Towards a global compact on migration: comprehensive and coordinated initiatives to reduce vulnerability and empower migrants

Mirela Stoia (PwC Geneva) made a presentation at a panel discussion on “Towards a global compact on migration: comprehensive and coordinated initiatives to reduce vulnerability and empower migrants”, which took place on 19 July 2017 at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

Background

On 19 July 2017, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) hosted a panel discussion on “Towards a global compact on migration: comprehensive and coordinated initiatives to reduce vulnerability and empower migrants” at the Palais des Nations in Geneva. The subject of the roundtable was how the protection of migrants in vulnerable situations might be incorporated into the Global Compact for Migration (GCM). The panel members discussed successful mainstreaming in respect of the specific challenges posed by vulnerable populations and how it might be possible to mobilise international coordination to address migration governance. Further topics were the concrete policies and programmes to prevent, address and sustainably resolve migrant vulnerability. The discussion addressed different regional (i.e. ECOWAS) and international approaches (i.e. MICIC) to migrant vulnerability, exploring how such approaches could be integrated as a part of developing and formulating the GCM. The session likewise provided an opportunity to look at the roles of various actors and their mode of engagement, taking account of the need to maximise coordination and cooperation opportunities in a way that avoids duplicating efforts and resources.

Some of this portion of the discussion centred on taking a ‘whole of government’ approach and at looking at the role of civil society in achieving greater inclusion of migrants. The participants focused on what actions they could take to change the narrative surrounding migrant populations and on empowering migrants by proactively seeking to engage with the migrant diaspora communities. Measures for reducing vulnerabilities were also discussed.

The discussion then centred on a consideration of three major areas. The first of these was what roles the different actors play in preventing and addressing migrant vulnerability; the second was how international cooperation and coordinated efforts might be strengthened in order to deal with migrant vulnerability and empower migrants; finally, the group focused on ways in which the multilateral system could foster discussions and consensus on inclusion of these issues in the GCM.

Written statement from a private-sponsor perspective

Introduction

The workshop sought to define the concept of vulnerable migrants, understand what factors excarberate their vulnerabilities, and what actions can be taken to mitigate the issues faced by vulnerable migrants (e.g. racism, marginalisation of migrants and human rights abuses).  From a private-sector perspective, we tend to deal with migrants who arrive in the host country through legitimate and regular routes. Thus, this means that the levels of migrant vulnerability encountered are not the same as the level encountered by those who engage with migrants arriving into a host country as refugees, victims of trafficking, or irregular routes. However, this does not mean to say that migrants arriving to work for a private company through a work-permit operated scheme are not vulnerable. It is simply that the challenges they may face and the means to address those challenges may be slightly different. Nevertheless, it is clear that, whatever the mode of their arrival in the host country, migrants can be empowered through the same means.

Challenges

Migrants coming to a host country in order to take up pre-approved employment or join family members (e.g. spouses) may have the support of their employers and families as well as financial help, but may nevertheless still face challenges resulting in their becoming vulnerable and marginalised members of our communities. Such challenges include racism and xenophobia, language barriers, cultural barriers (for example, not being familiar with the specific local work ethic, working patterns, work processes, day-to-day cultural norms and traditions of the host country, or even something as simple as queueing), administrative processes relating to registration, school, banking, comprehending the requirement to obtain certain types of insurance (e.g. medical insurance, car insurance etc.), understanding operational procedures for obtaining medical and health care services, accessing emergency services, social etiquette for example, engaging socially with work colleagues outside of work etc. and exploitation at work (being underpaid, forced to work overtime etc.).

These challenges are broadly the same as those experienced by migrants arriving via irregular migration routes. However, it is acknowledged that migrants arriving, for example, as refugees or victims of trafficking etc. are more likely to encounter these challenges, and indeed more often than not will find themselves in particularly exposed circumstances, given that they do not have the support structures comprised of their families, colleagues and employers. However, it is important to recognise that even some migrants arriving via regular migration routes may be exposed to harsh challenges, particularly if they are being exploited by unscrupulous employers or are, for example, victims of forced marriage.

