A world between war and normality
The Alps give a Ukrainian family a brief moment of happiness, Switzerland seeks the solution to its energy problems underground and in Lugano, the Swiss president has set out the ambitious goal of reconstructing Ukraine. Our SWI swissinfo.ch newsletter brings you the latest Swiss perspectives on the war in Ukraine.
“They are not here by choice. They are not tourists, and this is not a holiday for them,” writes our former colleague Gaby Ochsenbein about living with Viktoriia and Polina, two refugees from Ukraine. She has to point this out because her latest column is about the mother and her eleven-year-old daughter, who have found a temporary home with the author, exploring Switzerland: in front of the Matterhorn, at Lake Oeschinen, in the treetops of an adventure park in Bern. These happy images disguise the real situation. The horror of war remains present in the lives of the refugee family.
Many of our other war-related pieces deal with Switzerland’s economic and political concerns. Federico Franchini takes a look at why Swiss companies find it so difficult to turn their backs on Russia. Who is pulling out, who is staying and who has suspended their activities? Balance sheets are trumping moral concerns, research shows. Damage to reputation is weighed against investments made.
Probably the biggest problem facing Switzerland is the looming energy bottleneck. All kinds of solutions are being discussed, from tapping domestic gas reserves to abandoning the nuclear phase-out to geothermal power plants. My colleague Simon Bradley visited a showcase project to harness hot underground water to generate electricity and heat for 1,000 homes and other types of infrastructure. Nearby is the luxurious spa of Lavey-les-Bains, where energy from the ground is used for health and relaxation.
On the political level, Switzerland is claiming a leading role in the war that has now lasted more than 100 days. Swiss President Ignazio Cassis in particular has lofty ambitions and has quickly transformed the Ukraine reform conference planned in the southern city of Lugano for July into one focussed on the reconstruction of the war-torn country.
But there are still a lot of open questions. In his analysis, my colleague Balz Rigendinger focuses on one in particular: namely, whether Switzerland is treading on political territory that the EU Commission has already claimed as its own.
Is neutral Switzerland even the right setting for beginning international negotiations – and is the country still neutral at all? These are ever present discussions at home and abroad. And the debate is plagued by misunderstandings. My colleague Sibilla Bondolfi has condensed the legal foundations of neutrality, its history and the various viewpoints on it into an article that also includes links to our rich archive material. And she has shed legal light on the current debate about Switzerland vetoing German and Danish requests to deliver Swiss-made ammunition and armoured personnel carriers to Ukraine. If you want to know more about Switzerland’s dithering on the issue, and its constant questioning of its self-image, this is a must-read.
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