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KALIMA NEWSLETTER OF THE EMBASSY OF SWITZERLAND TO THE UNITED ARAB EMIRATES AND BAHRAIN

2020


Glacier skiing, Saas Fee Š Silvano Zeiter

We need a first ski experience.

We need Switzerland.


each and every one of you for making the lives of our community members a little bit better through your individual contributions. And I strongly encourage you to continue doing so, in order for us to stand more united once this crisis has passed. A big part of the last 12 months has been unexpected and many plans were overthrown. Still, the Embassy of Switzerland in Abu Dhabi and the Consulate General in Dubai have been busy. In April we organised a flight to bring home numerous stranded Swiss and European citizens. And throughout the year we have kept our channels open through smaller gathering and events. The year fortunately ended with a highlight, as we were incredibly happy to receive Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis, the Head of the Federal Department

EDITORIAL Dear fellow Swiss citizens, dear readers and friends of Switzerland, When I moved to the United Arab Emirates last year in September, the world was a different place. We were still hosting receptions, still shaking hands and still planning for the World Expo Dubai to take place in 2020. As you are all very much aware, a lot has changed since then. Within one year, we witnessed a total transformation of our lives. Things we had taken for granted suddenly seemed reckless or flatout unthinkable. However, we continued to adapt and we refused to give up hope because we knew that eventually we would overcome this difficult period. Despite the many challenges, this pandemic has also been an opportunity to take a break from our busy lives and to reassess what is most important to us. In these extraordinary circumstances, I have for instance experienced an incredible sense of kinship within the Swiss community and a renewed

of Foreign Affairs, for a surprise visit in December. But because it was a special year, we wanted to expand the focus of this newsletter and give a particular attention to our institutional partners as well. This is why you will find a series of articles dedicated to the broad responses to the pandemic by various Swiss entities and partners. From the EPFL’s contribution to curbing the pandemic through tracking to the future of education by the Swiss International Scientific School Dubai, there are many areas in which the Swiss once again proved their strength. Last but not least, I am sure that many of you might be curious what is happening with the Swiss Pavilion after the postponement of Expo 2020 Dubai. Fear not, as we have a comprehensive update from our Commissioner General, which should answer all of your questions. I hope that you will all enjoy reading what we put together for the year 2020 and I look forward to shaking hands with as many as possible soon!

solidarity between all of us. Even though the conditions were and still are very demanding, we

Massimo Baggi

have proven to be resilient. I would like to thank

Ambassador of Switzerland to the UAE and Bahrain


OFFICIAL VISIT 6

NEW PRIORITIES FOR THE REGION FEDERAL COUNCILLOR IGNAZIO CASSIS IN THE UAE „his first taste of the UAE and […] it will not be his last“

EMBASSY AFFAIRS 11

FACTS & FIGURES 2020

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SITTING DOWN WITH AMBASSADOR MASSIMO BAGGI

„I think that to face the challenges we have worldwide, we have to connect“

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A SHORT UPDATE ON BAHRAIN

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FRANK EGGMANN EXPLAINS THE CONSULATE GENERAL „so what is the Consulate General good for?“


FOCUS COVID #FLYINGHOME - A VERY SPECIAL MISSION

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FRANCO VIGLIOTTI ON THE CONTINUED IMPORTANCE OF CONTACT TRACING

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„if we want to regain control of the pandemic without imposing a new general confinement, trying to uphold physical barriers may no longer be enough“

FOCUS SWITZERLAND EXPO 2020 DUBAI LESS THAN ONE YEAR TO GO

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„It is also a chance to rebuild our economy in the post-COVID-19 world“

SISD’S NEWLY ENHANCED PRIMARY SCHOOL - FULL STEAM AHEAD!

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MORE THAN JUST A NEWORK SWISS BUSINESS COUNCILS

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New priorities for the region

Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis in the UAE

During the visit at Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque.

In October 2020, the Federal Department of Foreign

Councillor Ignazio Cassis decided that he would pay

Affairs (FDFA) adopted a strategy for the entire

the region a visit before the end of the year.

Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. For the first time, this strategy provides a framework for

The choice of which countries to visit was

all Swiss foreign policy activities in the MENA

determined by two things: the areas of interest for

region, which will be valid for the period 2021-24. To

Switzerland, as identified in the strategy, and the

present the priorities detailed in this new publication

current global affairs. It was thus a natural fit to go

(see page 10 for the UAE and Bahrain) Federal

with the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Israel and


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the UAE. Especially, as the latter two had just signed a normalisation agreement that would help foster peace in the region as well as provide many opportunities for business and bolster new technologies. The visit started on 28 November 2020 in the Levant, where Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis

Arrival at Abu Dhabi International Airport.

spent two days in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Ramallah. In the late afternoon of 30

innovation and culture - there was a bit of

November 2020, the Federal Council’s jet then

everything on the agenda!

finally landed in the presidential wing of Abu Dhabi International Airport. This marked the beginning of

But before the program could start, the delegation

the Federal’s

went from the airport to the hotel to check in and

Councillor’s short but intense first

await the results of the PCR test. Once they were

stay in Abu Dhabi.

sure that everybody was ok, they were good to go! In just 22 hours, the delegation would have seven appointments covering many different aspects of

An official meeting with His Highness Sheikh

our bilateral relations; from political affairs to trade,

Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the UAE’s Minister

Not shaking hands with His Highness Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan.


