The Swiss Abroad In Germany And Italy Have Very Different Concerns

(MENAFN- Swissinfo) At their annual congress in Perugia, the Swiss in Italy discussed artificial intelligence and chocolate. Yet, Swiss living in northern Germany instead focused on reforming elections to the council of the Swiss Abroad.

This content was published on May 23, 2024 - 11:01 5 minutes

Graduated with a master's degree in languages and international trade. Worked for 8 years as personal assistant to the Director-general of the Swiss national broadcasting service. An expatriate myself, I have a knack of understanding the Swiss abroad.

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The Congress of Swiss Clubs in Germany, which took place in Lübeck last weekend, was preceded by an intense year. This was due to turmoil within the committee. Around a hundred people took part this year, including 19 presidents of Swiss clubs with voting rights. In total there are 38 member associations.

A lengthy discussion took place on a potential amendment to the Articles of Association. This amendment would allow all Swiss citizens with voting rights registered in Germany the possibility to stand for election as a delegate to the Council of the Swiss Abroad (CSA), the“parliament” of the Swiss Abroad. Currently, to be eligible, a person must be a member of a Swiss club.

Open elections for better representation

The desire to reform the electoral system for the Council of the Swiss Abroad is not unique to Germany. Tobias Orth, co-vice chairman and member of the steering committee of the Organisation of the Swiss Abroad (OSA), is committed to more democratic elections. The Swiss Foreign Ministry is also in favour of an open ballot.

This potential shift caused concern with many of those present at the conference in Lübeck.“The delegate could theoretically be completely independent from the Swiss associations. And how can we be sure that someone who is not a member of an association has a connection with Switzerland and really wants to get involved?” asked one person present.

Ultimately, the congress in Lübeck did not result in a vote on the amendment. The delegates present approved a motion asking that the objections of the congress be taken into account and that the text of the amendment to the articles of association be sent to the various Swiss clubs for a second review.

Supportive team through a crisis

The past year has been a trying one for the young board of OSA Germany. Two weeks before the 2023 Congress, the chairman at the time, Albert Küng, resigned from his post and Sonja Lengning stepped up at short notice.

“It's been a real challenge,” Lengning says of her first year as president. Tobias Orth spontaneously stepped in as co-vice chairman.“Without a supportive team, I wouldn't have been able to take on this task”.

The second co-vice president, Martin Abächerli, was in charge of organising the congress. Abächerli showed participants the beauty of this region in northern Germany with a cruise on the Trave and excursions of Lübeck city.

The Swiss in Italy: a growing diaspora

At the same time and few thousand kilometres further south, around 130 Swiss nationals from Italy were gathered in Perugia, the“city of chocolate”, for the 85th congress of the Union of Swiss Associations.

In his speech, the Swiss consul general in Milan, Stefano Lazzarotto, said that the Swiss presence in Italy is solid and has contributed positively to the country's development.

There are currently 52,000 Swiss nationals living in Italy. Over the last 20 years, their numbers have increased by 16%. To cope with the growth of the Swiss in Italy and of the Swiss Abroad in general, the consular office is developing a new strategy.

In addition to the online counter that is already available, the authorities want to create a hub to bring together the various consular services of the different offices on a single site. Discussions are also surrounding the implementation of artificial intelligence (AI) in the federal administration, for example by using this technology for the Swiss Foreign Ministry online helpline.

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Read more: Newsletters Working with AI in schools

AI was also the subject of a round table organised at the initiative of the Union of Young Swiss in Italy. Gaetano Affuso, a Latin and Greek teacher at the Liceo Classico Plauto in Rome, explained how he works with AI in schools.

With the aim of encouraging pupils to write more, the teacher used AI to create chatbots that only answer certain questions, for example about Dante Alighieri. The AI then invites the students to come up with new story ideas related to the Divine Comedy. The AI doesn't write anything, it just corrects the texts written at school,” explains Gaetano Affuso.

Enrico Tombesi, head of experimental AI training projects at the Fondazione Golinelli, also sees how AI can help in work. For this expert, the keyword is“collaboration”:“We need to be able to collaborate with AI in order to exploit all the opportunities it offers,” Tombesi says.

Perugia and Swiss chocolate traditions

Cristina Mencaroni, director of Perugia's historical museum, traced the history of the city's famous chocolate factory, which has belonged to the Swiss Nestlé group since 1988.

Rosa Maria Leggio, a former employee of the Aeschbach chocolate factory near Lucerne, revealed some of the secrets behind the success of Swiss chocolate.

Firstly, the big chocolate families – Suchard, Cailler, Lindt – have never been in competition with each other, opting instead for fruitful collaboration.

Conching, the stage of mixing the cocoa mass that makes the chocolate soft and velvety, is also a Swiss speciality. Rosa Maria Leggio recounts that the process came about by mistake.“Rudolf Lindt had simply forgotten to switch off the mixing machine”.

More More How much more are you willing to pay for Swiss chocolate?

This content was published on Mar 27, 2024 Cocoa prices briefly crossed $10,000 per tonne on the futures market, an all-time record. Chocolate-makers can no longer avoid passing on the cost to consumers.

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