Solutions

Private-sector organisations/employers must ensure that they operate processes and policies providing full support and opportunity for migrants to address the challenges they face whilst empowering them to assist others in the same situation. Private-sector organisations/employers must first acknowledge the challenges that may face migrants who are either permanent hires or on international assignment. They then will need to provide a number of services and support schemes. These schemes include such aspects as pre-arrival cultural orientation sessions and full relocation support for migrants arriving in the host country, a local host country HR/Global Mobility contact point with whom migrants can raise their concerns/seek support and guidance, arrival orientation, training and guidance with regarding local customs, work processes and signposting to services such as health care, schools etc.

Organisations and employers should also schedule regular reviews over a 6-12-month period in which the host country HR/Global Mobility contact checks in with the migrant to discuss any concerns, issues, well-being and thereby obtain general feedback. Ongoing communication, training and engagement with all staff regarding diversity and discrimination policies would ensure that migrants feel welcome and host country employees understand the necessity for respect and tolerance.

Organisations and employers should also liaise with government bodies and policy makers by responding to consultations and requests for contribution to policy making to ensure that immigration rules and regulations (both existing and proposed) will not be discriminatory to migrants and will afford the same employment rights (so far as practicable) to migrants as to resident workers. Whereas immigration conditions may be imposed on migrants, it is important for the private sector to advocate for and represent the interests and its migrant workforce vis-à-vis employers so as to ensure migrants do not suffer detriment from a career perspective and any immigration policies allow migrant integration into the host country. Conversely, private-sector organisations/employers should not make recommendations to policy makers that will result in undercutting the resident labour market whilst enabling exploitation of migrant workers. Legislative and government bodies charged with immigration policy making must ensure that whilst incorporating the interests of the private sector into any immigration laws, vulnerabilities faced by migrants will not thereby be exacerbated.

Private-sector organisations/employers must also ensure that there is an educational strategy in place enabling stakeholders to recognise and support particularly vulnerable migrants

employed within the organisation, for example, refugees. Private-sector actors need to be aware of and acknowledge the different support mechanisms necessary to address the vulnerabilities of specific types of migrants, e.g. refugees or victims of trafficking. For example, additional counselling services, confidential advice and support contacts for particularly vulnerable migrants should all be made available. Further, stakeholders involved in the recruitment and retention of particularly vulnerable migrants must have the appropriate training and support available to them so that they can address the vulnerabilities of such migrants whilst enabling their empowerment.

The private sector can play a key role in helping empower migrants through: (1) their internal processes and support procedures; and (2) advocating on behalf of migrants and the value they bring to the workforce. For example, migrants may suffer xenophobia and by advocating on behalf of migrants, private-sector actors can outline the benefits of having a diverse and multicultural workforce that can compete in an increasingly globalised market whilst emphasising migrants’ contribution to the economic and industrial strategy of a host country (e.g. addressing demographic challenges/soft power and cultural and language skills). In doing so, private-sector actors with the power of their brands reassure the public and help to address negative perceptions of migrants which, in turn, can lead to empowering migrants as they will feel more included and integrated into the host community.

It is important for private-sector organisations/employers to share best practice and engage with one another regarding the mechanisms and processes that are able to address migrant vulnerabilities. Sharing best practice at local, national and international levels can lead to a consistent and efficient approach in addressing migrant vulnerabilities and empowering migrants. Private-sector engagement with policy makers at all levels is also important as reviewing practices in other jurisdictions can lead to international cooperation, international coordination of consistent policies, and also avoid duplication of efforts. 

Conclusion

In the last 12-24 months there has been an increased focus on engaging the private sector to take a conceptual leadership role regarding the integration and empowerment of migrants (both regular and irregular). It is crucial that this engagement continue as private-sector organisations can use the power of their brands to support integration and inclusion initiatives as they pertain to migrants. Further, private-sector organisations operate on a global level and can utilise their extensive networks and experience to share best practices and advise on not just the theoretical aspects of addressing migrant vulnerabilities but also the practical steps that can be taken to implement mechanisms empowering migrants. Inclusion of private-sector organisations in multilateral systems, roundtables and conferences is an ideal opportunity for the sharing of ideas with NGOS, government agencies and those operating on the ground.