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of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, was the first stop in the schedule. Sheikh Abdullah welcomed the delegation in an unconventional spot in front of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, where the Federal Councillor and his company were seated in an outside space overlooking Abu Dhabi’s Al Bateen area. This unusual setting seemed to have had an invigorating effect on the conversation, because it lasted well over the scheduled duration. The two counterparts discussed many topics reaching from Speech at the Residence of Switzerland.

democracy to human rights and the importance of new technologies. The evening continued in the Swiss Ambassador’s Residence on Saadiyat Island. Because of the COVID-19 restrictions, only a small group of representatives from the private sector and a few key partners of the Embassy could be invited for meet and greet with the Federal Councillor. Despite the late hour, the guests exchanged happily amongst each other and made sure to give the delegation from Switzerland a good overview of the numerous facets of Swiss involvement in the UAE and the region. The next day started rather early for the Federal Councillor, as the delegation was destined to depart from Abu Dhabi in the afternoon. At 8.15am Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis was already expected at the Louvre Abu Dhabi for a tour of the iconic building and of its permanent exhibition, which

Looking at an installation by Jean Tinguely at Louvre Abu Dhabi.

includes two Swiss artists as well. After having had the chance to marvel at the spectacular light patterns that result from the stunning architecture of the Louvre Abu Dhabi, the delegation met with Bishop Paul Hinder, a fellow Swiss and long-time friend of the region, at St. Joseph's Cathedral Abu Dhabi. Bishop Hinder gave the Federal Councillor a tour of the premises, as he explained the particularities of working with such a diverse Catholic community as it exists in the UAE. The Bishop also accompanied the delegation on the

Arrival at the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in the company of Bishop Hinder.

next stop - the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. The


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Federal Councillor was especially looking forward to this visit, as the scope of this monument of tolerance and peace is unique in the region and in the whole world. Hence, the delegation took its time to listen to the explanations of the mosque’s Director-General, D r. Yo u s i f A l O b a i d l i , w h o described the original vision behind this singular achievement. The focus of the last two stops before going back to Switzerland was less spiritual and more concerned with one of the biggest

Discussing renewable energy cooperation with DG Francesco La Camera.

challenges currently faced by mankind. In a meeting with the Director-General of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), Mr. Francesco La Camera, Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis discussed Switzerland’s willingness to do its part to promote renewable energy sources and to support developing countries. And in Masdar City, the innovative city project that incorporates many traditional techniques with cuttingedge technology, Mr. Cassis and The tour of Masdar City to round up an intense visit.

the delegation were able to get some inspiration from constructions that promise a healthier, more sustainable way of life.

We are ready to welcome him at any point in the future and hope that it will be sooner rather than

At 3pm the Federal Council’s plane left the UAE -

later!

perfectly on time and with a satisfied but certainly exhausted delegation on board. Federal Councillor

Maybe even for Expo 2020 Dubai? Only time will

Ignazio Cassis got his first taste of the UAE and

tell!

promised us that it will not be his last.


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PRIORITIES FOR SWITZERLAND IN THE UAE

PRIORITIES FOR SWITZERLAND IN BAHRAIN


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FACTS & FIGURES 2020 2714 SWISS CITIZENS IN THE UAE

German 34%

Other 15%

96 SWISS CITIZENS IN BAHRAIN German 25%

French 46% Italian 5%

Other 17% Italian 5%

<18 years

<18 years

18 - 65 years

18 - 65 years

>65 years

>65 years

59% MEN

41% WOMEN

56% MEN

44% WOMEN

French 54%


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Sitting down with

Ambassador Massimo Baggi

At his desk in the Embassy of Switzerland in Abu Dhabi.

Ambassador Baggi, you have been in the Swiss

company or a bank, I had studied economics, so

foreign service for almost 30 years. What

that was the natural development. Yet diplomacy

motivated you to become a diplomat?

suites me much better, because you have the chance to remain a generalist. I am much very

At the beginning, it was a love story. When I finished

interested having a broad view of things.

University, diplomacy had never been part of my environment. Then I met a woman, who would later

Tell us about your diplomatic career.

become my wife, and her father was a Swiss Ambassador. So it was through her family, that I

I started out with a two-year training program, of

discovered this job and what fascinated me, was the

which one year is to be spent in Switzerland and

international dimension. Previously, I had thought

one abroad. However, I was very lucky, and spent

about starting an international career with a

part of the first year in New York, at the UN. In the


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second year of training I was posted at the Swiss Embassy in London, which gave me the chance to follow the UKâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s ratification of the Maastricht treaty. When returning to Switzerland I was in charge of European integration, at a time when Switzerland initiated the first deal with the EU. My next position in Delhi was during a very pivotal time for India and it gave me a first glimpse of what India would develop into. It was a beautiful period of my life, and for my family. Following that, we moved to Moscow. This was shortly before the 2008 crisis, so it was a very euphoric period. I was in charge of economic and financial affairs, at a time when oil traded at 115USD/Barrel and Russia was already the second largest oil producer in the world. Also, I discovered how important the economic relationship with Switzerland is. Upon my return to Bern, I left the

Giving a speech at a cultural event organiSed by the Embassy.

