Switzerland and China – it’s complicated Switzerland’s biggest apartment block – very long and surprisingly functional From guns to paintings – Zurich’s controversial art collection SWISS REVIEW The magazine for the Swiss Abroad April 2022 The publisher of “Swiss Review” is the Organisation of the Swiss Abroad
© Milo Zanecchia 98th Congress of the Swiss Abroad from 19-21 August 2022 in Lugano: Save the date! Our partners: In sunny Ticino, President of the Swiss Confederation Ignazio Cassis and other top-class speakers will talk about the challenges for our democracy. Get involved in the SwissCommunity even before you register and discuss the topic of the congress: https://members.swisscommunity.org.
Swiss Review / April 2022 / No.2 3 Switzerland’s Olympic heroes have most likely put their hard-earned Beijing medals aside by now and are already looking ahead to training for the next winter season. But let us take a quick look back at the Games for a moment. Unusually, not one member of the Swiss government was there in Beijing to congratulate our goldmedal winners. Neither the sportsminister, Viola Amherd, nor the president of the Swiss Confederation, Ignazio Cassis. It’s a bit complicated. The Swiss government had long been pondering whether to send a diplomatic delegation to theOlympics. As youmay remember, several countries including the USA, the UK, Canada, Australia, andNew Zealand had already decided not to send any government representatives to Beijing.What would the Swiss do? Join the diplomatic boycott, because Berne naturally also abhors China’s policy on minorities and human rights? Or travel to China regardless – as a sign of respect towards Switzerland’s third-biggest trading partner? Finally, the Federal Council announced on a cold and foggy January day that it would not be travelling to China. Not out of protest, but because its members were needed at home due to the Covid situation, and because diplomaticmeetings in Beijingwere not possible anyway. This was not themost convincing of excuses. History has shown howdelicate relations between Berne and Beijing can be. Back in 1950, Switzerland became one of the firstWestern nations to start developing ties with the People’s Republic. Yet the association with China has always been complicated – and could get trickier still. As we explain in this edition’s Focus article, Switzerland’s deliberately pragmatic approach to China is under scrutiny. Switzerland’s protestations of neutrality are increasingly untenable, given how forthright on China its neighbours and friends have become. Sooner or later, Berne will also have to nail its colours to the mast. Simply saying that pragmatismand neutrality should not bemistaken for indifference and opportunism is unlikely to work in the long term. Despite all the politicking, it would be remiss of us not to mention some of Switzerland’s most brilliant Winter Olympians. You will find their “goldetched” names at the end of this magazine. MARC LETTAU, EDI TOR- IN-CHIEF Editorial 4 Mailbag 6 Focus Switzerland and China – the story of two uncomfortable bedfellows 10 Images Meret Oppenheim 12 Swiss extremes A visit to Switzerland’s longest residential building 15 Literature How Edmond Fleg captured the beauty of Judaism in words 16 Covid-19 The winter of high case numbers News from your region 17 Politics Swiss electorate to vote on EU border protection 20 Society Organ donation – no longer a question of explicit consent? 22 Culture Zurich and its “plundered” art collection 24 Switzerland in figures 25 SwissCommunity news 27 Notes from the Federal Palace 30 Books / Sounds 31 Top pick / News Contents Olympic dilemma Cover photo: By Max Spring, the “Swiss Review” cartoonist “Swiss Review”, the information magazine for the “Fifth Switzerland”, is published by the Organisation of the Swiss Abroad.
Swiss Review / April 2022 / No.2 4 Mailbag Hydropower has lost its clean image We focus too little on electricity consumption. Electricity wastage should come at a price. Inefficient machines, equipment and lighting should be subject to a penalty tax.We currently waste too much energy, because this energy is easily available and relatively inexpensive. How many electrical appliances does your household have? ANDRE Z IMMERMANN, TOKYO JAPAN Herewe arewith our backs against thewall (not of the dam, but of climate change!), wherewe see that each solution has its grey areas and its disadvantages. We will only be able to reach informed and agreed-upon solutions through dialogue. CL AUDE ROCHAT, CHALON S/S, FRANCE Climate change isn’t just causing a change inwhich season the ‘run-off’ happens. And that glaciers are melting into lakes. Whether or not the supply of water is natural or artificial doesn’tmatter, insofar that the amounts are substantially less... this not only affects the views, the species that are already endangered and others that would become so (like us for lack of water to drink and for agriculture to feed us), but the very futile wish of producing electricity in this manner! MARC PET I TPIERRE, USA It is not only a question of the dams in the mountains. We can usemodern technology relatively discreetly to harness energy anywhere water flows. France recently decided to tap into minor hydropower sources again – flour mills, sawmills, etc. Or take the Aabach as an example – this small river in the canton of Lucerne used to provide energy for an entire industrial area before flowing into Lake Greifen. JEAN THOMAS WEBER, ST. GENGOUX-LE-NAT IONAL, FRANCE In my opinion, it is not possible to tackle climate change without taking personal saving decisions and thinking outside the box for transport. Hydrogen engines can power all vehicles. But we keep thinking all-electric for cars, at the risk of a future shortage of spare batteries. Having lived in Valais for 35 years, I think that dams are essential, but that they have to be better connected to the protection of nature, with a sufficient flow in the rivers. L AMPO MARC, L AMPERTHEIM, FRANCE There is no other way to resolve the issue other than investing in nuclear energy again. This time, we clearly need to focus on getting our research right and recycling the radioactive waste. No one wants wind turbines