Furthermore, the private sector can learn from those directly involved in the humanitarian and policy arenas as they relate to migrants. In these areas, private-sector actors can better focus their CSR and HR strategies not just in respect of employing migrants, but also for the benefit of talent recruitment. Specifically, if private-sector actors can better understand the push-and-pull factors which fuel migrant movement from home countries, they can look at their global expansion and business strategies to evaluate whether they can take advantage of and provide opportunities to individuals in jurisdictions which are the focus of any such strategic plans.  This understanding can potentially lead to business growth for private- sector organisations in countries of interest whilst assisting with the economic development of those countries. This understanding can in some ways thereby stem the flow of migration instigated by lack of economic opportunities.

Some impressions of the panel discussion:

Your PwC contacts:

Mirela Stoia
PwC Geneva
+41 58 792 91 16
mirela.stoia@ch.pwc.com

Nadia Idries
PwC London
+44 (0) 7930 37 37 42

 

PwC Legal: Immigration Alert Switzerland (11 May 2017)

New labour market restrictions for Romanian and Bulgarian nationals

Background

As of 1 June 2016, labour market restrictions were lifted for the gainful employment of Romanian and Bulgarian nationals hired locally in Switzerland. Thus, for the past twelve months, citizens of these two countries have had free access to the Swiss labour market.

Under the terms of the Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons (AFMP), the so-called ‘safeguard clause’ allows the Swiss Government to reintroduce temporary restrictions on the access of Romania and Bulgaria nationals to the Swiss labour market if the number of new arrivals exceeds a certain threshold. Between June 2016 and May 2017, the number of Romanian and Bulgarian nationals applying for long-term work and residence permits exceeded the threshold.

New labour market restrictions

On 10 May 2017, the Swiss Government decided to limit temporarily the number of long-term work and residence permits (B-permits) for Romanian and Bulgarian nationals to a maximum of 996 B-permits to be released quarterly over the next 12 months. Short-term L-permits are not affected.

The Swiss Government justified its decision based on the fact that, since June 2016, a large number of Romanian and Bulgarian nationals had obtained work permits for seasonal employment in sectors that have above-average unemployment rates.

How does this impact employers/employees?

Romanian and Bulgarian nationals holding B-permits and who will continue to be employed in Switzerland are not affected by the restrictions outlined above. However, the long-term employment of Romanian and Bulgarian nationals not yet residing legally in Switzerland might become more difficult due to the limitation of B-permit quotas to 996 over the next 12 months. Swiss employers may nevertheless continue to employ Romanian and Bulgarian nationals on the basis of short-term L-permits, which are not limited by a quota.

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PwC will continue to monitor the Swiss immigration authorities’ practice at the federal and cantonal levels very closely, and we will advise all clients about any upcoming changes.

 

Please reach out to us should you wish to have more information on this alert.

 

Your PwC contacts:

Mirela Stoia
PwC Geneva
+41 58 792 91 16
mirela.stoia@ch.pwc.com

Martin Zeier
PwC Basel
+41 58 792 52 74
martin.zeier@ch.pwc.com

PwC Legal: Immigration Alert UK (30 March 2017)

Article 50 has been formally triggered by the UK government

Article 50 of the Treaty of Lisbon has yesterday been triggered by the government serving as the formal notification of the United Kingdom’s intention to withdraw from the European Union. Theresa May triggered the official process in a letter to the EU which was delivered by Sir Tim Barrow to the President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, this afternoon in Brussels.

Key themes from Ms May’s letter to Mr Tusk included:

  • Engaging with one another constructively and respectfully
  • Putting citizens of both the UK and the EU first
  • Working towards securing a comprehensive agreement and working together to minimise disruption
  • Paying particular attention to the Republic of Ireland which is the only land border that the UK has with an EU member state

The letter also makes clear that the UK does not seek membership of the single market and that the EU position that the four freedoms of the single market are indivisible and that there can be no “cherry-picking” is understood and respected.

As previously advised, there will be no immediate changes to the immigration rules regarding EU nationals currently living and residing in the UK, nor conversely for those UK nationals currently living and residing in the EU.

The final Article 50 agreement will need to be agreed by the EU member states, the UK and the European Parliament. Any EU Treaties will continue to apply to the UK until such agreements enter into force or until the two year period of negotiations has ended. Should there be no agreement by this two year mark, it may be that a request for an extension of negotiations is put in place by unanimous agreement of all EU member states.

