Donald Trump, Roger Federer and ‘double eagle’ dominate Switzerland's image abroad in 2018

Foreign press and social media coverage of Switzerland covered a wide variety of topics, many of which were conducive to the country's image. In terms of sheer volume, global perception of Switzerland was predominantly shaped by the World Economic Forum in Davos and Donald Trump's visit to the event. Switzerland's sporting performances were also keenly followed abroad. Other areas that were covered in detail included Switzerland's handling of migration and integration, its policy on Europe, and occasional tensions with Russia and Spain.

Foreign media reporting and Twitter activity on Switzerland in 2018 gave an encouraging impression, focusing on performances by Swiss athletes like Roger Federer and the national football team, Switzerland as a centre for research, and the World Economic Forum. Other one-off social issues also had a mostly favourable impact on Switzerland's image, such as the bill draft against homophobia. Ambassador Nicolas Bideau, head of Presence Switzerland at the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, sums up the positive results: "Donald Trump in Davos, Roger Federer in Australia and the 'double-eagle' gesture at the World Cup in Russia were key moments for Switzerland's image in 2018. They showed the country's openness towards the world, its competitiveness, commitment and also its cultural diversity. This multi-faceted portrait is in line with Switzerland's DNA – whether it's politics, the economy, society or sports."

Switzerland's image was also impacted by foreign media reporting on its handling of migration and integration. This focused on the 'double-eagle' gesture that was made during Switzerland's game against Serbia at the World Cup and the ensuing debate about dual nationality in the Swiss football team. The media also picked up the story of a Muslim couple in Lausanne who were refused citizenship and the full-face veil ban in the canton of St Gallen.

Switzerland's policy towards Europe also gained visibility. Media outlets abroad published regular pieces on Switzerland's negotiations for a framework agreement and temporary recognition of stock-exchange equivalence with the EU. The Federal Council's decision not to initial the negotiated draft institutional agreement for the time being and to launch consultations on the agreement was met with sporadic and largely neutral reactions in Europe. Occasional tensions in Switzerland's bilateral relations with two countries were also put under the spotlight: Russia, due to alleged espionage activities and Spain, due to Catalan separatists residing in Switzerland.

This year again, the popular votes that were held in Switzerland generated interest abroad. Foreign media outlets gave particular attention to proposals that are also being debated abroad, such as the 'No-Billag' initiative to abolish radio and television licence fees and the 'Vollgeld' initiative to give the Swiss National Bank the sole authority to create money. Even the 'cow horn' initiative attracted some media attention. 

Switzerland's role as a financial centre drew less media attention than before, and the coverage in 2018 was more favourable than in previous years, focusing largely on aspects like the automatic exchange of information and new digital technologies.

Presence Switzerland's annual report shows that various types of media are involved in shaping Switzerland's image abroad. According to Mr Bideau, "Developments in this field mean that media use is no longer confined to traditional press outlets. And this also has an influence on how images are constructed. The perception of Switzerland abroad today is being increasingly shaped by an interplay between the foreign press and social media. Which is why we also take this on board when developing Switzerland's communication strategy abroad."

Analysis 2018 of Switzerland’s image abroad