built everywhere, because they devalue property, kill birds and spoil the landscape. RICH WALTERS, TODTMOOS, GERMANY We need to think more about what is easiest from a technological viewpoint. Water again is the answer – or hydrogen, to be precise. The hydrogen combustion engine is proven to be suited to large-scale facilities in permanent locations, aswell as trucks, trains and ships. The problem with this? The mains water needed for it is simply too cheap, which is not what theworld’s overblown energy sector wants. The powers that be search frantically for expensive, fixed-price sources of alternative energy instead. ARYE- ISAAC OPHIR, ISRAEL How Julius Maggi took kitchens by storm What a fantastic article! I have been the cook in our family since 1970 and I could not possibly exist without Maggi seasoning. Years ago we went through a period here in Brisbane when you couldn’t get Maggi. Talking to a Swiss friend, a chef, he suggested just using soy sauce. It’s just not the same. I was so glad when the famous bottle appeared once again on our supermarket shelves. BI LL BOHLEN, AUSTRAL IA Excellent article, short but very informative. Like others that you regularly publish, it enables us to add a bit of spice and diversity to the topics of conversation that often arise when we reveal our citizenship abroad: banks, riches, (expensive) watches, etc… Thank you! ARNAUD CARASSO, MOSCOW, RUSSIA Truly a success story from a commercial perspective. It is a shame the article didn’t mention that Maggi, flavoursome though it is, does not contain the healthiest of ingredients these days. Nowmore than ever, it is important that consumers are informed of what they are consuming. In my view, the initial scepticism shows that people back then knew that food coming from a bottle andmade in a factory could never be healthy. HEDWIG KRASEVAC, WESTERN AUSTRAL IA I drove my mother crazy when I was young, because I always showeredmy foodwith gallons of Maggi. I still keep a bottle today – and regularly use it. Does that make me a bad cook? BENNY MEIER, WALDGIRMES, GERMANY Your article reminds me of the thick blue cookbook that my grandmother always used. And I had no idea that there was no ‘Maggi-Kraut’ (lovage) in Maggi at all. RUTH PF ISTER, TRURO, CANADA
Swiss Review / April 2022 / No.2 5 “SWISS REVIEW” – THE APP IS JUST THREE CLICKS AWAY! Get “Swiss Review” free as an app! It’s really easy: 1. Open the store on your smartphone or tablet. 2. Enter the search term “Swiss Review”. 3. Tap on install – all done! Switzerland and China – it’s complicated Switzerland’s biggest apartment block – very long and surprisingly functional From guns to paintings – Zurich’s controversial art collection SWISS REVIEW The magazine for the Swiss Abroad April 2022 The publisher of “Swiss Review” is the Organisation of the Swiss Abroad © www.pexels.com Consular services anywhere, conveniently on your mobile devices www.fdfa.admin.ch Vienna (2022) www.examprep.ch +41 44 720 06 67 // // email@example.com Study in Switzerland? Even without a Swiss Matura! Preparation courses for the entrance examination ETH ECUS Passerelle Gymi // // // // University of Zurich I don't think that I ever made a salad, a soup or a stewwithout Maggi. I have always carried Maggi with me on my travels, if it was through the wet tropical rainforests of Papua New Guinea or the bush here in Australia. Maggi is still being sold in big bottles in many Asian grocery stores. BEAT ODERMATT, ADEL AIDE, AUSTRAL IA A very interesting article and a great story about industry. It is often remarkable to note that concepts like marketing, influencers and a number of the others mentioned already existed. What changed is that in between, marketing has been conceptualised and is now almost a science. Thank you for this effort. FRANCOIS MONTANDON, ORVAULT, FRANCE We need to thank JuliusMaggi for the contribution hemade to eating habits around the world. A remarkable story. ÖNDER ERDOGAN, ÇORUM, TURKEY My children and grandchildren loveMaggi too. I keep a large bottle in the kitchen cupboard, so that I can continue replenishing my smaller bottle. HULDA SHURTLEFF-NYDEGGER, HOWELL MI , USA In the shadow of the Gotthard tunnel Without doubt, that was one of the best articles that I have read to date. Many thanks! THOMAS L AUPER, BAGUIO, PHI L IPPINES After the breakthrough of the railway tunnel, one of the Italian construction workers decided to go all the way to the German-speaking side. He ended up in theMuota Valley, where he eventually gotmarried and created an extra branch on our family tree. It is thanks to him and the tunnel that I am alive. PETER OCHSNER, NAIROBI , KENYA IMPRINT: “Swiss Review”, the magazine for the Swiss Abroad, is in its 48th year of publication and is published in German, French, English and Spanish in 14 regional editions. It has a total circulation of 431,000, including 253,000 electronic copies. Regional news appears four times a year. The ordering parties are fully responsible for the content of advertisements and promotional inserts. This content does not necessarily represent the opinion of either the editorial office or the publisher. EDITORS: Marc Lettau (MUL), Editor-in-Chief; Stéphane Herzog (SH); Theodora Peter (TP); Susanne Wenger (SWE); Consular Directorate, Innovation and Partnerships, responsible for the “Notes from the Federal Palace” section. EDITORIAL ASSISTANT: Sandra Krebs TRANSLATION: SwissGlobal Language Services AG; LAYOUT: Joseph Haas, Zürich; PRINT: Vogt-Schild Druck AG, 4552 Derendingen POSTAL ADDRESS: Publisher, editorial office, advertising: Organisation of the Swiss Abroad, Alpenstrasse 26, 3006 Berne, Tel.: +41313566110. Account: IBAN CH97 0079 0016 1294 4609 8 / KBBECH22 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org COPY DEADLINE for this edition: 9 February 2022 All Swiss Abroad who are registered with a Swiss representation receive the magazine free of charge. Anyone else can subscribe to the magazine for an annual fee (Switzerland: CHF 30 / abroad: CHF 50). Subscribers are sent the magazine direct from Berne. www.revue.ch CHANGES TO DELIVERY: Please advise your local embassy or consulate. The editorial team cannot access your address and administrative data.
