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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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7. Socio-political significance of the pan-Alpine region

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7.   Socio-political significance of the pan-Alpine region

The previous chapter focused on the way pan-Alpine networks are performing in the Alpine region. I explained how those networks function by presenting their different facets and respective challenges. As discussed, networks of local political actors are among the most interesting and innovative established structures giving concrete significance to the pan-Alpine project. In this chapter, I specify some elements to judge the socio-political significance of the pan-Alpine project. This corresponds to the fourth shape of Paasi’s regional institutionalization theory, i. e. the “establishment of the region”. It is worth recalling that the other three steps are: the assumption of a territorial shape, the development of a symbolic shape and the establishment of institutions (Paasi, 1986).

Networks, by definition, combine two basic elements: at least two points in space and a “line” connecting them. A phone call between the mayor of Budoia and the mayor of Mäder can be considered a way of performing a network. In theory, networks can, theoretically, work without the intervention of any traditional administrative entity: Budoia’s mayor does not have to ask for authorization from Rome in order to get in touch with his colleague in Austria. However, the question can be raised whether, how and in which measure networks are really free from any influence of the state apparatus and can decide independently on the future developments of the pan-Alpine region. The analysis on this topic can give a measure of the current...

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