With the Italian-French diplomatic row over migrants still simmering, the Alpine neighbours have found something else to bicker about: who owns Mont Blanc – or Monte Bianco – Europe’s highest mountain?
Since the Italian Republic was formed 150 years ago, France has claimed that three of the principal peaks on the Mont Blanc massif, Dôme du Goûter, Punta Helbronner and the tallest, Mont Blanc itself at 4,810m (15,781ft), are in its territory. This has always been disputed by Italian mountaineers. And the row has flared up once again with a proprietorial appearance by Italian Prime Minister, Matteo Renzi, at one of the disputed points last week to mark the opening of a new €138m (£97.8m) Italian cable car, with suggestions that French officials had snubbed the event.
According to Google Maps, the three peaks are entirely in French territory, with the French-Italian border curving south at the summit. Thus the very top would form part of the French town of Haute-Savoie of Saint Gervais Les Bains, and not the Italian resort of Courmayeur.
Other sources vary on where the border lies on the Mont Blanc massif between Italy and France. Some textbooks list Monte Bianco di Courmayeur, a summit not far from Mont Blanc, as Italy’s highest point, and French and Swiss maps also show this to be the border.
In pictures: Changing climate around the world
In pictures: Changing climate around the world
Calved icebergs from the nearby Twin Glaciers are seen floating on the water in Qaqortoq, Greenland
Oroumieh, one of the biggest saltwater lakes on Earth, has shrunk more than 80 percent to 1,000 square kilometers in the past decade. It shrinks mainly because of climate change, expanded irrigation for surrounding farms and the damming of rivers that feed the body of water
A boat navigates among calved icebergs from the nearby Twin Glaciers in Qaqortoq, Greenland. Boats are a crucial mode of transportation in the country that has few roads. As cities like Miami, New York and other vulnerable spots around the world strategize about how to respond to climate change, many Greenlanders simply do what theyve always done: adapt. 'Were used to change, said Greenlander Pilu Neilsen. 'We learn to adapt to whatever comes. If all the glaciers melt, well just get more land
The Svalbard Global Seed Vault is seen after being inaugurated in Longyearbyen, Norway. The 'doomsday' seed vault built to protect millions of food crops from climate change, wars and natural disasters opened deep within an Arctic mountain in the remote Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard
A technician preparing to drain a vast underground lake at the Tete Rousse glacier on the Mont Blanc Alpine mountain, to avert a potentially disatrous flood. Some 65,000 cubic metres (2.3 million cubic feet) of water have gathered in a cavity, dangerously raising the pressure beneath the mountain, a favourite spot for holiday makers in Saint-Gervais-les-Bains
Cracked mud is picture at sunrise in the dried shores of Lake Gruyere affected by continuous drought near the western Switzerland village of Avry-devant-Pont. A leading climate scientist warned that Europe should take action over increasing drought and floods, stressing that some climate change trends were clear despite variations in predictions
Cattle graze on grassland that remains dry and brown at the height of the rainy season in south of Bakersfield, California. Its third straight year of unprecedented drought, California is experiencing its driest year on record, dating back 119 years, and dating back as far as 500 years, according to some scientists who study tree rings
An aerial view shows tents of flood-displaced people surrounded by water in southern Sehwan town. United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) executive secretary Christiana Figueres met with people displaced by last year's devastating floods. Catastrophic monsoon rains that swept through the country in 2010 and affected some 20 million people, destroyed 1.7 million homes and damaged 5.4 million acres of arable land
An aerial view of flooding in North Wagga Wagga. Climate change is amplifying risks from drought, floods, storm and rising seas, threatening all countries but small island states, poor nations and arid regions in particular, UN experts warned
Damages caused by a landslide on the Pan-American highway near La Moramulca, 55 Km south of Tegucigalpa. International highways have been washed out, villages isolated and thousands of families have lost homes and crops in a region that the United Nations has classified as one of the most affected by climate change
