Glance around Switzerland: anti-refugee comments, fake meat, sports deaths and major SBB repairs

Our round up of stories you might have missed this week include calls for a municipal secretary to be dismissed after social media comments, major SBB repairs, fake meat, sports deaths and more.

Glance around Switzerland: anti-refugee comments, fake meat, sports deaths and major SBB repairs

As usual, we have tried to give you an overview of the story and a link so you can follow up on it if you want. 

Calls for dismissal after social media comments

Photo: MacTrunk/depositphotos

A municipal secretary in Boswil has been criticised for social media comments regarding refugees and immigrants. Thousands have signed a petition calling for Daniel Wicki to be dismissed in the wake of him suggesting the alleged rapist of a woman in Germany, an asylum seeker, should be given the death penalty.

Wicki has since deleted the Facebook post where he said the perpetrators should be lined up against a wall and shot with a 9mm ‘vaccination’ but it is not the first time that his social media comments have been criticised.

He has said that he sees no issue with his comments; that they are merely his opinion and have no connection to his job where he is said to regularly deal with asylum seekers and refugees.

The Aargauer Zeitung has more on this story.

School terror stems from fake news

Photo: Elnur_/depositphotos

A police investigation has revealed that a “man in a white mask and hooded sweatshirt”, who created panic within an Uster school community after he was said to be lurking nearby, is not real.

On Tuesday this week, Police increased their presence surrounding the school in a bid to make children and parents feel safe after the school had sent out a letter informing people of the sightings. The incident prompted many parents to bring their children directly to school rather than allowing them to travel by themselves, as they usually would.

But the police investigation has revealed that the man was a mere figment of the children’s imagination.

Tages Anzeiger has more on this story

182 sports death per year

Photo: VitalikRadko/depositphotos

A report by the Accident Prevention Service has revealed that, on average, 182 people die every year in Switzerland from mountain, winter and water sport accidents. Nearly 400,000 are injured.

The survey, which looked at data from 2000 until 2017, shows that men account for 83% of the deaths. Men are more likely to die in all sports monitored, with the exception of equestrian sports.

Mountaineering and base jumping are two sports where significantly higher number of foreign guests die compared to that of local practitioners.

Blick has more on this story.

Call for Federal Council to back laboratory meat

Photo: microgen/depositphotos

A petition to increase the amount of financial resources devoted to the production of laboratory meat in Switzerland has been launched online.

The initiative, launched by Pat Mächler, outlines seven key reasons why laboratory meat should be given more support, including food security and safety, environmental protection and health. It currently has more than 600 backers online.

Politicians have so far reacted sceptically.

Watson has more on this or you can see the petition itself here

SBB revamp to 580 stations

Photo: paikong/depositphotos

Nearly 580 train stations in Switzerland will be modernised to be accessible for people with disabilities by 2023 it was announced on Thursday. The repairs are set to cost 3 billion Swiss Francs (2.6 billion Euros).

The changes will be made as part of the process to implement the Disability Equality Act (DEA). There is nearly 2000 train stations in Switzerland but currently only 41% comply with the DEA. The revamping of stations should take this total nearer to 74%. 

The Aargauer Zeitung has more on this story.


How Europe’s population is changing and what the EU is doing about it

The populations of countries across Europe are changing, with some increasing whilst others are falling. Populations are also ageing meaning the EU is having to react to changing demographics.

How Europe's population is changing and what the EU is doing about it

After decades of growth, the population of the European Union decreased over the past two years mostly due to the hundreds of thousands of deaths caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The latest data from the EU statistical office Eurostat show that the EU population was 446.8 million on 1 January 2022, 172,000 fewer than the previous year. On 1 January 2020, the EU had a population of 447.3 million.

This trend is because, in 2020 and 2021 the two years marked by the crippling pandemic, there have been more deaths than births and the negative natural change has been more significant than the positive net migration.

But there are major differences across countries. For example, in numerical terms, Italy is the country where the population has decreased the most, while France has recorded the largest increase.

What is happening and how is the EU reacting?

In which countries is the population growing?