Swiss Review / April 2022 / No.2 6 Focus EVEL INE RUTZ The response fromChinawas immediate. Switzerland should keep out of our internal affairs, said the Chinese ambassador in Berne, Wang Shiting, in March 2021, referring to what he called “groundless accusations” and “fake news”. This was a fewdays after ForeignMinister Ignazio Cassis had presented the Federal Council’s future strategy onChina, a pitch that also saw him addressing Beijing’s human rights record and treatment of minorities. In unusually stark language, Cassis had criticised the Chinese regime’s “increasingly authoritarian tendencies”. Some in Switzerland were in ideological confrontation mode, Wang retorted. “This is not conducive to Swiss-Chinese relations.” Early rapprochement Swiss-Chinese relations have a long tradition. They are multi-faceted and complicated. In 1950, Switzerland became one of the first Western nations to recognise the Maoist people’s republic. It hasmaintained broad-based bilateral relations with Beijing since the 1980s. For some 30 years, Berne has also been supporting projects that promote expertise and technology sharing. Current projects include development work to helpChina combat climate change. Since 1991, Switzerland and China have also been conducting a human rights dialogue that involves the two countries’ foreign ministers engaging in an annual round of talks on the human rights situation in China. However, these talks stalled in 2019 after Berne co-signed a letter at the United Nations objecting toChina’s treatment of the Uyghurs in Xinjiang. One of Switzerland’s most important trading partners Economic ties have always been particularly important to the Swiss-Chinese dynamic. Lift and escalator manufacturer Schindler played a pioneering role in this regard. In 1980, the Lucerne-based company became the first Western enterprise to conclude an industrial joint venture in China. Schindler now has six sites in the country, where it is profiting from the Chinese urban construction boom and has a hand in numerous prestigious building projects. China is currently Switzerland’s thirdmost important trading partner after Germany and the USA. Switzerland was the first country inmainland Europe to sign a free trade agreement with the Asian giant. The deal, which came into force in 2014, gives Switzerland a number of competitive advantages. Switzerland and China – a mutually beneficial but uneasy relationship Swiss-Chinese bilateral relations date back to 1950. But dealings between our small democracy and the communist superpower are a little complicated – and are likely to become even trickier, with Switzerland under increasing pressure to nail its colours to the mast as geopolitical divisions widen. For example, Swiss companies enjoy improved access to the Chinese market and are able to export duty-free and at reduced tariffs. Appealing for China Both sides are proud of the pioneering nature of their bilateral relations. The Swiss government believes its role is to build bridges with China. It prefers to engage in “constructive, critical dialogue” and is reluctant to voice criticism or broach the prospect of sanctions. Berne wants to effect change by workingwith, not against, China. The various ties between Switzerland and China are politically appealing for the Beijing government, which regards neutral Switzerland as a link – and gateway – to Europe. Both countries regularly interact at the highest political level. Even so,
Swiss Review / April 2022 / No.2 7 there have been hiccups in the past. Many Swiss will remember Jiang Zemin’s state visit in 1999. The president of China struggled to contain his anger at the sight and sound of Tibetan sympathisers in the centre of Berne exercising their democratic right to protest, as regularly happens in Switzerland. Keeping the Swiss government waiting, a visibly angered Jiang then cut the official reception short. His host, the then Swiss President Ruth Dreifuss, later continued on the theme of human rights, infuriating Jiang further. “You have lost a friend,” he said. Beijing’s long reach Yet friction is not only confined to the political stage. Chinese corporate and property acquisitions, not tomention Chinese investment in Swiss football, are a source of unease in Switzerland. Perhaps more than any other state apparatus, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) tries to control how the world perceives it. In Switzerland, too, the CCP puts systematic and significant effort into monitoring the conversation onChina among expatriates, at educational establishments, in economic circles and even in cultural life. CCP representatives also attend public events. Notably, they caused a stir at a University of Zurich function by taking photographs after participants began asking questions considered inappropriate by the CCP. The Chinese embassy in Berne intervened when students at the Zurich University of the Artsmade a filmabout the protests in Hong Kong. In 2021, the case of a PhD student at the University of St Gallen (HSG) alsomade headlines. The student had used Twitter to criticise Inadvertently symbolic – Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang ‘meets’ Federal Councillor and economics minister Johann Schneider-Ammann in Beijing (2013). Photo: Keystone the Chinese government, after which his professor wanted nothing more to do with him. Following his stay at a Chinese university, the young man tried in vain to re-enrol at St Gallen. The dispute ended with the student having to get a job that had nothing to do with the three years that he had spent onhis doctorate. TheHSG, which nurtures ties with universities in China through exchange programmes as well as training and research projects, has since announced its intention to address perils such as uncontrolled knowledge sharing and self-censorship. Self-censorship in the field of research Ralph Weber, a professor at the Institute for EuropeanGlobal Studies at the University of Basel, puts these incidents into awider context. He believes there is a structural problemaffecting many universities in Europe. “Self-censorship becomes an issue for any academicwho comes into contact with an authoritarian regime,” he says, adding that China is putting increasing pressure not only on educational establishments, but on companies and policymakers too.Weber, a political scientist, has studied how the Chinese government exerts influence in Switzerland. “The Chinese one-party state is carrying out a systematic campaign,” and has an obscure network of groups and organisations embedded in this country, he says. “This is how Beijing is try-
