"Ceneri2020: part of my identity"
In an interview with Corriere del Ticino, Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis sees new opportunities across a range of sectors and a strengthened position for the canton of Ticino at a major crossroads of European cultures.
In an interview with Corriere del Ticino, Federal Councillor Cassis talks about the Ceneri Base Tunne © FDFA
"Ceneri2020 is a part of my identity." Federal Councillor Cassis begins the interview with a declaration, recalling that Stefano Franscini, Ticino's first-ever federal councillor, used to say that Monte Ceneri was a dwarf that divided the canton in two. The Ceneri Base Tunnel, he adds, is now bringing two realities closer together, the southern half of the canton as far as Lugano, known as Sottoceneri, and the northern half towards Bellinzona and Locarno, known as Sopraceneri.
First the new Gotthard Base Tunnel and now the Ceneri Base Tunnel mark an important milestone for Ticino and Switzerland. "This decisive step opens up new opportunities in the labour market, for all sorts of exchanges and for cultural links. In Switzerland we are who we are above all because we live at the heart of Europe, benefiting from a continuous exchange of ideas and of people who speak different languages and contribute different approaches that have always enriched us," adds Cassis.
The Ceneri Base Tunnel will significantly reduce travel times between north and south: from Zurich to Milan to just over three hours. Following the construction of the Gotthard railway in the 19th century, the motorway in the 20th century, and the Gotthard Base Tunnel and the Ceneri Base Tunnel in the 21st century, Ticino has been able to transcend its erstwhile peripheral geographic position, offering new opportunities to its residents and moving a big step closer to Zurich and to Milan: "This is an enormous opportunity for us. It's not something we take for granted. It opens us up linguistically to the north and culturally to the south and underscores our determination to play in the big leagues and engage with people who see the world differently." Young people will play a key role in meeting this challenge, adds Cassis. "We need young people who're able to navigate the world with ease and make the most of opportunities."
The opening of the Ceneri Base Tunnel has focused public attention on the issue of mobility in Switzerland – an issue Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis sees as closely related to the referendum on 27 September on the popular initiative ”For moderate immigration (Limitation Initiative)”. A yes vote would result in a constitutional amendment that would require Switzerland to negotiate the termination of the Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons with the European Union within one year. In the absence of a solution, Switzerland would have to terminate the agreement within 30 days, which would also lead to the automatic termination of the six other Bilaterals I agreements, including those related to land transport, technical barriers to trade and research. "Our relations with Italy, Austria, France, Germany and all other members of the European Union would become much more complicated, including in terms of road and rail transport," notes Cassis.