Bridge-builder Regio Basiliensis
27 June 2023
In the second century AD, the Romans and Celtic inhabitants of Augusta Raurica (today’s Augst, canton Basel-Landschaft) built the first bridge across the Rhine. Augusta Raurica was a city (Colonia) founded by the Romans in 44 BC.
Augusta Raurica and the first bridge over the Rhine, a. 240 n. Chr. Image: Augusta Raurica Museum
A thousand years later, the inhabitants of Basel built their first (wooden) bridge over the Rhine in 1226. The Mittlere Brücke bridge was replaced by the current bridge in 1905.
Basel, The Mittlere Brücke
Rheinfelden (canton of Aargau) was a Habsburg town until 1802. From 1803, the Swiss part of the town on the left bank of the Rhine belonged to canton Aargau. The bridge over the Rhine has connected the German part of Rheinfelden on the right bank of the Rhine (Baden-Württemberg) with the Swiss part of Rheinfelden for centuries.
The Dreiländerbrücke/ la Passerelle des Trois Pays has been connecting France (Huninque) with Germany (Weil am Rhein) since 2007 but bears the symbolic name Three Countries Bridge to confirm the band with Switzerland.
Dreiländerbrücke/ la Passerelle des Trois Pays
Switzerland has built other (international and European) bridges for centuries. Various monuments and events testify to these accomplishments, for example, in Verrieres, Neuchâtel, Geneva, Basel, Brunnen (canton of Schwyz), Hertenstein (canton of Lucerne) or the University of Zurich.
Basel, SBB Bahnhof, Strassbourg monument, a gift of the citizens of Strassbourg to express their gratitude for support during the 1870-1871 siege and war against Prussia.
Bern, Commemoration of the foundation of the Universal Postal Union in Bern (1874)
Neuchâtel, (Hôtel des Postes), former headquarter of the Universal Postal Union
Geneva, United Nations Headquarters. Picture: Auslandschweizerplatz Brunnen
Lake Lucern, the “Europa”, referring to the Declaration of Hertenstein (1946)
Another bridge-builder is the Swiss Association (Verein) Regio Basiliensis. This organisation is a pioneer and visionary in European regional cooperation.
Regio Basiliensis has almost 400 members (245 individual members, including a youth section (Jugendforum) and 141 organisations from education, business and government). The association was founded in 1963 by business, education, political and civil organisations representatives from the cantons Basel-Stadt and Basel-Landschaft. The first working group was established on 25 February 1963.
The first project was the creation of a structure for regional cooperation in the Upper Rhine region (Today, the five cantons Aargau, Solothurn, Jura, Basel-Stadt and Basel-Landschaft, the Südpfalz (Rhineland Palatinate) and Baden (Baden-Württemberg) in Germany and Alsace in France).
The next step was the establishment of the Internationale Koordinationsstelle der Regio (IKS) in 1970, the forerunner of today’s Interkantonale Koordinationsstelle bei der Regio Basiliensis (IKRB).
Because of the competence, commitment and vision of Regio Basiliensis, the trinational political structure, today’s Oberrheinkonferenz soon followed. Political recognition at the highest national was the document of 15 December 1989. Chancellor Helmuth Kohl, President François Mitterand and Swiss Federal President Jean-Pascal Delamuraz confirmed this interregional cooperation on this date. The European Union’s Interreg Oberrhein programme has been financing projects since 1990.
Eric Jakob / Regio Basiliensis (Ed.), Martin Weber, Die Regio-Idee.
Grenzüberschreitende Zusammenarbeit in der Region Basel, (Basel, Merian Verlag 2013). 15 December 1989, Helmuth Kohl, Jean-Pascal Delamuraz and François Mitterand.
Hundreds of small and large regional projects have been realised in the fields of mobility, industry, trade, spatial planning, tourism, the world’s largest museum, energy, traffic, health, climate, environment and nature, labour, science, research and education, cultural and linguistic projects, information centres, communication, in short, too many to list one by one.