Swiss Review / April 2022 / No.2 8 Focus wing parties and organisationswithin civil society refuse to cooperate with a regime that “suppresses minorities”, as the federal government has officially put it. For years, they have decried Beijing’s treatment of dissidents, Tibetans, Uyghurs, and the inhabitants of Hong Kong. Condemnation and calls for a tougher response have grown louder of late, with relatedmotions proliferating in parliament. In autumn, national politicians debated whether to add a chapter on human and social rights to the free trade agreement. “Unfortunately, hopes that economic liberationwould also lead to advances in democracy and human rights have been in vain,” said Lucerne National Councillor Roland Fischer (Green Liberals). He aring to get its message through to us.” Anybody who does business in China will encounter the Communist Party. The question of how accommodating one should be to the CCP sparked debate last year when big bank Credit Suisse terminated an account held by the dissident artist Ai Weiwei. Credit Suisse citedmissing paperwork as the reason. However, critics say it was more to dowithCredit Suissewanting to avoid antagonising the Chinese authorities because the bank wants to strengthen its position in the Asian market. Vain hopes Bilateral relations with China have always been fraught with dilemma. Leftgues that the long-standing human rights dialogue has had little effect. In reply, Federal Councillor Guy Parmelin said the clamour for binding clauses was counterproductive. “We would reach an impasse,” he warned, “And we would shut the door on conversations with China on all of these important issues.” Pragmatic – or opportunistic? In its new strategy, the Federal Council says Switzerland wishes to build bridges, exploit opportunities and address problems openly. The federal government wants to apply a cogent framework to Switzerland’s diverse ties with China, continuing with its tailored approach to China while emphasising Swiss neutrality. At the same time, it is committed to “integrating China into the liberal international order and involving it in efforts to resolve global challenges”. Sounds simple. “But the wording is ambiguous,” saysWeber. It is unclear how the government wishes to go about implementing its strategy. Then again, this dilemma has dogged Switzerland for decades, “ever since it decided, for perfectly valid reasons, to do business with an authoritarian regime but remain true to its values”. Switzerland’s policy onChina is pragmatic – but you can also call it opportunistic, he adds. Swiss strategy under pressure It is indeed becoming increasingly difficult for Switzerland to justify its neutral stance. China’s bid for global influence has put the world on guard. The USA sharpened its rhetoric significantly under Donald Trump, initiating a trade war. Joe Biden has toned down the language, but he is just as unequivocal. In November 2021, he The Swiss President Ruth Dreifuss greets her Chinese counterpart Jiang Zemin at Geneva Airport in 1999. Everything was going well. Then the visit quickly turned sour, with Jiang accusing Dreifuss of “being unable to control her people” – the protesters outside. The Swiss president stood her ground and brought up China’s human rights situation. Photos: Keystone, 1999
Swiss Review / April 2022 / No.2 9 warned Chinese President Xi Jinping against choosing the path of confrontation. During a virtual summit with his counterpart, the US president said that economic competition should not “veer into conflict” and that all countries must abide by the same rules. Last year, the EU imposed sanctions against Chinese officials in protest at what it called the “arbitrary detention” of Uyghurs in Xinjiang. Beijing hit back immediately with its own sanctions against MEPs and European scientists. The regime also resorted to countermeasures amid criticismof its Covid strategy – restricting trade with Australia, for example, after the Canberra government had supported calls to investigate the origins of Covid-19. “China has polarised global opinion since the pandemic began,” noted the Swiss intelligence service, the FIS, in its 2020 situation report, adding thatChina’s international image had suffered. In this report, the FIS outlined the risk posed by cyberattacks and Chinese espionage. The latter was a “significant threat to Switzerland”, it warned. In other words, neutrality is reaching the limits of its effectiveness as far as China is concerned. Discussions over a diplomatic boycott Switzerland’s policy on China made news again before the Winter Olympics, when the USA, Canada, the UK, andAustralia announced a diplomatic boycott, with a handful of European nations following suit. It was impossible to cheer on the athletes without thinking about the situation on the ground inChina, lamented the Zurich National Councillor Fabian Molina (SP). “It is not the right time to be celebrating a country in which crimes against humanity are currently being committed,” he said. Instead, the federal government had to send out a strong message and refrain from dispatching an official delegation to Beijing. ChristophWiedmer, co-director of the Society for Threatened Peoples, also expressed support for a boycott, saying that firmness was needed to make any headway. “The extent of China’s human rights violations in Tibet and Xinjiang is shocking. Beijing will not stop suppressing minorities unless it faces considerable international pressure – as we learned when In 1980, Lucerne- based lift manufacturer Schindler became the first Western company to agree an industrial joint venture in China. It is now profiting from the Chinese urban construction boom. Photo: iStock Swiss journalist and photographer Walter Bosshard did his bit for Chinese rapprochement with the West. The photos that he took between 1930 and 1939 are today considered part of China’s visual heritage. Bosshard met Mao Zedong in 1938. Photo: Keystone it hosted the Summer Olympics in 2008.” The Federal Council reacted hesitantly to these demands, before eventually stating that it would be “appropriate” for a government representative to attend the opening ceremony in Beijing. However, it gave itself leeway by referring to the pandemic. “The visit will not go ahead if the Covid situation in Switzerland requires all the Federal Councillors to be in Switzerland,” said the Federal Council spokesman. At the end of January, the government decided to stay away from the opening ceremony after all.
