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The week in Switzerland

Interior shot of Switzerland's House of Representatives during a debate on Europe.

(Keystone)

A parliamentary debate about Europe, the official Swiss Day at the World Exhibition in Germany, a justice scandal in Ticino, and a special birthday story for Switzerland's most famous dog: These are the stories that made the headlines over the past week.

The past week saw parliament holding a major debate about the government's policy towards the European Union. The issue has gained momentum since voters last month approved a series of bilateral accords with Brussels, prompting renewed calls by supporters to press ahead with plans for full EU membership.

The nine-hour debate in the House of Representatives showed little backing for immediate membership talks, but a majority endorsed the government's long-term goal of joining the 15-state body, without setting a date for such talks.

Switzerland was the centre of attention on Friday at the World Exhibition in the German city of Hanover. In his speech, the president, Adolf Ogi, promoted Switzerland as an open-minded and creative country with four different cultures. He said despite staying outside the United Nations, the EU and Nato, Switzerland was an active and reliable partner on the world stage.

The Swiss pavilion in Hanover has won widespread praise for its unique architecture.
It's made of wooden beams stacked on top of one another and aims to offer a hospitable and relaxing environment.

Also this week, the legal system in canton Ticino has been rocked by a scandal. Two high-ranking officials were placed under investigation over suspicions that they gave an Italian criminal some measure of protection. A special magistrate has been appointed. The case is apparently linked to the arrest of the suspected mastermind of an international cigarette smuggling ring.

In Geneva, one of Switzerland's leading thinkers, Jeanne Hersch, died this week at the age of 89. The former university professor was a follower of the German existentialist, Karl Jaspers, and grappled with the nature of freedom.

But Hersch was best known for her controversial conservative views on political issues, including national defence, nuclear energy and drugs. She also worked for the UN in Paris and served as political advisor and delegate.

In sports, the Swiss tennis star, Martina Hingis, suffered another setback. She was knocked out of the French Open after losing her semi-final match to France's Mary Pierce. As a result, So, Paris will remain the only Grand Slam crown to have eluded Hingis.

Ending on a note of success, this week saw Switzerland's most famous dog, Barry being celebrated with a museum exhibition and his legendary sense of smell. The Saint Bernard was born 200 years ago and, according to local folklore, helped rescue dozens of people. He lived at a mountain hospice on the border with Italy, before retiring to Berne. When he died, his remains were stuffed and put on public display.

by Urs Geiser

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