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Linking up the Alps

How networks of local political actors build the pan-Alpine region

Cristina Del Biaggio

The signing of the Convention on the protection of the Alps (Alpine Convention) by the Alpine States in 1991 heralded new practices and perspectives. This transnational project is intended to solve important challenges faced by the Alpine population. Convinced that the Alpine Convention should fulfil its potential, some non-governmental organizations and some active persons created networks of local political actors to connect local representatives, researchers, managers of protected areas and ecological associations. These were designed to realize a sustainable pan-Alpine region. This book endeavours to understand how and why local political actors, organized in pan-Alpine networks, chose to take mountain regions in general, and the Alps in particular, as the shared frame of reference for their involvement. It explores if and how a pan-Alpine identity detached from and/or combined with the more «traditional» national identities is developing among and enacted by local political actors engaged for the Alpine Convention. It also analyzes the socio-political significance of local political actors’ involvement in the newly constituted pan-Alpine networks.
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4. The actors of the Alpine region

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4.   The actors of the Alpine region

In this chapter, I will present the institutions that helped me understand the pan-Alpine regionalization process. The main objective here is to show how these institutions were established, their history, and how they function, i. e. their structure. As I go through the institutions, some personalities will emerge: the thinkers and builders of the pan-Alpine region, whom I qualify as the leaders.

The chapter starts with a reflection on the ways the Alpine Space and the Alpine Convention envision the Alpine region. The discussion will make it clear that these two institutions do not share the same designation of the Alpine perimeter.

4.1    (At least) two ways of drawing the Alpine territorial unity: the Alpine Space and the Alpine Convention

The recognition of the Alps as a single unique region is part of a long history in which mountains and mountaineers played different roles. In the chapter called “L’Union Européenne: la montagne introuvable?” (“The European Union: the mountain that cannot be found?”), Debarbieux and Rudaz trace the history of how the European Union has regarded the mountains (Debarbieux, Rudaz, 2010). They point to the 2000s as the decisive period during which the mountains in general, and the Alps in particular, finally acquired increased significance in public action in Europe (Debarbieux & Rudaz, 2010: 289).

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