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THE WEEK IN SWITZERLAND

A look back at some of the main events in Switzerland over the past week.

This content was published on March 24, 2000 - 19:10

The town of Emmen in canton Lucerne, which found itself in the unwelcome glare
of publicity over its controversial naturalisation process, was in the news
again. This time the town authorities decided to put all requests from
foreigners for citzenship on hold until the end of the year.

The moratorium announced on Wednesday means around 250 foreigners will have to wait until next year for their applications to be considered. The authorities said they wanted the situation to calm down first. The town is the only placein Switzerland which allows naturalisation to be decided at the ballot box. Two weeks ago, voters turned down 48 requests from eastern Europe and Turkey, but granted citizenship to eight Italians. ·
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Also finding its way into the headlines, was the Swiss People's Party. The
latest spat has evolved from a series of rows, first involving the Social
Democrats who demanded an apology after being accused of being close to fascism
in their stance against Austria.

Those comments were made by the People's Party's Christoph Blocher, who has never been one to be publicity-shy. But the tables have turned on Blocher, who has now been accused from within his own party of imposing totalitarian tendencies on the rest of his colleagues.

Two key members of the party resigned saying Blocher's Zurich branch was forcing its views on others. The president of the Berne branch, Hermann Weyeneth, also this week sent a letter to all party members declaring that his branch would not be a repository for anti-semitism and hate.·
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It was a busy week in parliament, with the House of Represenatatives voting to
open up the country's electricity market by 2008. The draft legislation will be
aimed at introducing liberalisation in stages. Parliament is also drafting
legislation to compensate people who were forcibly sterilised on psychiatric
grounds. The house has come out in favour of the law.

Both the House and the Senate approved a compensation package for damage caused by December's storms, worth 150 million francs, for emergency measures. The money will mainly go to the cantons and the timber industry, while discussions on compensation for private forest owners have been shelved until later in the year.·
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Finally one of the world's biggest watch fairs has got underway in Basel. Two
and a half thousand exhibitors are taking part in the week-long event event, which is hoping to clock up more than 80,000 visitors.·

by Jamsheda Ahmad

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