8th May 2021

Thanks to global warming, EU gets new border with Switzerland

  • By 2050, Alpine glaciers could disappear completely (Photo: EUobserver)

The European Union's border with the mountainous country in the middle of its territory, Switzerland, has shifted as a result of global warming and retreating glaciers.

The Swiss Parliament on Wednesday (19 August) passed legislation moving its border with Italy up to 150 metres in some areas into its Latin neighbour's territory.

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The two countries had earlier formed a committee to draft a new border based on the ridge of a glacier near Zermatt. Previously, the border in the area had been marked at sites in the glaciers.

However, as a result of melting of these glaciers - the Alps are home to some of the most dramatic rates of ice sheet retreat - the border, last set in 1942, had shifted considerably, according to the Swiss Federal Office of Topography.

"Demarcation of the border has been rendered no longer visible by the installation of terminals or other signs, which is usually the case where the border is open," reads a statement on the website of the Swiss Department of Foreign Affairs. "In addition, these orographic formations in the high mountains may undergo significant changes, notably due to the melting of glaciers."

"When the boundary coincides with the ridge of a glacier, it must follow the progressive changes of the natural ridge line. In case of complete melting of the glacier, the boundary should coincide with the height of land or crest of the emerging rock surface."

Since 1850, the area covered by glaciers in western Europe has diminished by as much as 40 percent and the volume of glaciers by more than 50 percent. More alarming still is that the melting is accelerating.

On average, glacial ice is disappearing at a rate of three percent a year, having a significant impact on access to drinking and irrigation water.

Some scientists believe that Alpine glaciers could melt completely by 2050.


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