We would also like to remind you to register for our next live webinar in our ‘Beyond Brexit’ series called “Beyond Brexit – what’s the deal?” on 27th April 2016 at 10am GMT, using the link below:

http://www.pwcwebcast.co.uk/webcast/2017_April_BeyondBrexit/

Our industry experts will be discussing what we can expect from the two year Brexit negotiations and what sort of deal we may be heading toward. Please do also visit our dedicated Brexit site www.pwc.co.uk/brexit where you can access our podcasts, webcasts, blogs and various other materials to help guide and support you during this period.

Please reach out to us should you wish to have more information on this alert.

 

Your PwC contact:

Mirela Stoia
PwC Geneva
+41 58 792 91 16
mirela.stoia@ch.pwc.com

 

PwC Legal: Immigration Alert Switzerland (13 October 2016)

Update on Swiss immigration

On 12 October 2016, the Swiss government announced an increase in the work permit quotas for Non-EU nationals for the coming year. This alert gives you an update on this topic.

Download the full Alert here.

 

 

Please reach out to us should you wish to have more information on this alert.

Your PwC contacts:

Mirela Stoia
PwC Geneva
+41 58 792 91 16
mirela.stoia@ch.pwc.com

Martin Zeier
PwC Basel
+41 58 792 52 74
martin.zeier@ch.pwc.com

PwC Legal: Immigration Alert Switzerland (28 September 2016)

Update on Swiss immigration

Last week, several cantons announced a lack of B-permit quotas for Non-EU nationals. However, L-permit quotas are still available. This alert gives you an update on Swiss immigration.

Download the full Alert here.

 

 

Please reach out to us should you wish to have more information on this topic.

Your PwC contacts:

Mirela Stoia
PwC Geneva
+41 58 792 91 16
mirela.stoia@ch.pwc.com

Martin Zeier
PwC Basel
+41 58 792 52 74
martin.zeier@ch.pwc.com

Formal statement on the rights and status of EU nationals and UK nationals issued by the UK Government

On 11 July 2016, the UK Government issued a statement on the status of EU nationals in the UK post the EU referendum. They have confirmed that “there has been no change to the rights and status of EU nationals in the UK, and UK nationals in the EU, as a result of the referendum”.

The statement goes on to affirm that the formal process for triggering Article 50 will be a decision for the new Prime Minister and that they expect that the legal status of EU nationals living in the UK and also those UK nationals living in the EU to be properly protected.

EU nationals can continue to reside in the UK and those that have spent 5 years working, studying or being self-sufficient in the UK may consider applying for Permanent Residence and thereafter naturalisation as a British citizen.

What this means for you as an employer?

EU nationals can currently continue to reside and work freely in the UK and conversely UK nationals can continue to travel to, work and reside in other EU member countries freely and without restriction.

There have been no other changes to the UK Immigration Rules for non-EEA nationals as a result of the referendum. The exit process from the EU will be a 2 year negotiation period and therefore we do not expect any changes imminently.

There is a big role for businesses to play now to help inform and mould the exit negotiations. Consultation between businesses and the Government will be key in the coming months.

PwC held a client webcast on 5 July 2016 around the next positive steps for our clients following the ‘Leave’ result. A recording of this webcast can be found on:
http://cache.merchantcantos.com/webcast/webcaster/4000/7464/7468/63252/Lobby/default.htm

LegalWebCast

Please do not hesitate to reach out to your usual PwC Legal contact for further details.

New Swiss Citizenship Act (SCA) comes into force on 1 January 2018

On 20 June 2016, the Swiss Parliament voted on the new Swiss Citizenship Act, which will come into force together with the relevant Ordinance on 1 January 2018. The main aim of the new law is to limit the issuance of Swiss citizenship to well-integrated foreign nationals only. Furthermore, the Citizenship Act also aims to harmonise the residence requirements and implement into a law the authorities’ practice.

Please read our latest immigration alert outlining the changes in the Swiss citizenship law that will come into force as of 1 January 2018.

 

PwC has a dedicated immigration team who regularly assist clients with citizenship applications and who will gladly respond to your citizenship-related questions.