Swiss Review / April 2022 / No.2 10 Images Since 1983,Waisenhausplatz (Orphanage Square), just around the corner from the Berne Museum of Fine Arts 200 metres away, has been home to “The Spiral Column” – a fountain that artistMeret Oppenheim (1913–85) created two years before her death. Water drips down the tower-like structure, now covered at the top in plants, mosses and lichens. Icicles formwhen the water freezes. Initial reaction to the artist’s work was also chilly. Locals called it the “column of shame”, or even the “urinal”. The fountain was certainly a talking point. It also showed how little the world-renownedMeret Oppenheimcared about Sipping from a furry teacup what other people thought of her work. Almost 40 years later, the BerneMuseumof Fine Arts has been hosting a retrospective of this incredible womanwho lived in the Swiss capital for so long. Entitled “My Exhibition”, the show provides a wide-ranging appreciation of Oppenheim’s immeasurable body of work. Oppenheim used almost every material in the book. It was her 1936 furry teacup (“Object”) that won plaudits from the outset. Oppenheimthought this iconicwork was just quite strange, whereas the art world fell over itself to imbue the teacup with meaning. Meret Oppenheim was labelled a surrealist. However, visitors to “My Exhibition” will disMy Nurse, 1936/1967 Metal platter, shoes, string, and paper; 14 x 33 x 21 cm Moderna Museet, Stockholm Photo: Albin Dahlström; 2021,©ProLitteris, Zurich
Swiss Review / April 2022 / No.2 11 Tour of “My Exhibition” by television presenter Ueli Schmetzer (in Swiss German): revue.link/oppenheim After its Berne residency, “My Exhibition” will be housed at The Menil Connection in Houston, USA (25 March to 18 September 2022) before moving to the Museum of Modern Art in New York (30 October 2022 to 4 March 2023). This work was missing from the exhibition in Berne: Meret Oppenheim, “Object”, Paris, 1936. MoMA Artists Rights Society, New York / Pro Litteris, Zurich Squirrel, 1960/1969 Beer glass, plastic foam and fur; 21.5 x 13 x 7.5 cm Kunstmuseum Bern Photo: Peter Lauri, Berne; ©2021, ProLitteris, Zurich Spring Day, 1961 Oil on plastic material and wood with wire basket, 50 x 34 cm Private collection ©2021, ProLitteris, Zurich Six Clouds on a Bridge, 1975 Bronze; 46,8 x 61 x 15,5 cm Kunstmuseum Bern, Meret Oppenheim Bequest Photo: Peter Lauri, Berne, ©2021, ProLitteris, Zurich cover a fascinating array of original works by an artist who refused to be pigeonholed – and who suffered from artist’s block for years but never lost her self-deprecating style. One of her works, “MyNurse”, shows a pair of women’s high-heeled shoes trussed together like a chicken and “served” sole side up on a silver platter. “Freedom is not given to you – you have to take it,” Oppenheimonce said. She never veered from this ethos. Her furry teacup was missing from the exhibition in Berne – she probably would have been relieved to hear. JÜRG STEINER
Swiss Review / April 2022 / No.2 view was magnificent and the flat was completely unoverlooked. It was strange, but we didn’t feel like we were stuck inside a housing project,” says this former accountant, originally from Porrentruy. Time passed, the children moved out and now Michèle and her husband are preparing to move into a house under socio-medical supervision. But they won’t be going far from Le Lignon. Genevan developer and architect, Georges Addor (1920-1982), head of this project which was originally inSTEPHANE HERZOG It was the year 1974. Michèle Finger remembers her arrival in Lignon, in the canton of Geneva. She was in the carwith themanwhowas to become her husband. The urban development stretched out before her: one kilometre in length, 2,780homes and 84 streets. “It was unimaginable, immense. I just couldn’t imagine a building so big,” she recalls. Once inside, Michèle felt reassured. “My partner was living in a four-room flat. It was well laid out and full of light. The tended to house up to 10,000 people, would have been delighted to hear Michèle’s words. “People’s happiness. This is the main concern for an architect building a complex of this size,” he stated in 1966 before RTS (TV channel in western Switzerland) cameras. “Once a person has understood that theywill have four neighbours around them, 15 floors above or below won’t change a thing,” explains Addor, scion of the canton’s real estate elite. “He was a left-winger in a Maserati,” says the architect Jean-Paul Jaccaud, when Switzerland’s biggest building wears its 60 years well Le Lignon’s central building measures over 1 km. It is the largest rental complex in Switzerland. There is a real quality of life in this neighbourhood of 6,500 inhabitants, but there are also certain tensions between older residents, newcomers and young adults. Higher, further, faster, more beautiful? In search of the somewhat different Swiss records. This edition: Switzerland’s biggest – and longest – residential building. 12 Report e tremes Swiss
