Parliament has wrapped up its spring session, which for the first time in Swiss history took place in the Italian-speaking part of the country. Officials hailed the three weeks in Ticino as a successful way of boosting national cohesion.
The speaker of the House of Representatives, Peter Hess, said the session in Ticino, which formally ended on Friday, had achieved its aim of fostering closer ties between Switzerland's four language regions.
He pointed out that the three-week session had allowed many members of parliament to get to know the region, which lies south of the Alps on the border with Italy. Hess said the session attracted an unusually high number of visitors and put Ticino in the spotlight.
The speaker of the Senate, Françoise Saudan, underlined the importance of holding a parliamentary session outside the capital, Bern, to strengthen mutual understanding among Switzerland's language regions. However, she said sessions outside Bern should not become a regular event.
A survey by swissinfo among members of parliament showed that the majority supported the decision to hold the session in Lugano, despite minor inconveniences caused by being away from Bern.
The session was made more appealing by a wide-ranging programme of social and cultural activities for members of parliament, including a visit to the northern Italy.
It was only the second time that parliament has convened outside Bern - eight years ago it met in Geneva. The move prompted parliamentarians from canton Graubünden, with its Italian and Romansch-speaking linguistic minorities, to call on the government to hold a session in this part of the country.
Among the highlights of the parliamentary agenda in Ticino was a decision to liberalise the abortion laws, the introduction of a new consumer credit law as well as proposals to strengthen the four national languages at school and to make the social system more family-friendly.
The session was also marked by debates on European integration, the crisis at the national air transport company, SAirGroup, and a controversy over salaries of the top management at the Post Office and the Federal Railways.
Parliament's temporary move to Lugano cost about SFr2 million ($1.2 million). The session took place in the city's Congress Centre and an estimated 250 computer terminals and telephone lines were installed for use by politicians and the media.
The session also gave a welcome boost to Ticino's tourism industry. The manager of the Lugano tourist board, Marco Bronzini, told swissinfo that many hotels had opened their doors earlier than usual.
by Urs Geiser