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The Week in Switzerland

Apart from the World Economic Forum summit in Davos, which grabbed the headlines towards the end of the week, several major stories made news in Switzerland, including good news for the proposed national exhibition.

This content was published on January 29, 2000 - 12:04

Apart from the World Economic Forum summit in Davos, which grabbed the headlines towards the end of the week, several major stories made news in Switzerland, including good news for the proposed national exhibition.

The troubled national exhibition, Expo.02, was given a boost when the government approved an extra SFr250 million in funding to ensure it can go ahead in two years'time. The government said the exhibition's management had done enough to keep costs down and raise more money to qualify for the funds.

However, the cabinet left open the question of whether the organisers' demand for a SFr320 million deficit guarantee would be met. The decision has been put on the parliamentary agenda in March. Once the entire financial package has been approved by parliament, the Expo.02 project will go ahead.

On the international scene, the interior minister, Ruth Dreifuss, told the Holocaust conference in Sweden that Switzerland wants to fight racism and anti-Semitism mainly by teaching tolerance. Dreifuss said she also wanted to see measures against the spread of racist propaganda on the Internet.

"Many concrete measures and common efforts are necessary to maintain our vigilance in the face of hate and the denial of human dignity," Dreifuss said. She added that a broad public debate was necessary to come to terms with history.

In Geneva, prosecutors issued an international arrest warrant for the former Kremlin official, Pavel Borodin. Once a close colleague of ex-President Yeltsin, Borodin is at the centre of investigations into allegations that the Swiss construction company, Mabetex, bribed Kremlin officials to obtain lucrative building contracts.

However, it is unlikely that Borodin will be arrested, as Switzerland and Russia have no extradition treaty.

There was heartening news for pro-Europeans this week, when a survey found that two-thirds of the Swiss would support Switzerland's bilateral accords with the European Union, if the issue went to a nationwide vote. The survey came as two small right-wing parties looked likely to have forced a referendum on the accords later this year. The survey suggested, however, that most Swiss are still opposed to full EU membership.

Finally, after a spate of crashes of Swiss or Swiss-owned aircraft in January, there was another scare. A Zurich-bound Swissair MD-11, with 170 people on board, turned back to Los Angeles shortly after take-off when a fault was detected in one of the engines. Officials said an onward journey would still have been possible without risk, but the return to the airport was a precautionary measure.

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