“The cross-border workers can stay, but the labour market is going to change”
The Swiss economist and lecturer, Remigio Ratti, recently presented a study of future scenarios in Insubria; these also include EGTC, a cooperation model that already exists in other parts of Italy.
What is going to happen to relations between Canton Ticino and the border provinces after the result of the Swiss federal vote last Sunday? Do our cross-border workers have to fear for their jobs? We asked Remigio Ratti, the Swiss economist, lecturer and former chief executive of the television company, Radiotelevisione Svizzera Italiana, who has studied cross-border relations and the local development of the Insubria area for years.
“Let’s start with some preliminary comments: the quotas won’t be introduced tomorrow, so the cross-border workers can remain in Ticino. Nobody is going to lose their job. A three-year term has been established for this question, and the ceilings will be set depending on the needs of the economic system of each canton.”
But will anything change?
“Yes, in the future there may be a sort of competition among cantons to obtain the quotas when a total number of cross-border workers to be admitted into Switzerland has been established. And if there are some good economists (and this also applies to Ticino), it is to be expected that they will try to guarantee more labour for the sectors that are most promising in terms of added value. Something will probably change in the weakest sectors. In other words, the quota system will lead to strategic decisions. In the near future, we may therefore see an increase in the number of cross-border workers in some sectors, and a decrease in others.”
Was the Swiss vote a racist one?
“No, it wasn’t, and the analysis of the vote demonstrates this. First of all, the electorate was split in half; not everybody voted in favour. Moreover, the vote was different from area to area, and between the cities and the suburbs. The big cities rejected the initiative, and this is significant. Ticino has been in a situation of hardship for a long time. Ticino is a special case and some of the politicians were able to increase the people’s discontent.”
Will the result of the federal vote alter border relations?
“I really don’t think so. Even if the “No’s” had won, the eternal structural problems in Ticino would have remained. What was decisive was the vision of territorial governance. Consider the Arcisate/Stabio case, leaving aside, for a moment, the obstacles that blocked the building site. There was a project there, an international vision and an important work that had been planned together. But now, we have to reckon with the problems Italy has had, and with the disappointment of Ticino, who were expecting to get to the Expo with the infrastructure ready. There’s also the example of training. We have some shared projects, but we could make considerable progress. Let’s also think about the credit sector: the potential is huge for people in both regions.”
Recently, together with professor Alberto Bramanti, you presented a study of scenarios in Insubria. Among these, you identified several forms of territorial cooperation. The day after the Swiss election, the President of Lombardy, Roberto Maroni, suggested establishing a new free-trade-area on the border; what do you think of this?
“In the study, we illustrated a number of possible scenarios, including the beginning of much more structured cooperation between Canton Ticino and the Italian border provinces. We don’t have to invent much, we already have the tools that allow us to establish these territorial relations. We identified EGTC (European Grouping of Territorial Cooperation), which is based on the Trentino, Alto Adige and Tyrol model, and which is already allowed for and regulated by the rules of the European Union.”
What should the regions involved do?
“First of all, they should optimise what already exists, for example, the Regio Insubrica (the working community created twenty years ago that includes Ticino, Varese, Como, Lecco and the area of Verbano Cusio Ossola), which is in danger of being lost. It could be transformed into a multilevel public legal body with more incisive powers. I’d open this body up to mayors and to higher Italian levels of government, I don’t know if the provinces will remain, and to institutions in Ticino. Like successful models, in local development, we need this change to start from the bottom and to involve the people, too. So, in addition to economic initiatives, may there also be cultural and social ones.”
What has prevented this integration up to now?
“On the one hand, the uncertainty and difficulties of Italian politics didn’t help, on the other, we didn’t really think about the wellbeing of both areas. Everybody tried to obtain benefits or to limit their problems. This is why I mention the strategic role of governance; if we start from a cross-border view and if we consider the interests of both, the results will come.”