Swiss Review / April 2022 / No.2 Such an immense building – even under a misty shroud. Photo: Stéphane Herzog The residential complex stretches out like a snake. Photo: Ben Zurbriggen describing Addor. His office took part in the energy refurbishment of 1,200 apartments in Le Lignon, a project which was awarded a prize at the end of 2021 by the German-language magazine “Hochparterre” and the Zurich museum for design. The work was spread over ten years and cost 100million Swiss francs. Quick and functional construction Everything about the story of Le Lignon is impressive. To start with, the project was set up in record time.We are 5 km from the centre of Vernier. There was space to build in the area designated by the canton for development without creating an urban sprawl. During the first stage, between 1963 and 1967, 1,846 apartments were completed. “Today, such speed would be unthinkable, just like the design of a project like this, in fact,” observes Jaccaud. The creationwasmodern and functional. The canton and the municipality of Vernier aimed for social diversity. The great snake of Le Lignon, with its streets sloping gently towards the Rhône, offers identically designed apartments, whether for social housing or private ownership. All of the properties offer front and rear views. The prices vary depending on size and floor. As an example, JeanPaul Jaccaud mentions a six-room apartment costing 2,800 francs per month. “…like a street from the Middle Ages” We enter the neighbourhood by passing under an archway. The inner side of the serpent is silent. We walk on, sheltered from the traffic. The carparks are hidden below great lawns. Designed by landscape architect Walter Brugger, the public area is dotted with fountains and squares. The ground floors are open to view. A great stairway in white stone provides a gently sloping pathdown to theRhône, “like a street from the Middle Ages”, says Jean-Paul Jaccaud. Georges Addor built upwards and in a line in order to make the most of the 280,000 square metres of land available for the whole project, with an identical area of habitable floor space at the end. The central building is not just long, but also very high, reaching 50metres at some points. Until the 1990s, the higher of Le Lignon’s two towerswas the biggest in Switzerland. “There aren’t a lot of buildings like this which have aged so well,” comments Jaccaud. Light, peace and quiet, and public services On the tenth floor of the smaller of Le Lignon’s two towers, which are the complex’s prime locations, we visit an apartment which has just been renovated. Thework enabled a 40 percent improvement in energy performance. The initial design was not bad, notes the Genevan architect. Having a lengthy building effectively limits the number of walls to insulate. On this Januarymorning, the sunlight floods the rooms. The view is magnificent, with the Rhône river on one side and the Jura on the other. Another of Addor’s tricks: the two towers in question were built up from the lowest point in the land, “to avoid them becoming too prominent”, explains Jaccaud. Everyone agrees that Le Lignon is a town set in the countryside. It also allows its inhabitants autonomy. At the heart of Le Lignon is a shopping centre on one floor. There is everything there that you could need: a Teenagers and graffiti – part of the Le Lignon tapestry. Photo: Stéphane Herzog
Swiss Review / April 2022 / No.2 tea-room, a restaurant, a bar, a cobbler, a hairdresser, a post office, a butcher and a clinic. There is also a protestant parish building, a catholic church, a multi-sports ground, a games library, a space for teenagers and two school groups. Every Saturday, former pastor Michel Monod, who has lived here since 1973, stands between theMigros andCoop supermarkets to greet the passers-by. “Technically, it is a perfect complex,” he says, before lamenting the lack of connectivity between the inhabitants, in this urban project which is home to 100 different nationalities. “It is the reign of mass individualism,” he believes. Young adults in need of a sense of “home” Monod co-manages the Le Lignon neighbourhood contract, which aims to help people to achieve community projects. Every day, he goes to a canopy located below the Le Lignon performance hall. From there, away fromprying eyes, young adults from the neighbourhood meet up, and sometimes warm themselves around the fire of an improvised fire bowl. Michèle Finger knows the spot. This group of young people, who smoke and drink beer, listening to rap music, give her a feeling of insecurity, in a complex she finds increasingly unfamiliar. Of course, the Fingers’ rent is low, at only 1,200 francs for a 5-room flat, with expenses and parking included. But this resident, who is involved in several of the neighbourhood associations, complains of the rubbish that piles up at the collection points, spit found in the lifts and the fact that young people congregate at the ends of the streets. “I don’t know the peoplewho have recently begun renting in my building. People don’t even bother to read the neighbourhood paper anymore,” she says, highlighting the lack of interest amongst Le Lignon’s “new outsiders”. A social worker in Le Lignon since 2012, 39-year-old Miguel Sanchez is familiar with this discourse and understands the discomfort. “With its low rental prices, Le Lignon offers a solution for people from migrant backgrounds. This ethnic and social diversity, in a generallymore strained economic context, maybe makes networking more complicated than in the past,” he comments. “But Le Lignon is not a “bedroom community” like you find in France. It iswell equipped and well maintained. In fact, young people are proud to live here. Michèle Finger’s apartment at Le Lignon – where she has been living for decades (top left). Foto Jean-Jacques Finger Former priest Michel Monod is at the complex every Saturday, helping and chatting to teenagers (centre). Foto Stéphane Herzog Imposing but mostly traffic-free – the residential parking spaces are underground (top right). Photo Stéphane Herzog There have never been any big problems in terms of safety or crime. It’s more a question of incivilities,” explains the socio-cultural counsellor. In fact, Michel Monod attributes qualities to the young people around the fire bowl that seemto bemissing amongst other residents of Le Lignon: “they are extremely loyal in their friendships. People tell me ‘lock them up’; I tell them: they’re your children.” He, too, found the neighbourhood to be out of all proportionwhen he first arrived. “I said to myself: it’s not possible to live as if we were in a termite mound, and I made it my mission to unite the people.” But he, too, loves Le Lignon.