ministry of foreign affairs and joined the ministry of economy, where I was in charge of the bilateral

issues and in development cooperation. The

relationship with Asian countries. Switzerland

diversity of the undertakings covered by this

worked quite intensely towards free trade

Embassy, once more allows me to be the generalist,

agreements with many Asian countries. For

I was motivated to be from the beginning. In

Switzerland, Asia was already the second largest

conclusion, although each post was different, each

continent, in terms of trade, after Europe. My

was a highlight in its own sense.

subsequent position in Milan, Italy, was mainly in view of Expo Milano 2015. I had the chance to

Which experience marked you the most so far?

follow the participation for Expo from the beginning. It was a hectic but beautiful experience. Next, I was

While there are many great experiences, the most

appointed as an Ambassador to Morocco and was

surprising for me was India, which was very chaotic

exposed to another issue, which became a focus

but also dynamic. This was in 1998-2003, very

not only for Swiss diplomacy, but diplomacy

much at the beginning of the economic boom, in a

worldwide - migration. In this period, especially after Italy had closed their harbours, the flow of migrants from Sub-Sahara Africa diverted from the route through Libya and Italy, and instead led though Morocco and Spain. This was in 2015-2019. Now I will have the opportunity to do the Expo again, which makes me particularly motivated. And on top of that, this Embassy has a regional responsibility in many areas, like in economic affairs, security related

Learning how to make chocolate from World Chocolate Master, Elias Läderach.


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large country that is extremely diverse linguistically,

with your partners in the country, and with the

culturally and geographically. It was the remarkable

headquarters in Switzerland. And yes, sometimes

complexity of India that utterly fascinated me.

you have to take tough decisions, but it is manageable. It does require a certain flexibility,

And what was your biggest challenge?

however, because you don’t have fixed working hours. So to uphold a balance I need to have

There were some occurrences, like the accident to

something outside of my job and for me this is Polo.

the Concordia in Italy, which could have been a

Polo is more than a sport to me, it’s a way to meet

major catastrophe. Fortunately, we didn’t have any

different people and to speak about things other

Swiss casualties, it was very challenging

than diplomacy, and it keeps me fit.

nonetheless. Also, after the earthquake in Gujarat, India in 2001, Switzerland was able to help early on,

You arrived in the UAE roughly one year ago.

and I visited the place where most of the destruction

Tell us about your impressions so far.

had taken place. Seeing the suffering, I experienced very strong emotions. Dealing with those emotions

My first few months where extremely fascinating.

was certainly a challenge.

Less than two months after my arrival we received our president, so I was obliged to understand the

The role of Ambassador comes with large

environment very quickly and to meet people

responsibilities. What can you tell us about

rapidly. Thereafter, came the pandemic and my

work-life balance?

work changed completely. Our focus shifted towards the Swiss living here and they became the absolute

F o r t u n a t e l y, t o d a y y o u c a n s h a r e t h e s e

priority. We communicated more regularly with

responsibilities, especially if your attitude is to

them, in order to make them feel that we are a

favour teamwork - teamwork within the Embassy,

team.

In a more casual setting during a game of polo.


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Breaking the ground for the Swiss Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai in the company of President Ueli Maurer.

What are your expectations for Expo?

platform, to strengthen and reiterate a few messages, which we cannot allow to get lost. And

As I have experienced it before, I know to

the Embassy has the chance to be in a position

appreciate the strength of an Expo. It can function

between the organiser and the government of

as a locomotive; there are wagons already in motion

Switzerland and our partners. We can shape the

but partially moving in different directions. The Expo

Swiss participation as well as the project itself,

pulls them into harmony and creates synergies.

because Switzerland has this specific responsibility

Furthermore, it develops awareness for a topic,

as the chair of the steering committee of the

which will influence society in the medium or long-

participating countries.

term. In Italy this were issues like food security and management. The Expo certainly contributed to put

What would you like to say to our fellow Swiss

these relevant topics in the spotlight, where they

citizens?

now remain. This time we face another highly relevant topic, which is connecting people to create

I think you realise much more what it means to be

the future. I find it extremely timely, because we

Swiss when you are abroad. You notice that our

globally observe the temptation, to put oneâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s own

culture of reference is for example a neutral country,

country before the community, and I think that to

a multicultural country, a federal state, and it is

face the challenges we have worldwide, we have to

these traits that make us Swiss. So the Swiss

connect. I believe multilateralism to be much more

people have the chance and the task to represent

effective than the bilateral route, when it comes to

these values in the UAE. I wish to thank all Swiss

tackling issues that are of a global relevance. I think

citizens for giving such a wonderful image of

this message is all the more important after

Switzerland abroad.

COVID-19, so it is very valuable to have this


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A Short Update on

Bahrain

The signing ceremony for the Double Taxation Agreement on 21 November 2019 in Manama.

After the Embassy of Switzerland in Abu Dhabi took

East and North Africa Division, Ambassador Maya

over the side accreditation of the Kingdom of

Tissafi, signed the â&#x20AC;&#x17E;Convention and Protocol for the

Bahrain in early 2018, bilateral relations have

Elimination of Double Taxation with respect to Taxes

continued to develop positively. The departure of

on Income and on Capital and the Prevention of Tax

Ambassador Maya Tissafi in summer 2019 was

Evasion and Avoidance between the Government of

followed by the arrival of Ambassador Massimo

the Kingdom of Bahrain and the Swiss Federal

Baggi in late summer 2019. Ambassador Baggi

Councilâ&#x20AC;&#x153;. Both countries are currently ratifying the

handed over his letter of credence to His Majesty

new agreement into national legislation. The

King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa in early December

agreement will bring important advantages for

2019.