In 2021, there were almost 4.1 million births and 5.3 million deaths in the EU, so the natural change was negative by 1.2 million (more broadly, there were 113,000 more deaths in 2021 than in 2020 and 531,000 more deaths in 2020 than in 2019, while the number of births remained almost the same).

Net migration, the number of people arriving in the EU minus those leaving, was 1.1 million, not enough to compensate.

A population growth, however, was recorded in 17 countries. Nine (Belgium, Denmark, Ireland, France, Cyprus, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands and Sweden) had both a natural increase and positive net migration.

READ ALSO: IN NUMBERS: Five things to know about Germany’s foreign population

In eight EU countries (the Czech Republic, Germany, Estonia, Spain, Lithuania, Austria, Portugal and Finland), the population increased because of positive net migration, while the natural change was negative.

The largest increase in absolute terms was in France (+185,900). The highest natural increase was in Ireland (5.0 per 1,000 persons), while the biggest growth rate relative to the existing population was recorded in Luxembourg, Ireland, Cyprus and Malta (all above 8.0 per 1,000 persons).

In total, 22 EU Member States had positive net migration, with Luxembourg (13.2 per 1 000 persons), Lithuania (12.4) and Portugal (9.6) topping the list.

Births and deaths in the EU from 1961 to 2021 (Eurostat)

Where is the population declining?

On the other hand, 18 EU countries had negative rates of natural change, with deaths outnumbering births in 2021.

Ten of these recorded a population decline. In Bulgaria, Italy, Hungary, Poland, and Slovenia population declined due to a negative natural change, while net migration was slightly positive.

In Croatia, Greece, Latvia, Romania and Slovakia, the decrease was both by negative natural change and negative net migration.

READ ALSO: Italian class sizes set to shrink as population falls further

The largest fall in population was reported in Italy, which lost over a quarter of a million (-253,100).

The most significant negative natural change was in Bulgaria (-13.1 per 1,000 persons), Latvia (-9.1), Lithuania (-8.7) and Romania (-8.2). On a proportional basis, Croatia and Bulgaria recorded the biggest population decline (-33.1 per 1,000 persons).

How is the EU responding to demographic change?

From 354.5 million in 1960, the EU population grew to 446.8 million on 1 January 2022, an increase of 92.3 million. If the growth was about 3 million persons per year in the 1960s, it slowed to about 0.7 million per year on average between 2005 and 2022, according to Eurostat.

The natural change was positive until 2011 and turned negative in 2012 when net migration became the key factor for population growth. However, in 2020 and 2021, this no longer compensated for natural change and led to a decline.

READ ALSO: IN NUMBERS: One in four Austrian residents now of foreign origin

Over time, says Eurostat, the negative natural change is expected to continue given the ageing of the population if the fertility rate (total number of children born to each woman) remains low.

This poses questions for the future of the labour market and social security services, such as pensions and healthcare.

The European Commission estimates that by 2070, 30.3 per cent of the EU population will be 65 or over compared to 20.3 per cent in 2019, and 13.2 per cent is projected to be 80 or older compared to 5.8 per cent in 2019.

The number of people needing long-term care is expected to increase from 19.5 million in 2016 to 23.6 million in 2030 and 30.5 million in 2050.

READ ALSO: How foreigners are changing Switzerland

However, demographic change impacts different countries and often regions within the same country differently.

When she took on the Presidency of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen appointed Dubravka Šuica, a Croatian politician, as Commissioner for Democracy and Demography to deal with these changes.

Among measures in the discussion, in January 2021, the Commission launched a debate on Europe’s ageing society, suggesting steps for higher labour market participation, including more equality between women and men and longer working lives.

In April, the Commission proposed measures to make Europe more attractive for foreign workers, including simplifying rules for non-EU nationals who live on a long-term basis in the EU. These will have to be approved by the European Parliament and the EU Council.

In the fourth quarter of this year, the Commission also plans to present a communication on dealing with ‘brain drain’ and mitigate the challenges associated with population decline in regions with low birth rates and high net emigration.

This article is published in cooperation with Europe Street News, a news outlet about citizens’ rights in the EU and the UK.