Swiss Review / April 2022 / No.2 15 Literature perpetual suffering and persecution of the Jews. Peeling back the austere, cultish teachings of a curious rabbi called Lobmann, he is overcome by a prophetic vision and a messianic longing for human happiness. Tragedy Fleg predicted the Holocaust when an openly anti-Semitic regime rose to power inGermany, the country inwhich he had studied. By 1939, this terrible hunchwas all too real. He then lost both his sons in quick succession during the fall of France to Germany. Daniel, the younger, drowned himself in the Seine because he had not been recruited to fight the Nazis. Maurice, the older, fell in battle against the German enemy. And as if that were not enough, he also lost his only grandson on 6 April 1940 after medics left him with the dreadful dilemma of decidingwhether his daughter-in -law or her child should live. Yet Fleg never lost hope. Fromhis refuge in Provence after the Nazi occupation of France, he continued assimilating young Jews back to Judaism. When he died on 15 October 1963, hewas considered to have played a key role in the rapprochement between Christians and Jews. However, eight years after his death, anti-Semitism caught up with himwhen his entire literary estate, which was about to be sent to Israel and included all his original documents as well as letters from Proust, Mauriac, Camus and others, was stolen fromtheQuai aux Fleurs apartment by unknown thieves and almost certainly stashed away or destroyed. It has not been found since. BIBL IOGRAPHY: Giò Waeckerlin-Induni’s German translation of “The Boy Prophet”, which includes a biographical afterword by Charles Linsmayer, is available from Verlag Th. Gut, Zurich (volume 21 of the “Reprinted by Huber” series). The French version is available from Gallimard, Paris, as part of the “Collection Blanche”. CHARLES L INSMAYER IS A L I TERARY SCHOL AR AND JOURNAL IST BASED IN ZÜRICH CHARLES L INSMAYER “This work will be everlasting,” said Charles Péguy. It was October 1913, and Péguy had just delivered a freshly printed copy of the latest “Cahiers de la Quinzaine” to author Edmond Fleg’s apartment at Quai-aux-Fleurs 1 on Paris’s Île de la Cité. The journal contained the first part of Fleg’s “Hear, O Israel” – a poetry cycle named after the Shema, the central prayer in the Jewish prayer book taken from three speeches that Moses delivered to the Israelites: “Hear, O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is one”. Fleg, born in 1874, the son of a Genevan merchant, devoted himself to depicting the beauty and greatness of Judaismfromits beginnings 4,000 years ago. Suchwas the intent of this vast epic, which eventually totalled 700 pages andwas not completed until 1948. He did so after a phase inwhich he had distanced himself from his Jewish origins – shaken by the anti-Semitism surrounding the Dreyfus Affair. Fleg, who lived in Paris withwifeMadeleine Bernheim and his two sons, volunteered for the Foreign Legion in the First World War and enjoyed success as a dramatist, before publishing a series of idiosyncratic religious biographies from 1928 onwards. Subjects includedMoses, Solomon and even Jesus. However, his most lasting achievement was not “Hear, O Israel” but the 1926 novel “The Boy Prophet” – an admirably humorous work that helped to reconcile thousands of young Jews with their religion. What it means to be Jewish “To be a Christian, you must believe that Jesus is the host andGod. But what do you have to believe in to be Jewish?” Claude Lévy, the novel’s central character, is unable to answer this question. Out of sympathy, he turns to girlfriend Mariette’s Catholic faith. “After all, it was terriblewhat the Jews did to Jesus!” But then he learns of the Amessianic longing for human happiness Genevan Edmond Fleg extolled the greatness and beauty of Judaism during the century in which Jews faced their greatest peril. He did so most convincingly in a piece of youth literature. “Why does God want Israel to be a nation of priests? So that the world changes. So that the world at present becomes the world as it will be when the advent of the Messiah brings peace and justice to the earth. This messianic longing is now the longing of all humankind.” (Edmond Fleg at the closing meeting of the 1958 World Jewish Congress in Geneva)
Swiss Review / April 2022 / No.2 16 40 per cent of the Swiss population having caught coronavirus during the height of the Omicron spike alone. Hence, unlike one or two neighbouring countries, Switzerland came through the secondCovidwinterwithout another lockdown ormaking vaccinationsmandatory, despite a relatively low vaccination rate. The Federal Council had “made a bet and won”, said the president of the Swiss Confederation, Ignazio Cassis. But it had failed to hedge the bet, say critics. Experts warn that 20 per cent of the many infected could suffer long-termsymptoms. The Swisswelfare system is already feeling the strain. Last year alone, the national disability insurance scheme recorded 1,700 new claimantssuffering from long Covid. (SWE) Corona The division of powers in the Swiss political system has often turned the fight against Covid-19 into an exasperatingly slow affair. However, direct democracy showed again that it can act as amuch-needed outlet in times of crisis. The referendum on the Covid-19 Act at the end of November saw the electorate endorsing the government’s coronavirus policy. A clear majority voted in favour of the Covid vaccine passport requirement – themost controversial of themeasures introduced to combat the pandemic. It was a second, decisive defeat for opponents of the government’s Covid policy, who had forced another referendum on the matter and held noisy protests on the streets. The pandemic continues to sow discord, but at least the vote helped to defuse some of the tension. It also handed the Federal Council an anti-Covid mandate the like of which few other national governments have been given. However, Berne knows that this is no licence to do as it chooses. Its approach has been quite restrained since the time of the lockdowns. Switzerland has, in the words of Genevan epidemiologist Marcel Salathé, constantly “sailed close to the wind” throughout the pandemic. The country paid a heavy price for its strategy during the second wave in the autumn and winter of 2020–21, when excess mortality soared. Early end to the restrictions One year later, the screw was initially tightened again before Christmas. Only thosewho could prove they had been vaccinated or had recovered from Covid were allowed entry to restaurants, cinemas, gyms, etc. This was because intensive care unit occupancy had again exceeded the critical threshold. The Delta variant was mainly causing the unvaccinated to fall seriously ill. Hospitals had to postpone operations in order to focus on caring for these patients – and had hurriedly put in place new contingency plans to resort to triage and make deeply uncomfortable life-ordeath