Swiss companies active in Bahrain or investors in the Kingdom of Bahrain. It is also reinforcing

Switzerland and the Kingdom of Bahrain held

Switzerland as a destination for Bahraini investors

successful political consultations on 21 November

and companies.

2019 in Manama. During the political consultations, the Minister of Finance and National Economy, HE

Building on the success of the signing of the

Shaikh Salman bin Khalifa Al Khalifa, and the

agreement, the Embassy of Switzerland decided to

Assistant Secretary of State and Head of the Middle

invite Swiss companies based in the United Arab


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Emirates to conduct a mission to Bahrain to explore new opportunities for cooperation. Private sector companies responded positively and the mission would take place under the leadership of Ambassador Massimo Baggi and the Swiss Business Hub Middle East based in Dubai. The mission was scheduled to take place in March 2020. Unfortunately, because of the rapid development of the coronavirus, the economic mission had to be postponed. Possible dates will be identified jointly with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Bahrain. On the occasion of the planned economic mission to Bahrain, Ambassador Massimo Baggi had also invited the Swiss colony in Bahrain to a gathering in March 2020. This invitation will take place at a later stage, during a forthcoming mission of the Embassy to Manama. From the beginning of the outbreak of the coronavirus, the Embassy has been in close contact with the Consul General Honorary, Mr. Buemi, to monitor the needs for support of Swiss citizens, whether tourists, businessman or residents. The Embassy of Switzerland will do its best to travel to Manama at the soonest possible opportunity, to pursue the constructive positive bilateral relations and catch up with the Swiss community established in Bahrein. Meanwhile, we wish the Swiss community in Bahrain courage and continued good health in these extraordinary times!

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Frank Eggmann explains the

Consulate General

The team of the Consulate General in October 2020.

It is commonly known that all consular services for

the Consulate General, to ask the question “so what

Swiss nationals and visas matters for foreigners are

is this Consulate good for?”

handled by the Embassy of Switzerland in Abu Dhabi since 1 April 2014.

To get to the answer, let’s begin with an overview: Switzerland’s network of representations, which

It would be legitimate for newcomers to the UAE,

currently comprises some 170 representations

unaware of the manifold activities provided in the

abroad, is regularly adapted based on Switzerland’s

UAE and Bahrain by the Embassy and in Dubai by

interests, developments in political and economic


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centres of gravity and limited by available financial resources. For example, the network of diplomatic representations has been extended by 24 new Embassies and 12 new Consulates General – particularly in large cities in emerging countries – since 1990. At the same time, easier travel and technical and technological progress in the provision of consular services have also made it possible to close 34 Consulates General, luckily not in Dubai. Simply put, the Consulate General Dubai is an antenna of the Embassy of Switzerland in Abu Dhabi, collaborating closely in enhancing the many diverse relations between Swiss and local stakeholders in the economic capital of the UAE. With the integration of the Swiss Business Hub in its premises, the Consulate General plays even a larger regional role when it comes to trade promotion and location promotion in the Golf countries. “Wait, wait, wait… Embassy, Consulate

In front of a creatively redacted Expo banner for Expo 2020 Dubai.

General and now Swiss Business Hub”? location evaluation; organisation of events – Swiss Indeed! The Swiss Business Hub is the Dubai-

Pavilions at Gulfood, ArabHealth, GITEX, Airshow,

based representation of the official international

WETEX exhibitions etc… -

trade and investment promotion agency Switzerland

missions for Swiss companies, associations and

Global Enterprise (www.s-ge.com ). As part of the

official delegations.

and fact-finding

Consulate General in Dubai and with offices in Riyadh (Saudi Arabia) and Doha (Qatar), it is

In a nutshell, the Consulate General Dubai is an

responsible for implementing Swiss export

economic consulate with focus on trade promotion

strategies in the Middle East. It is part of a network

as well as on promoting Switzerland’s innovative

in 27 target markets around the world.

capacities and tourism. We do so by keeping an open door policy – Swiss coffee served – to discuss

“Right. So concretely what do they do?” The Swiss

new ideas and possibly discover new paths to

Business Hub Middle East is the key contact point

enhance and grow business opportunities. Oh and

for Swiss and Liechtenstein small and medium-

yes, its humble team includes three colleagues

sized enterprises (SMEs) looking for export

employed locally and one diplomat on a four years

opportunities in the Gulf region. The Hub’s services

term rotation.

include: market information; certification support; detailed market and product analysis; search for distributors, local representatives and partners and support for the establishment of communication channels; B2B / B2C sales pipeline development; individual consulting and coaching of SMEs; site


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The team of the Consulate General in October 2020.


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The Embassy team at a reception held on the occasion of President Ueli Maurerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s visit to the UAE in October 2019.

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Husky sledding, Les Giettes, Valais © Ivo Scholz

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ur taxi.

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We need witzerland.


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#FlyingHome

A Very Special Mission

Waiting for the passengers to arrive at Dubai International Airport.

It was a sunny April afternoon in Dubai, when a

Raâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s al-Khaima, during the winter tourism peak

special repatriation flight rolled onto the runway at

season. But the beauty in holidays is that, at their

Dubai International Airport ready to take off.

end, you will return home. So when international

Onboard the Zurich-bound machine were 183

airlines one by one announced that all outgoing

passengers, among them Swiss citizens as well as

flights would be cancelled, many people faced a

those of other Schengen countries. This

rather impossible situation. Think back to mid-March

extraordinary flight was part of the largest ever

2020. (I know it might be a time you would rather

repatriation mission in the history of Switzerland.

forget, but bear with us).

