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Local News Summary of September, 13th

  • Basic rights initiative for primates handed in for popular vote in Basel-Stadt
  • Head clerk of chancellery will not return for second term
  • Two schoolboys in hospital after school fire
  • Increased pressure against Uber Pop by Basel parliament members

Basic rights initiative for primates handed in for popular vote in Basel-Stadt

An initiative calling for basic rights for primates was on Tuesday handed over to the State Chancellery of Basel.

The think tank “Sentience Politics” launched the popular initiative in June 2016. By November, the 3,000 signatures needed to take the initiative to the next level had already been collected. Those behind the initiative claimed that this quick collection of signatures demonstrated the importance of basic rights for non-human species.

They blamed the popular demand for change on the "insufficient" Swiss Animal Law, which allows "cruel" research on primates and negates the basic needs of the animals. Primates, like humans, have a fundamental interest in their life as well as their bodily and mental integrity, the initiators said, adding that legal regulations "hardly covered" their interests.

“Sentience Politics” is working to create a society where the ethical interests of all sentient creatures will be taken into account. Their popular initiative is against “specieism” – discrimination based on species.

Primates in Basel’s zoo should remain

Zoos with enclosures for apes like the one in Basel should be allowed to keep primates even if the initiative is accepted, the organisers said. The use of primates for research should also be allowed to continue – but only on the condition that the basic rights stated in the initiative are not violated.

The “Basic rights for primates” (Grundrechte für Primaten) initiative is not the first initiative of “Sentience Politics” in Basel-Stadt. In 2014, the think tank launched an initiative for the promotion of a vegetarian lifestyle, which was accepted for a popular vote with 3,085 valid signatures. The date for this vote is still to be announced. 

The think tank also launched popular initiatives for sustainable food in Zurich and in Lucerne. It also plans to start a countrywide popular initiative to abolish lifestock farming.

Head clerk of chancellery will not return for second term

Peter Vetter, Baselland's head clerk of chancellery, has told the cantonal parliament and the state council in a personal letter that he will not return for a second term next year. As of 1 April 2018, Mr Vetter will join the Basel law firm SwissLegal Dürr + Partner.

In his letter, Mr Vetter renounced his candidature for a second term as head clerk of the chancellery, which runs from April 2018 to the end of March 2022. Mr Vetter wrote that he was under considerable strain from the demanding work and major efforts needed for the position. The strain had become so high that he was not sure anymore whether he would be able to continue working as head chancellor for four or even eight more years. To avoid serious problems, he therefore decided to refrain from renewing his candidacy for November, he wrote. 

It was not an easy decision, he added, particularly because of the "excellent teamwork" he had enjoyed with fellow colleagues in administration, which he said had developed over the past years. The votes of confidence that he had received from political authorities in the canton backed up his this impression. 

Peter Vetter's move to join the Basel law firm SwissLegal Dürr + Partner will see his return to his work as a lawyer. The chancellery management will most likely address the next steps during its next session on Thursday evening. 

Two schoolboys in hospital after school fire

Around 280 children had to be evacuated from a school on Tuesday after a fire broke out, causing potential smoke poisoning.

The fire started in a toilet in the Leonhard secondary school at Leonhardsstrasse at 2.15pm, the public prosecution of Basel-Stadt informed. Fire fighters were able to quickly extinguish the flames, which had caused heavy smoke. 

Two schoolboys had to be taken to the emergency department at the hospital by paramedics on grounds of suspected smoke poisoning. 

The public prosecution puts the property damage at several thousand Swiss francs. It is still unclear why a fire broke out in the school at the edge of Basel’s old city. There are ongoing investigations. 

Classes could not continue after the fire and schoolchildren were sent home.

Increased pressure against Uber Pop by Basel parliament members

The taxi service Uber is facing increasing legal battles and has had to discontinue its driving service Uber Pop in Zurich. Despite the move, the controversial company is still allowed to operate in Basel. The Social Democrats (SP) and Green Party of Basel-Stadt criticise the government’s attitude towards the matter. Two interpellations now demand answers from the state council.

Uber Pop is illegal in Zurich but not in Basel

Following the neighbouring countries Germany, Italy, and France, Uber has also discontinued its Uber Pop service in Zurich. Zurich’s state council decided that new Federal guidelines are necessary for the legal continuation of Uber Pop. Since these guidelines have not so far been established, the council no longer sees Uber Pop as a legal driving service.

An interpellation by Basel parliament member Harald Friedl (Green Union) asks whether Basel’s state council approves this re-evaluation from Zurich. Since nothing was done in Basel so far, it can be assumed that Uber Pop is deemed illegal only if drivers state that they drive commercially on a regular basis – or if these claims can be proven without a statement. Such accusations are hard to prove, and SP parliament member Tim Cuenod rightly asks how many Uber drivers have faced legal proceedings so far.

Is the state council sleeping through the development?

Mr Cuenod’s interpellation also demands that measures need to be taken because Uber drivers are evidently operating in a legal grey area. Zurich is not the only place where Uber Pop has faced criticism. The Swiss Federal Railways (SBB) announced that they are to suspend their cooperation with Uber until “open questions” will have been answered. The interpellation therefore asks whether the parliament is ready to follow the example of the SBB and will suspend a cooperation with Uber as part of the “NordwestMobil” service – or to intervene on behalf of the Postbus at least.