The Week In Switzerland
This week saw visits by several high ranking politicians. Austria's Chancellor, Wolfgang Schüssel, was received by the Swiss government in Berne and the foreign minister, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, attended a European conference in Lucerne.
This week saw several high ranking politicians making brief visits to Switzerland. The Austrian Chancellor, Wolfgang Schüssel, was received by the Swiss government in Berne and the foreign minister, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, attended a European conference in Lucerne. It was one of the rare opportunities for the Austrian to break its isolation by many European country which are giving it the cold shoulder over the inclusion of the far-right Freedom Party in the coalition. But the visits did not pass off without protests by left-wing organisations and human rights groups.
On Sunday, Geneva was the venue for a summit between President Clinton and his Syrian counterpart, Hafez al-Assad, to try and restart the stalled the Middle East peace process. But the five-hour meeting ended in failure.
Also this week, the drawn-out controversy over Holocaust-era assets in Swiss banks has taken another step forward. The banking authorities decided to release a third list of owners of 26,000 accounts in line with recommendations made by an international panel, which investigated dormant accounts. The decision will also pave the way for the release of compensation payments to Holocaust victims and their heirs under a US$ 1.25 billion deal with Swiss banks reached in 1998.
On the business front, the leading telecommunications operator, Swisscom, announced a further 3,000 job cuts over the next few years. The company said the reductions were necessary to remain competitive in the liberalised telecom market. Most of the cuts will be made by early retirement and natural wastage. Swisscom has already axed several thousand jobs since 1997.
The police authorities published latest crime figures. The statistics show that violent crime, including murders, robberies, rape on the rise, but that there was an overall decrease in the number of criminal acts last year. But there was also a large rise in the number of corruption and money laundering cases reported.
By Urs Geiser
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