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Bonino: “A new impetus for Rome-Berne relations” (Corriere del Ticino)

On the occasion of the official visit to Berne by Foreign Minister Emma Bonino, we put some questions to her to take the pulse of Italian-Swiss relations.


How do you view relations between Rome and Berne at present?


“Italy and Switzerland share a border and centuries of history. But they also share and maintain excellent relations that are strengthening our special partnership. My visit to Switzerland is a signal that we want to add a new impetus to that partnership. It should be set against a background of on-going and frequent cooperation. For example, on 18-19 January [2013] the Dialogue Forum for Italian and Swiss Civil Society was established. The aim of the Forum is to foster meetings and exchanges of views each year between personalities from our two countries’ political, economic, financial, cultural and scientific communities.


One factor in our excellent relationship is the contribution made by the community of 565,000 Italians living in Switzerland. And Italian-language initiatives are multiplying – the language is spoken by 6.5% of Swiss citizens”.


And yet there are always certain questions on the table, like tax or cross-border workers. Some people, especially in Ticino, say that there are too many of them and they are taking jobs from locals, not least because they cost less.


“There are over 55,000 Italian cross-border workers, and their numbers have been rising constantly in recent years. The importance of their role in Switzerland’s economy has been recognised by the Swiss authorities themselves. All of the questions concerning cross-border workers have been discussed and analysed at bilateral level in the annual sessions of the Italian-Swiss Dialogue on Cross-Border Cooperation, attended by neighbouring Swiss and Italian local authorities.


The last session took place in Rome on 13 June of this year. We know that the tax dossieris still a thorny question. But last year we opened negotiations and set up a technical working group that includes senior officials from the two Finance Ministries. They’re trying to identify solutions for the questions still awaiting a solution”.


In the last few months, work on the Italian stretch of the Arcisate-Stabio international railway line has been at a standstill. This has created disagreements, especially in the Confederation, in the fear that this important link will not even be ready in time for Expo 2015.


“The Italian Government intends to complete the Mendrisio-Varese line, not least with Expo 2015 in mind. We are aware of the difficulties encountered on the Arcisate-Stabio stretch of the line, but we’re determined to complete the project. There’s a bilateral body, the Italian-Swiss Transport Steering Committee, which meets each year. In December 2012, in Berne, our two countries signed a Declaration of Intent on bilateral cooperation in the rail sector”.



The exposition in Milan, a major event, is an economic opportunity for Switzerland too. The country has placed its bets on the project right from the outset. Do you think the Expo can be seen as a good example of collaboration between the two countries?


“As confirmation of the commitment by the Swiss authorities, I recall that Switzerland was the first country to officially confirm it would be taking part in Expo Milano 2015 and to sign the participation contract. Berne will have the second-largest space in the exhibition site, located in a position that is sure to have a high visitor-appeal. We’ve also set up a joint working group to promote the Universal Exposition and adopt initiatives in the tourism sector.


And there’s a high degree of collaboration in involving the private sector, and close coordination to improve the efficiency of transport services to the exposition site. Collaboration between our two countries also remains crucial in the economic sector. Italy is Switzerland’s second commercial partner, after Germany, with trade amounting to nearly 34 billion euros in 2012. Exports have risen 10.8% in the last year, a figure that confirms the expansion seen in recent years”.

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