On 20 October 2023, Regio Basiliensis is organising the Conference of Border Regions in Switzerland (Konferenz der Schweizer Grenzregionen).
Aims and projects
What these projects have in common is creating a living, working and housing environment for the approximately six million inhabitants of the Upper Rhine region.
The trinational cooperation is also becoming increasingly institutionalised. Some examples are the Trinational Metropolitan Region Upper Rhine (Trinationale Metropolregio Oberrhein (TMO)/ la Région Métropolitaine Trinationale (RMT) and the information centres INFOBEST.
Projects can be submitted to the appropriate authorities in this region. Funding often combines national, cantonal, regional, local or EU funds. Interreg, in particular, is worth mentioning. Further details are listed on Regio Basilienis’s (IKRB) website, the INFOBEST information centres (see below) or the Interreg Oberrhein’s information centre in Strasbourg.
Transnational Cooperation in Education and Science
Trinational cooperation in education and science is of special importance and even a warning and wake-up call in the current situation. To be mentioned are, among others, the Oberrhein-cooperation of dozens of institutes in the field of higher and specialised education, the European Campus EUCOR (three countries and five universities in Basel, Freiburg, Mühlhouse, Strasbourg and the Institute of Technology in Karlsruhe (KIT) and concrete projects, e.g. QUSTEC (Quantum Science and Technologies).
European Union, Neutrality and the Swiss Lord Haw Haw
A few words about the relationship with the EU and the current war on the continent may not fail.
Switzerland’s exclusion from the EU Horizon programme is regrettable. The world’s best universities, best researchers, best project managers, best scientific projects and fundamental research institutes (for example, in St Ursanne, Davos, Zurich, Lausanne, Geneva, Neuchàtel and numerous other places) are excluded by the EU for political reasons (the Börsenäquivalenz and other measures by the EU are other examples. The world’s most innovative and competitive country is thus arbitrarily excluded. The EU does not recognise Switzerland’s sovereignty but takes punitive measures or sanctions.
On the other hand, the outdated neutrality position and the Swiss Lord Haw Haw (1906-1946) role are all the more regrettable. It harms the country economically and in terms of prestige and respect, disadvantages its ‘EU’ record, and is morally indefensible and legally built on dogmatism.
However, European and international cooperation and support have always been in Switzerland’s genes, retaining its rock-solid currency and monetary system and unique direct democracy, federal, decentralised and subsidiarity-based political and administrative (militia) system. It is not nationalism but based on centuries of experience, pragmatism, realism, good fatherhood, and democratic and responsible governance.
The feelings of uncertainty of many citizens in EU member states are not substantially different, but democracy à la Suisse is lacking. Perhaps not only Switzerland should move, but also the EU, having a self-reflective look in the mirror simultaneously.
Dr Kathrin Amacker, President of Regio Basiliensis, during her opening address on 19 June 2023.
The Association Regio Basiliensis initiated a pragmatic approach to European regional cooperation 60 years ago. Its current ‘Trinational Pendenzenliste‘, a unique document with wishes and worries of citizens, businesses, science, and education, also shows the bottom-up concept.
The Upper Rhine region benefits. For example, around 80 000 French and German citizens travel to and work in these five Swiss cantons daily. This does not include Tessin, Thurgau, Vaud, Geneva and other border regions (as many as 350 000 EU citizens work in little Switzerland daily!). Besides, hundreds of thousands of EU citizens live and work in this country.
This story must also be told, quite apart from the low inflation, the low level of public debts, no significant corruption, a rock-solid currency (the euro has been devaluating more than 60% to the Swiss frank since 2002), good education, excellent public transport and generous and relatively well-organised reception and integration of immigrants/asylum seekers.
Perhaps the EU and its 27 member states could consider joining the Confoederatio Helvetica and its 26 sovereign cantons and republics.
Muttenz, 19 June 2023, 60 years Association Region Basiliensis