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Top Swiss court vetoes cantonal vote on school ‘headgear’ ban


The planned referendum came about after the conservative Swiss People’s Party (SVP) collected over 4,000 signatures for a popular initiative calling for all forms of head covering to be banned in schools in the canton.But in late 2017, the Valais cantonal parliament declared the initiative invalid, arguing it impinged on fundamental rights.Supporters of the initiative then took the matter to the Federal Supreme Court.

The Federal Supreme Court went on to state that while the text of the popular initiative was vague and referred to ‘helmets, hats or shawls’, the campaign was clearly directed at the wearing of veils and headscarves by Muslim school students.The Federal Supreme Court said that the wearing of headscarves indicated a religious conviction and that the Swiss constitution enshrines religious freedom.

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Switzerland’s first ‘solar highway’ a step closer to reality

SEPTEMBER 12, 2018

The Zug-based company has now received the green light from the Swiss Federal Roads Office (Fedro) to run a pilot project on a stretch of the A9 freeway in the sun-drenched canton of Valais.

The plan would see at least 1.6 kilometres of the A9 freeway in the commune of Fully covered in solar panels, according to national broadcaster RTS. A total of 37,000 solar panels would be installed on a metal structure above the freeway. They would produce 19 gigawatt hours a year, enough for the electricity consumption of 20,000 people.

The pilot project is set to cost 50 million Swiss francs ($51 million) with all of that money coming from the private sector. Construction could start as early as autumn 2019. The company has big ambitions for the idea of covered solar freeways, which it says will help Switzerland make a complete break from nuclear energy.

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Swiss consumption of bottled water rises significantly

SEPTEMBER 19, 2018

Before the 1970s, few in Switzerland drank water from anywhere other than kitchen taps or fountains. By 1998, 680 million litres of bottled water a year were consumed. Now the figure is an eye watering 977 million litres, 115 litres per person every year. That is equivalent to nearly 350 small single-use plastic bottles per person per year.

In addition, Switzerland has some of the best drinking water in the world. Some communes get their water from mountain springs, making it better than bottled water — it’s from a similar source but fresher.

So why are sales of bottled water so high? One advertiser, who didn’t want to be named, told Blick that the growth in sales of mineral water is strongly driven by advertising.

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Switzerland fast losing its snow to global warming

SEPTEMBER 21, 2018

Researchers at the University of Geneva (UNIGE) and the United Nations recently unveiled the results of an analysis of 22 years of satellite imagery showing the evolution of snow cover in Switzerland.

Average snow cover from 1995 to 2005

Over the period from 1995 to 2005, the area receiving little or no snow — 0 to 20% chance of snow — made up only 36% of the country. Between 2005 and 2017, the same area covered 44% of Switzerland, a 22% increase. Red shows areas receiving little or no snow in the images above.

Average snow cover from 2005 to 2017

Calculations were made using a new tool called the Swiss Data Cube, the fruit of a project started by Switzerland’s Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN).

The project involved going through 6,500 images from three American satellites launched in the 1970s.

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Swiss reject agriculture schemes in national vote

SEPTEMBER 23, 2018

Voters across Switzerland on Sunday resoundingly rejected initiatives aimed at boosting local farming and promoting more ethical and environmental standards in food production, amid fears of cost hikes and reduced consumer choice.

Voters rejected two schemes linked to agriculture and food security, as well as protection for Swiss farmers against cheap food imports.

The final results showed that 61 and 68 percent of voters respectively rejected the “Fair Food” and “Food Sovereignty” initiatives.

Early polls had suggested strong backing for both initiatives, but support fell after the government, parliament and other opponents argued they could send prices skyrocketing, limit consumer choice and might violate Switzerland’s international trade obligations.

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Bikes coast into Swiss constitution with clear voter support

SEPTEMBER 23, 2018

Almost three-quarters of Swiss voters have approved a proposal to enshrine cycling, and cycling infrastructure, in the country’s constitution.

Four decades after walkers in Switzerland earned the privilege of a constitutional place — voters approved an article on the principles of maintaining footpaths and hiking trails in 1979 — cyclists are now set for equal treatment.

Some 73.6% of voters said “yes” on Sunday to giving federal authorities more responsibility in coordinating and developing cycle paths nationwide. Turnout was 37.1%, below average, according to Federal Chancellery figures.

All 26 cantons voted in favour, with Vaud coming out as most supportive (86.3% said yes), and Obwalden least keen (57.2%). The results surpassed the predictions of opinion polls carried out in the lead-up to the vote.

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Voters approve ‘burka ban’ in St Gallen

SEPTEMBER 23, 2018

Face coverings have been banned in public in canton St Gallen in northeastern Switzerland. Two-thirds of voters agreed with the cantonal parliament and supported the so-called “burka ban”, which had been challenged by parties on the political left.

St Gallen thus becomes the second of Switzerland’s 26 cantons, after Ticino in 2016, to ban the burka. The Federal Council has rejected a vote on the issue at a national level.

Turnout on Sunday was 35.8%, with a total of 73,830 people — out of a canton of some 500,000 — backing the measure.

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