BY voting a ban on truck transit through the Swiss Alps, the Swiss have thrown another wrench into the smooth operation of Western Europe's giant borderless market.
In a referendum Feb. 20 expressing growing concern about the health of the Alpine environment, 52 percent of Swiss voters voted to phase out within 10 years all foreign trucks using Switzerland's Alpine roads to get to another country.
Reaction to the vote was fierce in Italy, which stands to be hardest hit. Italy's transport minister called for an emergency meeting of his European Union (EU) colleagues. The Italian truck transporters association called the vote a disaster that would cost Italian companies about $500 million annually in added transport costs. The Swiss referendum was careful to exempt Swiss trucks carrying the country's imports and exports.
EU officials also worry that the Swiss vote will lead Austria to take a similarly tough stance on mountain truck transit in its ongoing negotiations for EU membership.