You might be wondering how this operation came about. Now that is quite a story!

At this stage we knew fairly little about the coronavirus. We were constantly reading

It had been this exact sunny weather that attracted

contradictory advice about face masks, ever-

numerous Swiss tourists to Dubai, Abu Dhabi or

changing evidence about the virus and worrying


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news about worldwide shortages of medical equipment. And on top of that slowly but surely the world was shutting down. This was the last time you would want to be stranded as a tourist in a foreign country. Luckily, however, the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs had a plan. Under the banner of #FlyingHome, 35 Passengers queuing to register for the flight.

repatriation flights were carried out between mid-March and the end of April 2020, in order to provide a safe return to 7311 travellers including some 4100 Swiss passengers. These flights covered destinations from Latin America, Africa, Asia, Oceania and Europe. As March is one of the peak months for tourism in the UAE, the Embassy realised very early on that such a flight might make sense for Dubai as well. The first thing we had to do is check whether it is feasible to organise a repatriation flight in a matter of just a few days. This challenge was easily overcome, as the UAE authorities proved their responsiveness once again by quickly facilitating communication with all parties involved and helping with the necessary permits. Now we had evaluate the interest of the people

flight coming from Goa, India, would stop in Dubai on 5 April 2020 and pick up stranded tourists to reunite them with their families in Europe. The next days were spent compiling the lists of passengers and coordinating with other Embassies to see, if we could support our European friends with bringing some of their citizens back home. Not every country was able to organise a special flight for their own citizens so it was a testimony to our excellent relations and European solidarity that all Embassies supported each other by mutually offering each other free seats. It was a chilly evening when the machine landed in Zurich on 5 April 2020. But thankfully there is no place like home to warm you up quickly.

concerned and whether we had enough people asking for our support to get back to their loved ones. This task was easily completed by getting in touch with potential passengers as well, thanks to the â&#x20AC;&#x17E;Travel Admin Appâ&#x20AC;&#x153; provided by the Federal Government. On 29 March 2020, the confirmation finally arrived: A

The flight itinerary for the day.


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The Matterhorn illuminated with the UAE flag in solidarity for the COVID-19 pandemic (Š Light Art by Gerry Hofstetter / Foto Frank Schwarzbach).

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The Matterhorn illuminated with the flag of Bahrain in solidarity for the COVID-19 pandemic (Š Light Art by Gerry Hofstetter / Foto Frank Schwarzbach).

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Franco Vigliotti

On the Continued Importance of Contact Tracing Our tribute to the COVID-19 pandemic continues to

into us lowering our guard, and the need is ever

grow inexorably – and at a faster rate in Switzerland

pressing to promptly curtail and prevent new

and in Europe. To date and worldwide, almost 75

contaminations.

million have been infected and over 1.6 million have died, while about half a million new infections are

Physical distancing and barriers, better hygiene

reported daily. Individuals, communities and nations

behaviours are now more important than they were

endure financial losses still difficult to truly evaluate

in the spring. However, and notwithstanding their

after the so-called “first” wave, while we are well into

necessity, these measures may not be enough to

the “second”. And Switzerland is not immune, far

break the current train of contagion. The detection

from it: new concerns are arising around the ability

of new infections will remain increasingly central in

of our healthcare system to withstand the surge,

our prevention efforts: availability of rapid tests (less

and calls intensify from across our economy for

costly but also less accurate than the PCR),

more financial help in order to resist this winter.

combined with the early identification of transmissions chains (individuals who have come in

Switzerland has been hailed as an example for its

close contact with a COVID-positive person). The

management of the first wave. Yet, similar to other

identification of these transmission chains will

European countries, we seem to have a harder time

continue to be achieved through contact tracing;

regaining control of the second. The causes for the

either manually, by teams of healthcare staff who

brutal acceleration that built up since October are

attempt to map out past social interactions one by

probably multiple: a relative lack of discipline since

one after a contagion has occurred, or automatically

the summer when things got better, increasing time

using digital technologies. At our current level of

being spent in-doors with the approach of winter,

daily infections, healthcare staff are no longer able

undoubtedly a certain fatigue in maintaining

to cope with the number and complexity of

physical barriers up against the transmission of the

contamination chains. This only leaves us with the

virus, perhaps a disserving appeasement that has

more scalable and portable digital technologies, if

come from improved therapies, and finally the hope

contact tracing is to be achieved.

that safe and reliable vaccines will soon become

Early in the first wave, several governments, notably

available. These factors all have somehow played

in Asia, have enforced mobile applications that


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closely track their citizens and identify all potential

The application uses Bluetooth technology. When

actors of a chain of viral transmission: where a

two Swisscovid users stay within close vicinity (2

person goes, who that person meets, where and

meter) for a prolonged time (15 minutes), their

when. Such applications have raised and continue

smartphones exchange anonymised contact

to raise concerns in our societies, around the right

information and both store their mutual contact trace

to individual privacy and the use that could be made

for two weeks. Past that time, the phones

of all the information collected. Most individuals in

automatically delete the trace of that contact.

