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Switzerland drops off the beaten track

East-west routes are set to bypass Switzerland swissinfo.ch

The eastward enlargement of the European Union could have major implications for Switzerland as a transit hub.

This content was published on February 27, 2003 - 19:10

Italy wants a key road corridor linking eastern and western Europe to run through Trieste - a move that would leave Switzerland well off the beaten track.

With ten countries due to join the EU next year, the location of new transport arteries linking east and west could have huge implications for the countries in between.

Italy, in particular, fears being marginalised as Europe's centre of gravity shifts eastward.

At a recent international transport conference in the Swiss city of Lugano, the Italian delegates made it clear that they would be pushing for a proposed transit route - known as Corridor 5 - linking Lisbon, Portugal, with the Ukraine capital, Kiev.

The proposed road corridor would run through Barcelona to Genoa and on to Trieste on Italy's northern Adriatic coast, before continuing to Ljubljana (Slovenia), Budapest (Hungary) and Kiev.

Axis

At the December conference which decided the new EU members, the Italian president, Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, made no bones about Rome's determination to see Corridor 5 become a reality.

He said it was as important to Italy as joining the euro-zone and that it would form the main axis of a national and international communication network.

As expected, Rome stated during the conference that Corridor 5 was to be given priority over improving the north-south route - which currently runs through Switzerland.

"As the conference proved, thoughts about the northern border area of Switzerland are relatively far from the minds in Rome," the director of Lugano University's Economic Research Institute, Ricco Maggi, told swissinfo.

Heading east

Once the EU expands, the east-west passage is likely to become increasingly important at the expense of the classic north-south route.

This has potentially negative consequences for Switzerland, which currently lies on the main north-south axis.

None of the EU's proposed east-west routes run through Switzerland. But if Italy's attention was not focused on its eastern links, much could have been done to improve the north-south passageway.

Improvements along the southern side would open up new markets to the Swiss canton of Ticino, and might reduce the volume of traffic crossing the Alps.

Looking to the northern side, German-speaking Switzerland would also benefit from being linked to the infrastructure of new markets.

In terms of transport, Switzerland's self-imposed exclusion from the EU has so far helped the Swiss in that it has allowed them to limit the number of trucks transiting the Alps.

The EU is currently concentrating on projects that are grouped under the Trans European Network Transport scheme. Transit through the Swiss Alps does not come under this heading.

swissinfo, Gerhard Lob in Locarno (translated by Faryal Mirza)

Transport brief

With ten countries due to join the EU next year, the location of new transport arteries linking east and west could have huge implications for the countries in between.

Italy, in particular, fears being marginalised as Europe's centre of gravity shifts eastward.

It is seeking to have a key transport corridor linked to Trieste.

Italy's determination to secure this route is likely to shift investment away from north-south links through Switzerland.

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