decisions onwhomto treat. Meanwhile, the relatively unknown Omicron variant was starting to spread. Yet despite the uncertain situation, the Federal Council decided against imposing stricter measures discussed in advance with the cantons. These would have included restaurant closures. The government held its course – even Switzerland, the second Covid winter, and the Omicron wave Despite voter approval of the Covid-19 Act as well as a record number of Covid cases, the Swiss government refrained from drastic measures in the Covid winter of 2021–22. The impact was less severe than in the previous winter. as theOmicronwave in January rose as steeply as the Swiss National Covid-19 Science Task Force had forecast. And as soon as Switzerland had passed the peak (albeit with continued high levels of virus circulation), the Federal Council lifted all restrictions except for the requirement towear masks on public transport and in healthcare institutions. Contrary to fears, hospitals were not overwhelmed. This was thanks to a higher level of immunity among the population due to vaccination and prior infection – with 30 to Although coronavirus restrictions were still in place, mask wearers were in the minority when the World Cup ski circus visited Adelboden this year for the men’s slalom races. Photo: Keystone, 9 January 2022
Swiss Review / April 2022 / No.2 17 Politics THEODORA PETER “When I think of Frontex, I mainly think of violence,” says Malek Ossi. The 28-year-old Syrian, who fled to Switzerland via Turkey six years ago, is a member of the Migrant Solidarity Network, which has forced a referendum opposing an increase in Switzerland’s contribution to the budget of Frontex, the European Border and Coast GuardAgency. Ossi spoke to the onlinemagazine “Republik” about the odyssey that brought him to Switzerland via the Balkan route. “I know what it means when the Turkish military are behind you and the Greek police are waiting for you up ahead.” He hid in the forest for aweekwith dozens of other refugees before attempting to cross the Evros river border, which was being guarded by the Greek and Frontex police at the time. Ossi eventually managed to get into Europe, but many others failed to reach the EU border. Refugees repeatedly complain of being driven back by border guards. For example, there are documented cases of Greek coastguards in the Aegean pushing migrants in dinghies back into Turkish waters. These so-called pushbacks violate the European Convention on Human Rights and the Geneva Refugee Convention, which states that refugees must be allowed to file an asylum application and have the right to due process. In other words, anyone seeking asylum should at least be able to do just that. Asylumand human rights organisations accuse Frontex of tolerating or even being involved in illegal pushbacks by police forces. A European Parliament committee has now called for greater monitoring and transparency. Schengen obligation Last autumn, the federal parliament also addressed Frontex’s role along the EU’s external borders. As amember of Schengen, Switzerland has been making financial contributions to Frontex since 2011. As such, it has a responsibility to help fund the EU border agency’s budget increase. The expansion of Frontex will involve building up a standing corps of 10,000 operational staff by 2027. Switzerland has been paying 14 million Swiss francs a year until now. Parlia- “Fortress Europe” under scrutiny Parliament has made the contentious decision to increase Switzerland’s monetary contribution to Frontex, the European Union agency that secures the EU’s external borders. The electorate will give its verdict on 15 May. A no vote could lead to further tension with Brussels. Frontex, shown here patrolling the Greek-Turkish border, wants to build up a standing corps of 10,000 operational staff. Photo: Keystone
Swiss Review / April 2022 / No.2 18 Politics No to a ban on animal testing: An emphatic 79 per cent of the electorate rejected a popular initiative submitted by a citizens’ group calling for a radical change in current pharmaceutical testing practices. Not one single canton voted yes. Review of the 13 February votes Yes to restricting tobacco advertising: Children and young people are to be protected from all forms of tobacco advertising, after 57 per cent of voters and the majority of cantons approved an initiative submitted by health organisations. 70.4% ment has decided to increase this annual contribution to 61 million francs by 2027. The SP and the Greens were against the idea, arguing that Frontex wanted to establish a “bona fide army” to seal off “Fortress Europe”. However, the National Council and the Council of States both backed a stronger commitment to protecting the external borders of the Schengen Area – the consensus was that it benefits Switzerland. That the Mediterranean had become a mass grave was a “European scandal”, said the Green Liberal National Councillor Beat Flach. But this was not the fault of Frontex, he added. They were the solution, not the problem. Responding to sceptics, Federal Councillor Ueli Maurer suggested that Switzerland would be better placed to help safeguard fundamental rights if it “played a role on the frontline”. His EU-sceptic SVP is split, however. Some party memberswelcome tighter controls on the external Schengen borders as a bulwark against “economic migrants”. Others would prefer the extra millions to be invested in protecting Switzerland’s borders. Against the “militarisation of borders” This issuewill nowbe decided by popular vote, after an alliance of some 30 organisations forced a referendum. The activists comprising the Migrant Solidarity Network are fundamentally opposed to the EUborder regime, saying it “symbolises the militarisation of borders”. Amnesty International does not belong to the alliance. Instead, the human rights organisation favours strengthening the verypowerswithin the EU that would oblige Frontex to “focus on protecting refugees instead of threatening them further”. Resistance to migrants on the EU border mainly comes from the Eastern European member states. The vote on 15 May will not decide whether Switzerland contributes to EU border protection per se, but it could have implications in terms of Switzerland’s place in the Schengen Area, says Fabio Wasserfallen, who is a political scientist at the University of Berne. “You are either in or out when it comes to Schengen – with all the consequences that go with it.” Switzerland need not fear immediate expulsion if the electorate votes no, “but pressure to find a quick solution would be considerable”. And it would cause irritation in Brussels, where Switzerland would no longer be regarded as a “reliable partner”, Wasserfallen explains. This could further complicate relations with the EU, which are already strained. Swiss Abroad Swiss Abroad Ban on tobacco advertising – yes votes in per cent Ban on animal testing – yes votes in per cent