Courtesy Reuters

The Franco-Swiss Free Zones

The controversy which has arisen between France and Switzerland regarding the free zones of Haute Savoie and the Gex district may appear secondary in comparison with others which are attracting the world's attention. And yet for Switzerland, and especially for the city of Geneva, it has a very great importance.

Connected with Switzerland by a narrow strip of land which is hardly four kilometers wide, the Swiss city of Geneva, with 140,000 inhabitants, finds

itself shut in by the French regions of Haute Savoie and the district of Gex, of which it is the natural center and the commercial metropolis. In order to live and prosper, Geneva must be in a position to entertain free and easy economic relations with those essentially agricultural regions. It needs them for its food supply, and it is in those regions that the trade of Geneva finds its nearest market.

From immemorial times a special régime facilitated the economic relations of the little Republic of Geneva and its neighbors. In 1603 the Treaty of St. Julien established the principle of free trade between Geneva and Savoy, the Genevans being exempt from tolls and custom duties, while in 1602 the same right of exemption had been recognized by France with respect to the district of Gex. This régime was of economic advantage to both parties. Then came the French Revolution. And in 1798 Geneva, after having been an independent republic for several centuries, was annexed to France. In 1813 it recovered its independence, and having expressed its determination to become Swiss was received as a member of the Swiss confederation (1815).

Taking into account the exceptional position of Geneva, the European Powers who in 1814 and 1815 were entrusted with the task of remaking the map of Europe sanctioned under a new form a situation which had existed since the beginning of the seventeenth century. The economic relations between Geneva and the bordering regions, the so-called "free zones," remained exempt from all customs barriers. The Treaty of Paris (November 20, 1815) reëstablished the

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