Switzerland opens world's longest tunnel

The Gotthard Base Tunnel was inaugurated in Switzerland on Wednesday. 57 kilometres long, the 11-billion-euro project joins the Canton of Ticino with German-speaking Switzerland. Europe would do well to copy Switzerland's drive and business acumen, some commentators write. Others point out that the tunnel is not so important as a trade route.

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Il Sole 24 Ore (IT) /

EU can learn a thing or two from the Swiss

Europe's faintheartedness seems even more pitiful in view of Switzerland's huge feat, Brussels correspondent Adriana Cerretelli writes in Il Sole 24 Ore:

“The sluggishness of the Union stands in stark contrast to the incredible drive, far-sightedness, courage and strategic orientation of other countries. The EU's economic growth lacks tempo, strength and the willingness to invest. Instead fences are being erected and protectionist behaviour is gaining the upper hand. ... Certainly, Switzerland, which paid for the new tunnel all on its own, has also egoistically rejected immigration. ... Nevertheless it has managed to remain focused on its economic and trade interests. ... Switzerland has adjusted to the European single market. It's time that Europe woke up from its long sleep and decided to take full advantage of its huge potential.”

Süddeutsche Zeitung (DE) /

Exemplary civic participation

The Gotthard Base Tunnel is a symbol of grassroots democracy, writes the Süddeutsche Zeitung in praise:

“As usual with such projects in Switzerland the citizens were brought on board at an early stage. They were allowed to have their say, take part in the decision-making and they were all the more willing to support the plans as they weren't just about protecting their Alps but about the perforation and conquest of a huge myth. The Saint-Gotthard Massif, an inhospitable grey ensemble of gneiss and granite, a water and weather divide between north and south, and the dividing and connecting line between several languages and cultures, is ultimately a symbol for Switzerland as a whole. Here lies one of Europe's powerhouses. … Hopefully the Swiss will manage to convey a little of the smartness and grassroots democracy with which they approach such projects to the EU heads they have invited to the inauguration. Or would anyone in Germany or France have come up with the idea of putting ordinary citizens and not politicians or local dignitaries on the first two trains to travel though the tunnel?”

Der Standard (AT) /

Swiss vision not yet reality

The Swiss transport vision has come one step closer to reality with the completion of the Gotthard Tunnel but there is still a long way to go, Der Standard comments:

“The vision that even more people could be motivated to leave their cars at home and take the train could become reality in Switzerland. Unfortunately, however, Switzerland is still a long way from being a model for Austria. Because if the Swiss have managed to get their freight traffic off the road and onto the rails, it's also thanks to their strict transport policy. When required, the roads are closed to foreign lorry traffic. As an EU member, Austria doesn't have this option. ... Moreover, the Swiss must first show that the tunnel can do its bit to make the roads emptier and the trains fuller. What they have already shown, however, is that they can turn their visions into reality: the train is moving down the track.”

Tages-Anzeiger (CH) /

Tunnel no longer on the main trade route

The Gotthard Base Tunnel has little significance for the flow of goods in Europe, Tages-Anzeiger observes:

“Most of the former East Bloc states have joined the EU. What's more, not only has political cooperation in Brussels proved difficult, but above all Germany has developed increasingly close economic ties with its neighbours to the east which in former times were rather unimportant trade partners. Relatively insignificant during the Cold War, the value of Germany's exports to Poland has more than tripled since 2000 - while its exports to Italy have actually decreased in recent years. Today the trade flows are practically equivalent, and if you add Hungary, Czechia and Russia to the mix you observe a huge shift in the trade balance. The upshot: while the Germany-Italy axis was of central importance 20 years ago, today - from the German point of view and seen in a sober light - it's simply an important side branch.”