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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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1. Introduction

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The natural and socio-cultural Alpine territory is being threatened by increasing motorized traffic, the ageing of its population, the national fragmentation of the politics on its territory, and concerns linked to climate change. The general issue that this book is to understand the main social and political responses proposed by local political actors to solve these important social and ecological challenges. Already in the 1950s, some particularly sensitive local politicians and managers of protected areas alerted national authorities to the social and eco- logical crises that were threatening the Alpine region. Forty years later, one solution recommended was the constitu- tion of networks of local political actors implementing at the local level the Convention on the Protection of the Alps, usually called Al- pine Convention. Local political actors view this international treaty as an appropriate tool to respond to the challenges facing the Alps. By imposing the concept of sustainable development as the solution for assuring the survival of the Alps, the convention can be considered a model for other mountain regions facing similar problems. Signed by the eight Alpine countries (Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Liech- tenstein, Monaco, Slovenia and Switzerland) and the European Un- ion, it entered into force in March 1995. The aim of the convention, according to its second article, is to “pursue a comprehensive policy for the preservation and protection of the Alps by applying the prin- ciples of prevention, payment by the polluter (the ‘polluter pays’ prin- ciple) and cooperation”.3 Additionally, through this...

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