Renovation work set to start next week on the Mont Blanc tunnel between Italy and France must not cause the highway's closure over Christmas, foreign minister Antonio Tajani said on Thursday.
"The Mont Blanc tunnel cannot be closed during the Christmas break," Tajani stated as Italy's transport links with France and other northern neighbours face major disruption after landslides at the weekend.
"This would do serious damage to the economy of the Val d'Aosta, of Piedmont, of the whole of northern Italy," said Tajani.
The "operability" of the Frejus tunnel connecting France and Italy under the Alps needs to be improved, Tajani said. The tunnel was closed indefinitely to heavy track and rail traffic following a massive landslide on Sunday triggered by heavy rains.
Tajani was speaking to reporters upon his arrival at an informal European Union foreign ministers meeting in Toledo, where he was set to hold talks with France's foreign minister, Catherine Colonna.
"Let's see if we can find a good solution with the French, maybe even if an intergovernmental conference could be organised on this. And then we need to start thinking carefully about Italy's proposal for a second Mont Blanc tunnel," Tajani went on.
The Mont Blanc tunnel is currently set to close from 4 September to 18 December for extensive renovation work.
If the Frejus tunnel cannot reopen to heavy goods vehicles before the Mont Blanc tunnel's closure, hauliers fear their drivers will have to make long, expensive and time-consuming de-tours, clogging roads in the northwest.