Protection and sustainable development of the Alps
During the first Alpine Conference held in Berchtesgaden in 1989, initiated by the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety, an urgent need for action to protect the Alps was recognised. The participants therefore agreed to draw up a binding convention under international law for the protection of the Alps.
The Alpine Convention was signed in 1991 by the Alpine countries Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Liechtenstein and Switzerland, as well as by the European Union, on the occasion of the 2nd Alpine Conference in Salzburg, Austria. Monaco became a Contracting Party to the Convention on the basis of an additional Protocol. Slovenia signed the Convention on 29 March 1993. The Convention entered into force in 1995. Germany ratified the Convention on the Protection of the Alps (Alpine Convention) of 7 November 1991 by a law of 29 September 1994 (Federal Law Gazette 1994 II, p. 2538).
The Alpine Convention is a framework convention to guarantee the protection of the Alpine region and its sustainable development. The Contracting Parties commit themselves to jointly achieving this goal.
The Alpine Convention calls for a holistic policy approach to the conservation and protection of the Alps which is implemented by the Contracting Parties by means of Protocols on spatial planning and sustainable development, conservation of nature and the countryside, mountain farming, mountain forests, tourism, soil conservation, energy, transport and solution of litigations. The Protocols are independent implementation agreements under international law and have to be ratified individually.
Liechtenstein became the first Contracting Party to ratify all nine Protocols on 18 April 2002. Germany and Austria also ratified all Protocols in 2002. Hence, for these three Contracting Parties the Protocols entered into force in December 2002. The Protocols on spatial planning and sustainable development, tourism, soil conservation and solution of litigations entered into force in Monaco in 2003, and the Protocol on conservation of nature and countryside in 2005. Slovenia ratified all Protocols in January 2004. France concluded the ratification of all Protocols in 2005. In 2012 Italy ratified all nine Protocols.
So far Switzerland has not yet ratified any of the Protocols. In 2010 the Swiss Parliament came to the final decision of not ratifying the nine implementation Protocols of the Alpine Convention.
To date the European Union has signed the Protocols on spatial planning, mountain farming, conservation of nature and countryside, energy, tourism, soil conservation and transport. The Protocols on energy, tourism, soil conservation and mountain farming were ratified by the EU in 2006 and the Protocol on transport in June 2013.
Article 2 of the Alpine Convention envisages further measures in the areas of population and culture, prevention of air pollution, water management and waste management. One of the reasons why the Alpine Conference has decided on drawing up further Protocols is that to date not all Contracting Parties to the Convention have ratified all existing Protocols. In 2006, the 9th Alpine Conference adopted a political declaration on population and culture.
The 7th Alpine Conference decided on the location of the Permanent Secretariat of the Alpine Convention in 2002. Since 2003 the Permanent Secretariat has been based in Innsbruck, Austria, with a branch in Bozen, Italy. The current Secretary General of the Permanent Secretariat is Markus Reiterer (Austria).
The Multiannual Work Programme (MAP) is a tool for ensuring the long-term, proactive implementation of the Alpine Convention and its Protocols. The MAP also sets joint priorities for the activities of the Alpine countries. The 14th Alpine Conference (2016) adopted the new Multiannual Work Programme (MAP) 2017 - 2022. Up to 2022, the joint work will focus on six cross-sectoral fields of action:
People and culture, measures to combat climate change, protecting and valuing biodiversity and the landscape, green economy, promoting sustainable transport and taking on a leading role in the macroregional strategy for the Alpine region (EUSALP).
Reports on the State of the Alps have been drawn up on the most important developments in the Alpine region. The topics of the reports are determined by the Alpine Conference. Six Reports on the State of the Alps have been published to date:
- Transport and mobility in the Alps (2007)
- Water and water management issues (2009)
- Sustainable rural development and innovation (2011)
- Sustainable tourism in the Alps (2013)
- Demographic Changes in the Alps (2015)
- Greening the economy in the Alpine region (2016)
The 14th Alpine Conference decided that the 7th Report on the State of the Alps will focus on risk governance in the context of natural hazards and will be led by the Platform Natural Hazards of the Alpine Convention (PLANALP).
The Reports on the State of the Alps are published in the "Alpine Signals" series of the Alpine Convention.
Some current environmental topics, such as climate change, are not directly addressed by the Protocols of the Alpine Convention. The Ministers have taken due account of this topic, which is particularly relevant for the Alpine region, in a political declaration (Alpine Conference 2006) and in the Action Plan on Climate Change in the Alpine Space (Alpine Conference 2009).
The Alpine Conference Presidency rotates on a biannual basis. Germany held the Presidency for the 2015- 2016 period. Federal Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks handed over the Presidency to Austria during the 14th Alpine Conference on 13 October in Grassau, Germany.