Local officials have decided that this city's expanding legal sex industry needs to be better organized. Zurich municipal authorities have proposed a series of changes to existing prostitution regulations that would allow prostitutes to continue plying their trade, but only in three specific zones — including one equipped with new booths to welcome their clients.
Swiss law entrenched bank secrecy in 1934, making it a criminal offence to reveal a client’s identity. This has created the world’s biggest tax haven: Switzerland’s banks house around $2.1 trillion, or 27%, of offshore wealth, according to the Boston Consulting Group (see chart). Swiss bankers and regulators have long dodged and blunted outsiders’ efforts to erode banking secrecy: out of a principled deference for their respectable and prudent customers’ privacy, they insist; because of the fat fees paid by crooks, tax-dodgers and dictators, say critics.
Swiss National Bank President Thomas Jordan, elected to the post Wednesday after his predecessor resigned amid an uproar over the propriety of his financial affairs, vowed to prevent the Swiss franc from breaking a level set last September to contain its appreciation against the euro zone's battered currency.
Mr. Jordan, interim president since January when Philipp Hildebrand, his predecessor, stepped down over a controversial currency transaction involving his wife, said he would defend the central bank's 1.20 francs-per-euro floor.
If wild swings in the Swiss franc gave you a few extra gray hairs last Thursday, you may want to invest in some hair dye, because those jerky moves are unlikely to be the last we’ll see.
To recap on the pre-Easter madness: the euro sank below the CHF1.20 lower limit against the franc that the Swiss National Bank had set, and vowed to defend at all costs, last September. This breach of the SNB’s so-called floor–the first ever–came as a trickle of franc-buying interest developed quickly into a flood.
Jean-Christophe Schwab, central secretary with the Swiss Federation of Trade Unions, warned recently that 10,000 jobs could be lost due to the overvalued franc.
It is also bad news for foreign tourists, for whom a trip to Switzerland is now even more eye-wateringly expensive than it was. US visitors find that their dollar will now barely buy a packet of chewing gum, while in Geneva, a Starbucks coffee will leave them with little change from $10.
And from cuckoo clocks to cheeses, via watches and chocolate, the emblematic exports of Switzerland are becoming ever less affordable.
Switzerland's nuclear plants currently generate almost 40 percent of the country's energy. Hydropower supplies most of the rest.
Opponents had warned that abandoning nuclear power would require a massive increase in conventional and alternative energy generation, raise electricity costs for consumers, endanger Switzerland's efforts to reduce carbon emissions, and make the country more dependent on foreign suppliers of natural gas.
Switzerland has expanded its border at Italy's expense because of melting glaciers in the high Alps.
The Swiss government on Wednesday approved shifting the border up to 150 meters (164 yards) into Italian territory in some areas.
The country forms a European cultural and linguistic crossroads, with about two-thirds of the population speaking German, around one-fifth French and about 7% Italian. Romansch, the fourth national language, is spoken by less than 1% of the population.
Switzerland, which is not an EU country, has a special agreement that allows Swiss people to benefit from Europe's open borders travel zone.
In return, the Swiss are supposed not to discriminate against immigrants from any EU country, with the exception of time-limited restrictions on Bulgarians and Romanians.
Until last year, Switzerland had a quota of 2,000 residency permits per year for citizens of Eastern and Central European countries, which joined the EU in 2004.
The country is situated at the heart of Europe yet is not a member of the European Union. It didn't join the United Nations until 2002, despite the fact that Geneva has the largest U.N. office outside of New York. It has tough immigration and citizenship laws, but also one of Europe's highest immigration rates. A fifth of its 7.5 million population are foreigners, mostly from Western Europe, but increasingly from Turkey, the Balkans and beyond.