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The Week in Switzerland

Swissair announcing the take-over of the Belgian carrier, Sabena, and the banking regulatory authorities warning of the dangers of special bonanzas paid to bankers and traders marked this week.

Swissair announcing the take-over of the Belgian carrier, Sabena, and the banking regulatory authorities warning of the dangers of special bonanzas paid to bankers and traders marked this week.

Swissair's parent company, the SAir Group, this week spread its wings to Brussels to include Sabena, in its fold. SAir, which has held 49 per cent of Sabena's shares since 1995, is planning to raise its stake to 85 per cent.

The deal, which is dependent on the ratification of a series of treaties between Switzerland and the European Union in May, would further strengthen Swissair's coalition with other smaller airlines.

Suspected money laundering and other illegal practices were the focus of the banking watchdog body's annual news conference. The Federal Banking Commission said it closed down 30 financial institutions last year for breaching regulations.

On a different subject, the Commission also expressed concern about the increasingly common practice by the big banks to pay their traders huge bonuses. It said these bonanzas could encourage bankers and traders to take major risks to top up their salaries.

Three of the country's regular public consumers' fairs got underway this week, displaying the latest trends and including a wide range of special shows ranging from the Swiss army to Canada's mounted police, Brazil and Chicago.

The exhibitions in Basel, Berne and Lucerne are hoping to attract several hundred thousand visitors over the next few days. The Basel fair was surrounded by controversy over a SFr5 million promotion campaign by the Swiss army and a poster showing a pregnant woman naked. A militant left-wing group even carried out attacks with explosives against defence ministry targets in Berne earlier in the week in protest at the army's presence in Basel.

In sport, Switzerland's soccer team nearly scored a major upset in a friendly match against once mighty Germany. Five minutes from the end of the match, the Swiss were leading 1-0, but Germany scored a late equaliser because of an apparent mistake by the referee.

On a lighter note, none other than the president, Adolf Ogi, appealed to consumers this week to reach for a glass of milk more often. In a promotion drive for the dairy industry and the country's farmers, Ogi praised milk as the key component of modern nutrition.

by Urs Geiser


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