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Toasting New Year with new legislation

Gay and lesbian couples will now be able to tie the knot at a registry office Keystone

Around 600 legal modifications and new federal laws are being introduced on January 1 – twice the number of last year.

This content was published on January 1, 2007 - 19:07

The new changes, some quite controversial, concern asylum, as well as the penal code, and civil, economic and administrative law.

From January 1, money paid out by the state-run pension and invalidity insurance schemes will be increased by 2.8 per cent. But a number of new law changes are expected to be harder on the wallet.

Household insurance for natural disasters is due to go up, and basic health insurance will be much stricter on whether or not it reimburses psychotherapies. Also, smokers will be hit, as a packet of cigarettes is due to rise by 30 centimes ($0.25).

But some of the biggest changes will be made to the Swiss legal system. Under the revised penal code, people sentenced by a Swiss court will in most cases no longer head to jail if their prison term is shorter than two years. Offenders will be given a community service order or face a fine. In the case of driving offences, fines will be income-related and could be steep.

Among other legal changes, the Federal Court will henceforth be merged with the Federal Insurance Court. A certain number of its functions will be transferred to the new Federal Administrative Court, while the Federal Criminal Court will be given new responsibilities.

Regarding asylum-seekers, new measures will allow the authorities to hold people for up to two years – longer than in the past. And ahead of the 2008 European football championships, to be held in Switzerland and Austria, a new law increases the Swiss police's range of control measures, from restrictive bans to police custody.

Tying the knot

As from January 1, gay and lesbian couples will be able to tie the knot at a registry office thanks to a new partnership act. Their civil unions will be granted the same protection and rights as marriages, with the exception of the right to adopt and to have recourse to assisted conception.

Changes in the law should also offer new business opportunities in 2007, thanks to clearer tax regulations, new forms of collective investment and export risk insurance.

But from now on, directors and executive board members of companies listed on the Swiss stock exchange will no longer be able keep their salaries a secret.

The New Year also brings with it a raft of changes concerning agriculture and the army. Anyone now wishing to keep their weapon at home following compulsory military service will have to confirm in writing that they do not suffer from psychological problems.

And Swiss winemakers will now be able to officially use wood chips to flavour their wines. This money-saving measure is designed to speed the ageing process and cut out the need for long and expensive storage in oak barrels.

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Federal laws

The Swiss authorities have created a database of federal laws, which is regularly updated and organised by theme.

It contains legislative acts, decisions and international treaties, inter-cantonal agreements, which have been published on the official collection of federal laws and which are still in effect, as well as cantonal constitutions.

The database should constantly match the state of law, which is continually evolving.

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