Saturday, 20 September 2014

St Gingolph - half French, half Swiss.

River Morge - international frontier.

St. Gingolph is a large village on the southern shore of Lake Geneva (which the French call 'Lac Leman'). On 4th March 1659 The Duc Emmanuel Philibert of Savoy signed a treaty with the local regional rulers of St Gingolph and established a boundary to run down the middle of the River Morge which flows through the village into the lake. 

French & Swiss customs officers on the
border at St. Gingolph in the 1900s
This was fine until the Swiss republics confederated and then the Italian leader, Cavour, gave Savoy to Napoleon III in 1860 to pay for the French troops he provided to assist in unifying Italy. The village was now split by an important international frontier.

Today the village is still half in Switzerland and half in France. If you die in the Swiss half, you are buried in France. The Swiss residents of St. Gingolph benefit from a special concession whereby they can import from France up to 2kg of meat per family, per week as opposed to the normal 400gm. The economy of the village is heavily influenced by its trans-frontier position. The French half, despite having no train service and only two buses per day, is flourishing whilst the Swiss half, enjoying 12 trains per day, numerous bus routes and a summer steamer service across the lake, is declining.

The reason is not hard to find. The French residents work in Switzerland where the salaries are higher, but they live in the French half where the rents are cheaper and the Swiss come to shop in the French side where the retail prices are lower.

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