Opening of the Gotthard base tunnel

Pollegio, 01.06.2016 - Welcoming speech by President of the Swiss Confederation, Johann N. Schneider-Ammann, head of the Federal Department of Economic Affairs, Education and Research EAER

The spoken word is final!

Monsieur le Président,
Frau Bundeskanzlerin,
Herr Regierungschef,
Signor Presidente del Consiglio dei Ministri,
Herr Bundeskanzler,
Sehr geehrte Mitglieder der Eidgenössischen Räte
Sehr geehrte Repräsentanten der Kantone und Gemeinden
Ladies and gentlemen; friends

The Gotthard has been a major transport route between north and south since time immemorial.

It has taken on a mythical nature and for a long time it inspired both fear and fascination, as the artistic presentation has just shown us. The pack-horse tracks, the Devil’s Bridge, the Gotthard postal service and railway all form part of our country’s identity.

Now we have given a new aspect to the myth. From today, the longest railway tunnel in the world runs through the Gotthard massif. We are delighted and duly proud.

Thanks to vision, courage, tenacity and commitment, it has been possible to complete the New Rail Link through the Alps, the system whose crowning glory is the Gotthard base tunnel. 

With this tunnel, Switzerland is primarily acting in its own interests, linking the Italian- and German-speaking parts of the country. But that is not all. Switzerland also links northern and southern Europe, and so is making an essential contribution to transport infrastructure on the continent. The tunnel cost 11.1 million Swiss francs to build and its construction took 17 years. It was built by Switzerland, but for the whole of Europe.

The Gotthard base tunnel is proof of the fact that Switzerland, a sovereign country, is a reliable member of the European family who is prepared to invest in the continent’s future.

At a time when relations between Switzerland and the European Union are faltering over certain issues, the opening of the Gotthard base tunnel provides a good opportunity to highlight this commitment.

As a sign that our country is bound to the rest of Europe, and as an expression of our shared values and hopes, we have invited the heads of state and government of our neighbouring countries to today’s opening, in order to express our friendship with them. You remain Switzerland’s most important partners.

This construction has many fathers and mothers. Many of them are here today. We owe our thanks to them and to the whole of the Swiss people. And in particular, we owe our thanks to the workers who built this tunnel. Nine people lost their lives in the process. We pay them tribute.

Ladies and gentlemen

This construction site is now closed. There are still many political, economic and social problems to be overcome in Switzerland and in Europe. I am sure that we can face up to these huge challenges. It requires the vision that was also necessary to complete this epic feat of engineering.

Let us enjoy today and may it inspire us to tackle the challenges to come with enthusiasm!

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