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FRENCH HISTORY

France, Italy or Switzerland – which country is Mont Blanc in?

Towering majestically in the Alps, the mountain of Mont Blanc is naturally completely indifferent to political disputes over borders - but that doesn't stop the three countries arguing over it.

France, Italy or Switzerland - which country is Mont Blanc in?
Is Mont Blanc in France, Italy or Switzerland? Photo by OLIVIER CHASSIGNOLE / AFP

At least 30 million years old, it’s fair to say that Mont Blanc definitely predates the existence of France, Italy and Switzerland, which means that as those countries were being created and drawn onto maps, they had to decide who got Europe’s highest mountain.

Asking which country Mont Blanc is in is a more complicated question than you might think.

The basic answer is that it’s on the French-Italian border, with the majority of the mountain’s bulk falling on the French side. However at least some of the mountain is in Italy and the Swiss canton of Valais also lays claim to some of the lower slopes.

France and Italy have been arguing about Mont Blanc (known as Monte Bianco in Italy) since the 18th century, with the Italians claiming that the border divides the summits of both Mont Blanc and neighbouring Dôme de Goûter equally between France and Italy, while the French insist that the border in fact bypasses both summits, placing the mountains in France.

In total around 75 hectares of land is disputed territory.  

Before that, France was arguing with the independent Duchy of Savoy, within which the mountain stood. Eventually Savoy ceased to be an independent state and its territories have been subsumed into the French départements of Savoie and Haute-Savoie, the Italian regions of Aosta and Piedmont and the Swiss canton of Geneva.

But it’s not just borders that move, the mountain also shifts a bit and in fact the climate crisis is accelerating that process as the Mont Blanc glacier melts, along with surrounding snowfalls, leading to changes is the shape of the mountain range.

The dispute largely involves slightly different looking maps in the different countries though, and it seems unlikely that either side is about to go to war.

Famously-neutral Switzerland is also unlikely to launch a war over this issue, but it is in dispute with Italy over the location of a nearby mountain lodge, which has recently shifted position due to melting snows and glaciers.

While this might sound like something that is only of interest to cartographers, the ski industry is a lucrative one to all three countries, and the mountain lodge dispute has been the subject of diplomatic discussion since 2018.

Signs at the Mont Blanc glacier show visitors how it is receding year by year. Photo by PHILIPPE DESMAZES / AFP

Increasing changes to the entire mountain range due to rising temperatures mean that these disputes are likely to become more common in the future.

For the moment, however, the dispute remains largely good-humoured – as seen in this Twitter exchange between the French and Swiss embassies during the Euros football tournament. 

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COVID-19 RULES

Italy eases Covid measures ahead of new government

Italy's outgoing government is easing measures against coronavirus from Saturday despite an increase in cases, weeks before handing over to a far-right administration that has criticised the tough restrictions.

Italy eases Covid measures ahead of new government

Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s government said it would not renew regulations requiring FFP2 face masks to be worn on public transport – these expired on Friday.

However, it has extended for another month the requirement to wear face masks in hospitals and other healthcare settings, as well as residential facilities for the elderly.

READ ALSO:  Why are so many Italians still wearing face masks in shops?

By the time that rule expires on October 31, a new government led by far-right leader Giorgia Meloni is expected to be in place — with a very different attitude to Covid-19 restrictions than Draghi’s.

Italy was the first European country to face the full force of the coronavirus pandemic in early 2020, and has had some of the toughest restrictions.

Last winter, it required certain categories of workers to be vaccinated and demanded proof of a negative test, recent recovery from the virus or vaccination — the so-called Green pass — to enter public places.

READ ALSO: What is Italy’s Covid vaccination plan this autumn?

The pass was strongly criticised by Meloni’s Brothers of Italy party, which swept to a historic victory in elections on Sunday.

“We are against this certificate, full stop,” the party’s head of health policy, Marcello Gemmato, La Repubblica newspaper on Friday.

He said it gave “false security” because even after vaccination, people could get and spread coronavirus.

Gemmato said vaccines should be targeted at older people and those with health problems, but not be obligatory, adding that the requirement for healthcare workers to be vaccinated would not be renewed when it expires at
the end of the year.

READ ALSO: Italy gives green light to new dual-strain Covid vaccines

Cases of coronavirus are rising slightly again in Italy, likely due to the return of schools and universities.

More than 177,000 people with coronavirus have died in Italy since the start of the pandemic.

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