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Research - 30.08.2021 - 00:00

Report on the border region of eastern Switzerland before and during the Covid-19 pandemic

The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on existing regional economic structures was not given sufficient attention in crisis management. This is one of three conclusions of a report by the University of St.Gallen and the University of Applied Sciences of the Grisons, which was pre-pared on behalf of the Ostschweizer Regierungskonferenz (ORK - Government Conference of Eastern Switzerland). The authors of the study recommend raising awareness of the border region of eastern Switzerland at the national level.

30 August 2021. The ways in which the affected countries tried to cope with the cri-sis differed greatly over the period covered in the study. The different measures ap-plied in the regions of the individual countries had an inhibiting effect on various (economic) sectors, as the report of the University of St.Gallen and the University of Applied Sciences of the Grisons shows. This is clearly illustrated by the example of tourism or cross-border purchasing. Here, the data shows that cross-border con-sumption and tourism declined significantly during the border closure.

Cross-border industrial and commercial supply chains were less affected. These were only aggravated for a short time and they quickly settled down again. Howev-er, the report shows that the international trade of Eastern Switzerland suffered more from the Covid-19 pandemic and related measures than that of other border regions of Switzerland. As export demand was low, the international interrelations of the regional economy had a negative impact on Eastern Switzerland as a business loca-tion.

Need for action in the future

The report draws three lessons from the Covid-19 pandemic with regard to Eastern Switzerland's cross-border relations with neighbouring countries and regions: First of all, those responsible should take greater consideration of the impact on regional economic structures in crisis management. At the same time, according to the report, it is important to raise awareness at the national level of the special needs and com-plex interconnections of border regions.

Secondly, the resilience of the cross-border economy of Eastern Switzerland should be increased. This goal plays an important role in the cantons of eastern Switzerland and in most neighbouring regions. If supply chains are more nationalised or even regionalised, cross-border economic interrelations can be expanded.

Thirdly, there is a need for action within an institutional context regarding cross-border collaboration: The authors of the study recommend involving the national levels in cross-border collaboration, if and when problems cannot be solved at the regional level. The cantons of eastern Switzerland have already called for the estab-lishment of a cross-border dialogue platform within the framework of the Interna-tional Lake Constance Conference (IBK) and submitted it to the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs FDFA.

Continue on the bilateral path

The report also shows that economic interrelations in eastern Switzerland in particu-lar are much greater than commonly thought, and that these have led to an increase in prosperity for the entire border region. Germany, Austria, Italy and the Principali-ty of Liechtenstein are important trading partners of Eastern Switzerland. It is much more closely linked to its neighbouring countries than the other Swiss regions.

The border region of Eastern Switzerland is therefore particularly dependent on good and stable relations between Switzerland and the European Union. Following the failure of negotiations on an institutional framework agreement, the cantons of eastern Switzerland are calling for rapid clarification of how to proceed.

Report "Die Ostschweiz und ihre Nachbarn". Wie Corona die grenzüberschreitenden Verflechtungen beeinflusst" (Eastern Switzerland and its neighbours. How Corona affects cross-border interrelations) is available at www.ork-ostschweiz.ch

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