 

Your PwC contacts:

Mirela Stoia
PwC Geneva
+41 58 792 91 16
mirela.stoia@ch.pwc.com

Martin Zeier
PwC Basel
+41 58 792 52 74
martin.zeier@ch.pwc.com

Christine Bassanello
PwC Basel
+41 58 792 51 21
christine.bassanello@ch.pwc.com

EU Referendum – Employers Q&A

The UK’s decision to leave the EU will have significant implications for business, and we are already working to support them as these implications become clearer.

Experience has taught us that UK business is adaptable and innovative when confronted with new challenges and opportunities. Nevertheless, there will be significant uncertainty over the coming months as the detailed political and legal issues are worked out, and business confidence may be impacted.

We are committed to helping you navigate through the new political and economic landscape and adapt to changing market conditions.

Read our newsletter to answer the following questions.

  • So what happens following 23 June 2016?
  • What is the position when we exit?
  • What is the position for EU/Swiss nationals in the UK?
  • What are the possible outcomes?
  • Can UK companies still employ EU/Swiss nationals?
  • What is the position for UK nationals in the EU/Switzerland?

 

If you have any further questions please contact Julia Onslow-Cole or Mirela Stoia.

European migration crisis overview

Recent history
For many years, there have been illegal border crossings into the EU. However, the number of irregular migrants started to increase significantly in 2011, following the onset of the Arab spring, when thousands of Tunisians began arriving in Lampedusa and Sub-Saharan Africans fled Libya in the post-Gaddafi era. A further dramatic increase in illegal migration followed in 2014, when instability in Libya, triggered by its second civil war, led to mass departures for Italy. The peak of the migration crisis was reached in 2015, as both migrants and refugees from war-torn countries in Africa, the Middle East and southern Asia sought asylum and safety in Europe. By the end of 2015, over one million refugees and migrants had arrived in Europe by sea or land, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

Current situation
Migrants and refugees have continued to arrive in 2016. Many land in Greece via Turkey and continue their journey through the western Balkans in order to seek asylum in other EU countries. European leaders, having failed to persuade the African governments to take more responsibility for the plight of their people, have been trying to find a solution with Turkey to curtail the flow of migrants. A controversial EU-Turkey Joint Action Plan was signed on 18 March 2016, coming into effect two days later. The plan provides for irregular migrants arriving in Greece from Turkey to be returned to Turkey. Further, for every Syrian returning from Greece, a Syrian based in Turkey will be resettled to an EU country. According to the European Commission, the number of migrants arriving in Greece from Turkey has begun to fall already. The EU-Turkey Statement also provides for the relaxing of visa requirements for Turkish nationals for all participating Member States by no later than the end of June 2016, should Turkey meet all of the requirements of the EU-Turkey Statement.

Future consequences
Not surprisingly, this migration crisis has fed a rise in political populism and xenophobia. Many are calling into question the provisions of the Schengen agreement. Austria, for example, decided on 27 April 2016 to introduce a new restrictive refugee policy, which could include border controls during declared states of emergency, especially at the Italian border.

The UK will hold a referendum on an EU exit (Brexit) in June 2016 – with immigration at the heart of the debate. One consequence of a potential Brexit would be that Britons might require visas to travel and to work in continental Europe. It is possible that a Brexit will increase Euroscepticism in general, serving as a ‘template’ for other EU countries to envisage an EU exit. As no full Member State has ever left the EU, the consequences of a Brexit are unprecedented.

Even though Switzerland saw a decline in the number of new asylum applications in the first quarter of 2016, the Swiss government needs to consider a possible increase in asylum applications in the upcoming months as the situation in conflict regions remains uncertain. An emergency plan has been implemented, which would see the Swiss border control unit reinforcing border controls if there were a dramatic rise in asylum applications or border crossings.

The ultimate consequences of the current migration crisis will remain uncertain until at least June 2016, when the Brexit referendum and the possible relaxation of visa requirements for Turkish nationals will be decided.

