“Investing in Calabria? It is possible”. The Swiss ambassador to Italy visits Reggio


By John

From the green of Switzerland to that of Sila: something familiar, in Calabria, the Swiss ambassador to Italy he must have caught it at first sight. And she says it immediately, smiling, Monika Schmutz Kirgöz: «The nature here is fantastic, I will return on holiday to go trekking».

Visiting our region, the diplomat has a series of institutional appointments on her agenda between Reggio and Catanzaro: prefects, mayors, public prosecutors, president of the region. A real tour de force to “understand” the territory, also carving out space for a meeting in our Reggio editorial office with the president and editorial director of Società Editrice Sud Gazzetta del Sud and Giornale di Sicilia, Lino Morgante. An opportunity to take stock of a series of issues related to relations between Calabria and Switzerland, but not only.

Madam Ambassador, first of all welcome. What was your impression of her arriving?

«I took three days to come here, but I realized that it’s not enough…».

Did anything in particular strike you?

«The main purpose of the trip was to understand this reality. I always say it: you cannot be an ambassador to Italy and understand the country while staying in Rome, you have to travel and go to the regions. And here in Calabria I was very impressed: I find this a complex and at the same time very interesting reality. I saw a lot of enthusiasm and love for the area, which in my opinion are the most important things. I met people who wanted to work and face problems.”

Not just institutions: I know that he visited the Observatory on the ‘ndrangheta and the “Sole Insieme” cooperative which provides employment opportunities to women victims of violence and welcomes migrants, both of which are based in assets confiscated from the ‘ndrangheta.

«I noticed a great sense of belonging. I was struck, for example, by the strength of women who, despite the difficulties, chose to remain and work in Calabria. Life stories to draw inspiration from.”

Let’s get into the merits of another of the reasons for your visit: what are the economic and commercial relations between Calabria and Switzerland today?

«With the president of the Region, Roberto Occhiuto, we also talked about investments. Do you know that Switzerland is the country in the world where Made in Italy is most loved? Just one figure gives you an idea: 9 million Swiss buy more made in Italy than India and China combined, and we’re talking about 3 billion people there. We also buy a lot from Calabria, but according to the president and in my humble opinion we could still do more. I am thinking of the necessary commercial cooperation and the numerous possibilities: I can reveal, for example, that Ferrovie della Calabria has purchased hydrogen trains from Switzerland of which we are very proud with a view to sustainable development and respect for the environment”.

Are there prospects for more fruitful interactions in the future? Can a Swiss invest in Calabria?

«There are always investment opportunities. I am thinking first of all of the port of Gioia Tauro, where the MSC company operates which you consider Italian but which has its headquarters in Geneva. Here in Calabria there is the most important port in Italy for the sorting of goods and we Swiss are very strong for all investments relating to the railway, placing great importance on train transport. I see possibilities here, certainly yes.”

Calabria is inevitably associated with the ‘Ndrangheta. Let’s look at the phenomenon from his point of view. The presence of Calabrian-inspired crime in Switzerland was certified by the ruling of the “Cavalli di pedigree” trial of 2023. According to Italian magistrates, the arrival of the ‘ndrine in his country dates back to the 1980s. What tools can the Swiss judiciary and police forces implement to combat the gangs, considering that 416 bis does not exist in your system? Is Switzerland ready to combat mafia infiltration into its economic fabric?

«Well, I wonder who is ready to fight back… I can say that the ‘ndrangheta is also here in our country and that the most important thing to underline is the close collaboration in the fight by the two States. In Reggio and Catanzaro I met the two prosecutors who are in very close contact with their colleagues, in the name of full collaboration”.

We remain in Switzerland, the neutral country par excellence. Well, can we be neutral today with respect to what is happening in Ukraine and Gaza?

«I think I can summarize everything in a single concept: neutrality does not mean indifference. If we talk about Ukraine, we are faced with a war of aggression. With respect to this we are still neutral, so much so that we do not participate in any war or sell war material, but we have also applied the sanctions of the European Union, even though we are not part of it. And this is because, I repeat, neutrality does not mean indifference.”

And we come to the hottest topic in our territory: the Bridge over the Strait, a very divisive topic both in Calabria and Sicily. What does an external observer like you think?

«I am here to observe reality, I would never allow myself to have an opinion on such a complex infrastructural work. I simply note that if I listen to the people I met in Calabria, as well as the people on a previous trip to Sicily, they all say “yes, it’s a good thing, but then we have to strengthen everything else…””.

What do you have left of Calabria, what do you take with you from this land?

«Many things. And I’m not just thinking about bergamot and lots of chili pepper… I agreed with President Occhiuto to absolutely return as a tourist for a long weekend and do what I like most: trekking. It seems like a perfect area for those who love nature like me and many Swiss people. Here, an interesting fact is that I see attractions for tourism close to nature.”