democratic countries would not agree to surrender

Should one of the users become COVID-positive

the details of their lives in this way, and would

during those two weeks, he/she can voluntarily

therefore be reluctant to adopt such a system. For

update his/her status to COVID-positive in the

anything on a mobile phone to be acceptable, it

application; all other users whose contact traces still

would have to be able trace without tracking, assist

exist on his/her phone then receive a notification

without following, warn without enforcing â&#x20AC;&#x201C; all this in

that they have been recently in contact with a

an anonymous manner. It is in this context that the

person who is now COVID-positive. However,

application Swisscovid was designed and

because all steps involve only exchanges of

developed by EPFL and ETHZ, in collaboration with

anonymous and encrypted data, none of these

the Swiss Federal Government. The idea behind

users are identifiable â&#x20AC;&#x201C; including by the central

Swisscovid was innovative and unique: provide a

Swisscovid registry. The application only informs

fully encrypted contact tracing information without

users at risk, that they have been exposed to the

geolocation, ensure total anonymity, and leaving

virus. It is then up to them to decide whether or not

every user totally in control of their information and

to isolate themselves â&#x20AC;&#x201C; something that citizen

privacy. This compliance with the highest standards

behaviour would warrant not just to stop a

of privacy were convincing enough for Apple and

contamination chain, but to protect loved ones first.

Google, to release special updates for iOS and

The application, like a vaccine or the wearing of a

Android that would support Swisscovid.

face mask, is less for self-protection than it is to

Swisscovid in a nutshell.


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protect everyone else. As of the 4 July 2020 â&#x20AC;&#x201C; just

It is now clear that COVID-19 will be with us well

over a week after its approval by the Swiss

into 2021, and virologists have already warned that

Government and public debut, Swisscovid had been

other viruses and superbugs could sooner or later

encouragingly adopted by over 1 million Swiss

follow. Swisscovid undoubtedly has the potential to

residents. However, and while this was a good start,

become an instrument and a model of choice in

less than 2 million users were active on that

curbing this and future outbreaks, if the majority

platform at the end of October. Sadly, where contact

finally starts trusting it and using it. If you havenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t

tracing could effectively help contain this second

already done so, you probably should download

wave and new waves of contaminations, too few are

Swisscovid as you travel to Switzerland, and the

those who voluntarily register, by fear of losing

reason we all should keep the application active on

privacy, while most of us pay little attention to the

our phones is relatively simple: contact tracing

troves of personal information we surrender to our

teams will probably not be able to warn you early

favourite social networks or on the internet. Yet, the

enough that you have been exposed to a COVID-

more users register and enable automatic contact

positive individual, but Swisscovid and responsible

tracing, the more effective this protection will be for

citizen behaviour could well prevent that contact to

our society. At our current rate of infections, if we

take place in the first place.

want to regain control of the pandemic in Switzerland without imposing a new general confinement, trying to uphold physical barriers may no longer be enough: contact tracing has become again essential. It is no surprise that after the Swiss Government approved the use of Swisscovid, other European Countries have introduced similar systems. As European countries face the second wave, networks of national systems could be made to communicate with each other to allow contact tracing across borders, thereby enabling travel passes and the movement of individuals across borders. Beyond Switzerland and its neighbours, one can also easily see the benefits of such an instrument in other regions of the world where the pandemic is currently flaring and will likely continue. A majority if not all of those countriesâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; healthcare systems will likely not withstand the force of a sustained epidemic of magnitude, but most people nowadays have a smartphone in their pocket that could help curtail or prevent one. Without geolocation and with very low volumes of information exchanged over the internet, such a solution would be truly portable, effective, and relatively simple to implement.


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Expo 2020 Dubai

Less than One Year to Go

The Swiss Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai.

Last spring, many countries expressed the need to

Expositions (BIE) at a vote in May 2020, and Expo

postpone Expo 2020 Dubai in order to devote their

2020 Dubai remains the official name of the event.

attention to the pandemic. This international event will now be held from 1 October 2021 to 31 March

Manuel Salchli, Commissioner General of the Swiss

2022.

Pavilion and Chairman of the Steering Committee of Expo 2020 Dubai, tells us about the opportunities

The decision to postpone was taken unanimously

presented by the next World Expo in a post-

by member states of the Bureau International des

COVID-19 world.


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Can the postponement of Expo 2020 Dubai turn

international dialogue. In fact, we have already been

out to be an opportunity for Switzerland?

promoting cooperation between participating countries well before the opening of the exhibition.

In light of the current public health crisis, Expo 2020

So, we will use this extra time as an opportunity to

Dubai will undoubtedly become a platform to

deepen our collaboration with other national

address global challenges and seek solutions in the

pavilions. Similarly, given the strong bilateral

spirit of international cooperation and solidarity. The

relations we already have with the UAE, we hope to

World Expo always gives rise to many opportunities.

create further relationships lasting well beyond the

For Switzerland, it is a significant chance to

duration of the exhibition.

showcase our technological expertise and promote Switzerland as fertile ground for scientific research

It is also a chance to rebuild our economy in the

and innovation in the post-COVID-19 context. At the

post-COVID-19 world. Switzerland is highly

Swiss Pavilion, we will seek to enhance

dependent on its export industry. It is therefore in Switzerlandâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s interest to continue to invest in promoting its image abroad while at the same time strengthening market share.

