continent is becoming not only more polarised, partly because of the impact of cross-border influence and information operations, but also more heavily militarised.”

An overwhelming majority of CSS survey respondents (89%) said they supported a strengthening of Switzerland’s security to fight terrorism. In September, voters approved a raft of reforms for the Swiss intelligence service to give it the right not only to tap phone lines, but also to survey e-mails, access computer systems abroad and bug private apartments.

The Center for Security Studies was set up at ETHZ in 1986. It “offers security policy expertise in research, teaching, and consulting activities” and has formal partnerships with the defence and foreign ministries.

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