A resident sprays water on a peatland fire in Pekanbaru district in Riau province on Indonesia's Sumatra island. Indonesia, an archipelago of 17,000 islands, is one of the world's biggest carbon emitters because of rampant deforestation. US Secretary of State John Kerry Sunday issued a clarion call for nations to do to more to combat climate change, calling it 'the world's largest weapon of mass destruction'
An excavator clearing a peatland forest area for a palm oil plantations in Trumon subdistrict, Aceh province, on Indonesia's Sumatra island. As Southeast Asia's largest economy grows rapidly, swathes of biodiverse forests across the archipelago of 17,000 islands have been cleared to make way for paper and palm oil plantations, as well as for mining and agriculture. The destruction has ravaged biodiversity, placing animals such as orangutans and Sumatran tigers in danger of extinction, while also leading to the release of vast amounts of climate change-causing carbon dioxide
Stagnant rain water with tannery waste make the Hazaribagh area in Old Dhaka as well as Buriganga River the most polluted. Each year during the seven-month long dry season between October and April the Buriganga River becomes totally stagnant with its upstream region drying up and becoming polluted from toxic waste from city industries
Waste water from Dhaka city drained to the River Buriganga contributes to its pollutions. On the World Water Day observed in 2007 under the theme Coping with Water Scarcity, under the leadership of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, DrikNEWS explores some of the images of the river. UN-Water has identified coping with water scarcity as part of the strategic issues and priorities requiring joint UN action. The theme highlights the significance of cooperation and importance of an integrated approach to water resource management of water at international, national and local levels
Heavy smog has been lingering in northern and eastern parts of China, disturbing the traffic, worsening air pollution and forcing the closure of schools. China's Environment Ministry said it will send inspection teams to provinces and cities most seriously affected by smog to ensure rules on fighting air pollution are being enforced
But others insist that the border crosses Mont Blanc itself. Locals in Courmayeur recently stepped up claims that the summit is shared by both nations and that, as a result, 400,000 square metres of Europe’s highest ground should be given back to them.
Upping the tensions, said La Stampa newspapers, were reports of a reverse offensive by the French. Italian mountain guides claim that at the nearby peak of Colle del Piccolo San Bernardo, French bulldozers have pushed the border stone 150m into Italian territory.
Laura and Giorgio Aliprandi, two leading Italian cartographers, said in the newsletter of the Italian Alpine Club that the summit was shared. They noted that two French experts, Sylvain Jouty and Hubert Oudier, in their 1999 Dictionnaire de la montagne, agreed with them, saying that “the border must logically be on summit”.
“Based on these considerations, we can conclude that the summit of Mont Blanc is joint Italian-French and should be marked as such on official French maps,” said Mr Aliprandi. “It’s a position that deserves full support since, as we have seen, even in France it enjoys the full support of the most-enlightened minds.”
Mr Renzi would no doubt agree. He referred to the border dispute during his visit to the new cable car that lifts sightseers 3,462m up to the peak at Punta Helbronner. He referred to the project, which was constructed by 500 workers in temperatures as low as –30C, as “the eighth wonder of the world”.
“We haven’t invaded France,” Mr Renzi said, both acknowledging the altercation and denying suggestions that Italy might have got ahead of itself by building the spectacular observation deck in the disputed zone. That did not stop a French journalist present at the inauguration from asking Mr Renzi what he thought about the conspicuous absence of French officials at the event.
The Italian Prime Minister responded diplomatically in French.
“In recent days, either in Brussels or Milan, I’ve seen both President Hollande and the minister, Ségolène Royal. I told both of them I would be coming to the roof of Europe. We have good relations and I hope that they stay that way.”
But he couldn’t resist another comment on the symbolism of being nearly 4,000m up on the Continent’s high point, at a time when Italy and the rest of Europe were bickering over borders and the fate of destitute migrants.
“The mountain helps to make the heart bigger, helps you to breathe and see the horizon and in Europe we need to take a bigger view, whether it’s for economic reforms or the migrant question,” he added. “Today, at Punta Helbronner, we have seen the highest point of Europe, and I hope never to see its lowest point.”Reuse content