Despite

the

postponement, the private partners of the pavilion and the Swiss government believe that Switzerland's presence at such major events represents an opportunity to position Switzerland and promote its economy. They have thus confirmed Switzerland's presence at Expo 2020 Dubai and approved the additional costs of postponement. What is your role as Chairman of the Expo 2020 Dubai Steering Committee, particularly in the context of COVID-19? The challenge is living up to my expectations. I was elected Chairman of the steering committee in November 2019. My role is to chair meetings with the Expo organisers and find solutions together with them for Manuel Salchli, Commissioner General of the Swiss Pavilion and Chairman of the Steering Committee.

the issues raised by the


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participants. Over the last year, COVID-19 has

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How will Switzerland present itself?

become the primary concern worldwide. Participating countries have expressed their need to

Switzerland wants to present itself at Expo 2020

postpone in order to concentrate on this crisis. This

Dubai as a country of innovation which nonetheless

has impacted plans and preparations for Expo 2020

remains true to its traditions. Visitors will experience

Dubai. In an online steering committee meeting in

both the traditional and modern side of Switzerland

March, we agreed to work with the BIE on finding

in the exhibition. The pavilion has therefore been

new dates. This led to the organisation of a vote,

modelled on a journey from a bucolic and

with BIE member states called upon to vote in

picturesque Switzerland to an innovative and urban

favour of a postponement. Switzerland joined the

Switzerland. Along the way, visitors will discover

consensus in solidarity with the organisers and all

Switzerland's values, its strengths in terms of

participants. Expo 2020 will therefore officially start

education, research, innovation and business, but

next year. Together with all other participating

also the qualities and savoir faire specific to

countries and the steering committee, we are

Switzerland that enable it to provide answers to the

evaluating the situation carefully so that we can

challenges of the future. We are also adjusting

deliver an impeccable World Expo true to its

some of our content to the context of the

founding purpose. I believe that the postponement

coronavirus.

will be an opportunity for all countries to recover from the public health crisis. What impact did the postponement have on the Swiss Pavilion project? The postponement had an impact on our construction activities, and we have already adjusted the work involved. The shell and core and the MEP works of the Swiss Pavilion are expected to be finished by March 2021. The Swiss Pavilion will then be closed. Measures to protect the pavilion against the weather and wind have already been taken. The AV equipment and exhibition itself will be set up in summer 2021. We adhere to strict health and safety measures as a matter of priority. Our construction team on site follows the guidance from the local health authorities and the World Health Organization. So, the work is continuing and we will be ready on time, despite the change in date. In the remaining time we will refine our plans and work on adapting some content. We are also very happy to have the support of our partners and staff. All our sponsors have confirmed their interest in participating in the events in 2021. Most temporary staff have also confirmed their participation in the postponed Expo. So, I am very much looking forward to unveiling our pavilion to the public.


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SISD's Newly Enhanced Primary School

FULL STEAM AHEAD!

A class at SISD.

Schools shouldnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t just aim to impart knowledge on

Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme to offer

their students, they should equip them with the right

STEAM lessons for PreK-Grade 5 students. The

skills to succeed in life, whether that is teaching

newly enhanced programme has begun in

them new abilities to become productive members

September 2020 and represents an evolution of its

of a society, or providing them with expertise that

existing English+ programme.

will prove useful in the workforce when they grow up.

The enhanced English+ programme is highlighted by the introduction of a STEAM (Science,

With this goal in mind, Swiss International Scientific

Technology, Education, Arts and Mathematics)

School Dubai has enhanced its English International

education, which is implemented in a project-based


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The SISD campus in Dubai.

framework. This framework is taught in a cohesive

cutting-edge campus, we have been able to quickly

continuum from Pre-KG to Grade 5, with each

shift and adapt our digital offering.

student getting a personalised starting point from which they can build their knowledge and skills in

„With our new STEAM programme, we want to take

the way that is best for them.

our Scientific DNA to the next level and further

The new STEAM programme includes a variety of unique resources, such as modules on design process and design thinking, classes that enhance computational thinking, and study units on the scientific method. By integrating this with education

diversify the way we teach to increase personalisation. Our students will be more creative, they will further enhance their critical thinking skills and recognise the intersection of art, science, technology, engineering, and math.“

technology, SISD aims to equip pupils with critical

SISD’s English+ STEAM programme is an

thinking, problem-solving and creative skills that will

enhancement of the International Baccalaureate

be useful in the 21st century workplace. Students

Early Years and Primary Years Programmes.

will also complete STEAM-centric projects to hone

Students are taught primarily in English, with

and demonstrate their skills in the field.

additional lessons and immersion in Arabic and

Norbert Foerster, SISD’s Head of School, underscores the importance of this drive for innovation in the face of a rapidly-changing world and an unpredictable context. „The world is constantly changing with the global pandemic bringing its own changes and challenges. Thanks to our modern and innovative teaching methods and

French or German, taught by a diverse faculty composed of native speakers. The programme conforms to several international standards of hightech education, including the Next Generation Science Standards, International Standards for Technology Education, and UNESCO Education for Sustainable Development.


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More than just a Network

Swiss Business Councils

The current presidents of the Swiss Business Councils: Matteo Boffa (left) and Peter Harradine (right).


