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Cross-border dispute Italy summons Swiss ambassador over closed borders

Swiss border guards close the frontier checkpoint in Novazzano, canton Ticino, on April 1, 2017


(Keystone)

The Italian foreign ministry has summoned the Swiss ambassador to Rome for urgent talks after Switzerland closed three minor border crossings at night in an apparent crime-fighting measure.

A statement released on Tuesday night by Italy’s foreign ministry cited Swiss Ambassador Giancarlo Kessler as saying the measure was a temporary experiment and would be reviewed in light of improved border security collaboration.

Since Saturday, the border crossings at Novazzano-Marcetto and Pedrinate, near Como, and Ponte Cremenaga, near Lake Maggiore in southern canton Ticino have been closed from 11pm to 5am every day.

According to the Tribune de Genève newspaper, this measure was taken to combat cross-border crime, in particular burglaries, and it should remain in place for six months.

Switzerland, unlike Italy, is not a member of the European Union but has signed up to the passport-free Schengen zone and free movement of persons accords. During the Tuesday meeting, Italian authorities said the border closings violated Europe’s free-circulation norms.

Local Italian mayors had protested the closures as penalizing Italians who cross the border for work or other legitimate reasons. 

Italy said on Tuesday that it had again urged the Swiss ambassador to stop local officials from carrying out criminal record background checks on Italian cross-border workers. Around 62,000 Italians travel every day to work in the Swiss Italian-speaking region of Ticino. One quarter of the canton's workforce (27.1%) is made up of commuters from Italy.

The region is also a busy crossing point for migrants from southern Europe wanting to travel further north. Last year the Swiss authorities caught some 33,844 illegal immigrants entering canton Ticino from Italy.

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