Opinions - 15.06.2012 - 00:00 

Progress on the tax deal

Italy is not only the “land where the lemon trees bloom”, it is also one of Switzerland’s most important economic partners. Professor Renato Martinoni describes the impact of the euro crisis on the relationship between the two countries.


15 June 2012 There has been talk about tension in the relationship between Italy and Switzerland for some time. This is not about politics; rather, the disagreements concern financial matters. For half a century, Swiss banks have provided a refuge for Italy’s monetary capital. The financial centre of Lugano – Switzerland’s third biggest – would be almost lost without this capital.

Cameras at the Ticino borders

The reasons for this influx of capital are manifold: the stability of the Swiss franc, the security, discretion and organisation of the Swiss banks, confidence in a country like Switzerland, which evokes respect and admiration. Confronted by a serious economic and liquidity crisis, the Berlusconi government tried to stem the phenomenon of the emigration and repatriation of capital with drastic measures. For this reason, cameras were set up at the borders in order to check on the suspicious to-ing and fro-ing of Italians. Switzerland was put on a “black list” of tax havens.

All this resulted in a great deal of tension, particularly in the Canton of Ticino. After the Federal Council had hesitated for a long time, the Ticinesi government summarily decided to freeze any monies owing to Italy and not to pay them for the time being. In the Canton of Ticino alone, there are 54,000 Italians who cross the border every day: this is more than a quarter of the working population. This measure caused financial hardship in many Northern Italian residential communities. By way of response, Italy has enacted new laws which make bureaucracy even more complicated and has thus created further obstacles for economic relations between the two countries.

Fair solutions for both countries
After the meeting in Rome between Mario Monti and Evelyne Widmer-Schlumpf, we should be able to assume that a reasonable compromise will be found. However, the Federal Council should also show the same commitment it showed in the negotiations with France and Germany. Italian-speaking Switzerland expects clear-cut support from the Bernese authorities, not least to cope with the feeling of being left alone, which has led to the emergence and establishment of populist parties with their strategies of dissociation, protest and autonomy.

Relations between Italy and Switzerland are not only limited to financial matters. Intensive diplomatic and cultural relations that have gone on for centuries have created a solid foundation for their “elective affinity”.

Italianità in Switzerland
Italian immigration has provided Swiss everyday life with a touch of italianità, as can be seen in food culture and lifestyle. No other country is so close to Switzerland for better or for worse (which is almost a paradox) than Italy. It is not only the “land where the lemon trees bloom”, it is also one of Switzerland’s most important economic partners. Let us hope that bilateral discussions will in future look for fair solutions for both countries together.

Picture: Photocase / Martin Runkel

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