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The Swiss Business Councils are non-profit

Should you wish to know more about the Swiss

organisations that bridge the United Arab Emirates

Business Councils, please visit our website

and Switzerland. We support commercial and

www.swissbcuae.com, follow us on social media

personal relationships amongst our members,

and do not hesitate to reach out to us personally.

provide high-profile networking and facilitate business, social and cultural exchanges within the local and expatriate communities and institutions. The SBC is committed to creating a positive impression of the region, the culture and the people. It cultivates awareness showcasing Swiss talents, products and services (yes, it is not just about watches, cows and chocolates) as well as traditional customs - ultimately promoting Switzerland in the UAE. The SBC has two independently managed branches, licensed by their respective Chambers of Commerce and Industry, which were established in Dubai and the Northern Emirates in 1996 and in Abu Dhabi in 2000. Membership is available under individual and corporate categories, with the possibility to join one or both Councils to increase one’s networking benefits. Since its inception, the SBCs have been serving the community by organising and supporting a wide range of events - from educational workshops and numerous networking opportunities, to meetings with delegations. The SBCs cherish Swiss traditions but also seek to always stay up to date with the latest trends by working closely with Switzerland’s official representatives in the UAE - the Swiss Embassy, the Swiss Consulate General, the Swiss Business Hub Middle East as well as with local Government departments. In addition, we regularly team-up successfully with other Business Councils and partner with organisations in the UAE to further increase the networking opportunities and to benefit from synergies. We would be delighted to welcome you at our

Why our presidents think you should become a member of the Swiss Business Council? For any Swiss person, organisation or company in the UAE, being a member of the Swiss Business Council should not be an option to be evaluated, but a must! The added value of our Council is undoubtedly fundamental to reach the high-level of connections and networks necessary to excel in the UAE. Indeed, the collaboration with the Swiss community and its official representations play a key role in our success. Members facing similar challenges are encouraged to interact, leading to a successful unraveling of their issues, thanks to the shared experience, local knowledge and advice received by the SBC. How can a Swiss Company be successful in the UAE? Fortunately, the reputation and prestige of the Swiss flag are a great advantage. However, there is no magical formula or potion for success in any nation of the world. But perseverance, resilience, patience, and above all connections are fundamental ingredients. One must not forget to adapt to local business customs and traditions. A direct and immediate approach is not advisable, but must be preceded by „small talk“. It is particularly important to build a solid foundation and to always remember to follow up, follow up, and follow up again! The UAE must not be thought of as the land of miracles but as the region of opportunities. As president of your respective SBC, please introduce yourself.

offices at the Swiss Tower in JLT, Dubai and Baynunah Tower on the Corniche in Abu Dhabi,

Peter Harradine, President SBC Dubai &

where we always make sure to have Swiss

Northern Emirates: I was born in Bern and had the

chocolates, naturally!

good fortune to grow up in Caslano, which is


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founded one of the biggest landscaping companies in the UAE and have been based in Dubai ever since. Twenty-four years ago, we founded the SBC in Dubai and I have had the honour of being its president for the last 20 years. I will leave that post to a younger person at the beginning of next year and wish the SBC Dubai and Northern Emirates a continuous road to A speed-networking event held by SBC Abu Dhabi.

success!

definitely one of the most beautiful villages in Ticino. I was extremely lucky to experience the sixties and

Matteo Boffa, President SBC Abu Dhabi: I am a

had a great life as a teenager going to secondary

young Swiss entrepreneur from the "sunny corner"

school in the UK and in 1965 and in 1966

of Switzerland: Ticino. After working for several

completed my studies in the USA. I have always

years in the world of finance (Private Banking) and

worked independently and followed in my fatherâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s

almost two years in the Swiss army, I decided to

footsteps as a golf course architect. In 1977 I

take a different career path and undertake the hard

On the Swiss National Day, the SBC Dubai traditionally organises a dinner for the Swiss community.


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road to be professionally independent, with the various pros and cons. At the moment I collaborate with several international companies in the field of innovative sustainability and environmental protection. My motto is: Don't spend to destroy, invest to create. What attracted you to move from Switzerland to the UAE? Peter Harradine: My move to Dubai, like many other things that happened in my life, was definitely not planned. I was offered a good - although uncertain - opportunity and I jumped at it, although I must admit that 43 years ago I did not know where Dubai was. I never regretted the move and it has been a great privilege to share and be part of an incredible adventure. I am extremely glad that I landed in a young country that has shown enlightened leadership, courage, vision and tolerance. Matteo Boffa: I was looking for a personal and professional challenge and adventure, as I no longer felt comfortable and satisfied with the narrow and sometimes limited reality that surrounded me in Switzerland. I arrived in the UAE in 2016 and I think it was one of the best decisions I made in my life. I am proud to have been born and raised in Switzerland and I am aware that I am truly privileged to be able to continue calling Switzerland my home.

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IMPRESSUM Written, edited and designed by the Embassy of Switzerland to the UAE and Bahrain. Cover depicting the Burj Khalifa showing the Swiss flag as a gesture of appreciation for the projection of the UAE flag on the Matterhorn in April 2020. Picture by @dubai.uae.dxb KALIMA 2020 was published in Abu Dhabi (UAE) in December 2020.


Profile for SwissEmbassyUAE

Swiss Embassy Newsletter Issue 006  

Kalima - the official Newsletter of the Embassy of Switzerland to the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain - is a publication discussing Switzer...

Swiss Embassy Newsletter Issue 006  

Kalima - the official Newsletter of the Embassy of Switzerland to the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain - is a publication discussing Switzer...