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The Week in Switzerland

An indoor cannabis plantation outside Solothurn.

(Keystone / Edi Engeler)

The legalisation of cannabis, nuclear energy, tax, and health were the issues making the headlines in Switzerland during the past week.

The government this week came out in favour in legalising cannabis. Under the proposal, the consumption of hashish and marijuana would become legal, while their production and sale could be tolerated.

But it is too early to say whether Switzerland will follow the Dutch example. Parliament has still to discuss the issue and it is widely expected that opponents will force a nationwide vote on the proposal.

In another controversial decision, the cabinet decided not to set a deadline for phasing out nuclear energy. It said as long as safety was assured there was no reason to close down Switzerland's five nuclear plants.

The move appears to herald a temporary comeback for nuclear power two years after the energy ministry announced that Switzerland would move away from nuclear power.

The government also approved a package of tax reforms, including the scrapping of the stamp duty on certain kinds of financial transactions, and tax reductions for families and property owners.

The move would lead to a loss in revenue of SFr1.8 billion annually. The main political parties have given a mixed response to the proposals, which will be debated in parliament later this year.

In the capital, Berne, parliament wrapped up its regular autumn session.

During the final week, the House of Representatives held major debates on the perceived rise in right-wing extremism and on the government's commitment to human rights as part of its foreign policy.

The Senate, for its part, approved in principle the opening up of the country's electricity markets. Under the proposal, all industrial consumers and private households would be able to choose their power supplier.

Health premiums are to rise again next year. The interior ministry approved a 5.5 per cent increase on average for the mandatory health insurance. The health insurance companies said the rise was needed to meet soaring medical costs.

Consumers will take little comfort, as premiums have been going steadily over the past few years. Switzerland has one of the most expensive, but also one best health care systems in the world.

by Urs Geiser

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