What this means for your business travellers
The migration crisis is affecting business travellers in a number of ways:

  1. In some European states, such as Sweden, resources have been reallocated to process asylum applications, which leads to delays in the processing of work permit applications
  2. Travellers may be subject to increased security checks and scrutiny
  3. Security has been tightened at borders and travellers are subject to transit delays (as may be the case in Austria, for example)
  4. EU cross-border workers are now often subject to security checks
  5. Easier movement of Turkish nationals across Europe, if the visa requirements are relaxed in June 2016

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Other EU migration developments
The visa reciprocity mechanism of the EU aims at facilitating visa-free travel for its citizens to third countries that have been granted an EU/Schengen-wide visa waiver. The US, Canada and Brunei have continued to apply visa requirements to certain EU countries, despite benefiting from the EU-wide visa waver. This may lead to a suspension of the visa waiver programme for nationals of these three countries. While it is expected to solve the non-reciprocity situation with Brunei soon, the discussions with Canada and the US are ongoing. We expect that the European Parliament and Council will make a final decision on this by 12 July 2016, at the latest. As any decision must take into account the economic, political and administrative consequences of the suspension of the visa waiver programme, we consider such a suspension of the visa waiver for US and Canadian citizens as unlikely.

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Some additional information coming from our network we would like to share with you on this subject:

  • Geopolitical instability, refugee crisis, oil crisis, global economic slowdown – how does it effect global mobility? Peter Clarke, PwC Global Mobility Services Leader Julia Onslow-Cole, Global Immigration Leader and Brynne Herbert, CEO of MOVE Guides talk about trends effecting global mobility: https://vimeo.com/162978778

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PwC Legal will continue to monitor the situation and we will advise our clients on upcoming changes.

No more labour market restrictions for Romanian and Bulgarian nationals as of 1st June 2016

Background
Romanian and Bulgarian nationals locally hired in Switzerland have had limited access to the Swiss labour market over the past few years, as opposed to nationals of other EU /EFTA countries. Until 30th May 2016, only a limited number of management level employees, specialists and other qualified employees from Romania and Bulgaria are admitted to the Swiss labour market after a thorough check of their employment and salary conditions, which must be in line with the Swiss requirements.This means that immigration restrictions and processes are until then very similar to those applying to non-EU/EFTA citizens.

Between 1st June 2015 and 30th May 2016, work permits issued to Romanian and Bulgarian nationals are limited to:

• 11’664 L type permits
• 1’207 B type permits

The above quotas are only relevant for permits valid for more than 4 months or 120 days. All permits valid for up to 4 months or 120 days are quota free.

Please note that as for all other EU/EFTA nationals, in case of assignments (intra-company or project workers), work permits will continue to be issued only to management level employees, specialists and other qualified employees and quotas remain in place for all permits of more than 4 months / 120 days.

No further labour market restrictions as of 1st June 2016

The Swiss Federal Council decided today 13th April 2016 that as of 1st June 2016 restrictions for gainful employment of Romanian and Bulgarian nationals locally hired in Switzerland labour market restrictions will be lifted.

This means that Romanian and Bulgarian local hires, like all other EU/EFTA local hires, will have a legal entitlement to obtain a Swiss work and residence permit upon signature of a Swiss employment contract and they can fully benefit from the agreements on the free movement of persons (FMP).

Caveat: If the number of persons arriving in Switzerland from Romania and Bulgaria from 1st June 2016 until 31st May 2017 is 10% higher than the number of arrivals over the last 3 years,
the Swiss Federal Council may re-introduce work permit quotas for Romanian and Bulgarian nationals, but earliest on 1st June 2017 and the quota may be kept in place for a maximum of two years until 2019.

Please note that this new development is a new stage of the gradual implementation of the FMP concerning Romania and Bulgaria. This has, however, no connection with the implementation of the so called mass immigration initiative, which shall be implemented as of February 2017 and may have a significant impact on the admission requirements and procedures for EU/EFTA and third country nationals. The first draft of the respective law is currently subject to controversial parliamentary discussions and negotiations with the EU, which means that the future Swiss immigration policy remains unclear to a significant extent.

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PwC will continue to monitor the Swiss immigration authorities’ practice on the federal and cantonal levels very closely, and we will advise all clients on any upcoming changes.

Your PwC contacts

Mirela Stoia
PwC Geneva
+41 58 792 91 16
Mirela.stoia@ch.pwc.com
Martin Zeier
PwC Basel
+41 58 792 52 74
Martin.zeier@ch.pwc.com