The CAA and the Alpine Convention
The work of the Club Arc Alpin (CAA) has always been guided by the principles of the Alpine Convention. Since 1996, the CAA has been the official observer of this treaty which is binding under international law. The CAA considers the principles and measures established in the Framework Convention and the eight Protocols to be a suitable and important instrument for the sustainable development of the Alpine region, especially thanks to its transnational character. For many problems in the Alps, international solutions must be found, for example concerning traffic, further land development and the energy question. The CAA therefore actively promotes the implementation of such solutions within the organs of the Alpine Convention and sends representatives to the Permanent Committee, the Compliance Committee and some of the Working Groups and Platforms.
However, after more than 25 years of existence, the Alpine Convention is still neither very tangible nor very visible. There are networks such as the “Alliance in the Alps” community network, which promotes the implementation of the Alpine Convention in its member municipalities, and there are projects such as the “Mountaineering Villages” project, which was initiated mainly by the Austrian Alpine Association (ÖAV) and constitutes a practical implementation of the Alpine Convention’s Tourism Protocol. Nevertheless, the CAA finds that there are still too few such networks and projects. This may be attributable, amongst other things, to a decrease in political support from some Member States in the last few years and the attendant shortage of funds. Moreover, the committees of the Alpine Convention operate according to the principle of consensus, meaning that decisions can only be made (and perhaps also implemented) if all Member States agree, and often only on the lowest common denominator. In 2010 and 2011, in the course of a discussion process the CAA released several statements in favour of the use of the majority principle, at least in the few areas where the specifications of the Framework Convention would allow it. This was, however, rejected. In addition, the documents that are compiled, often very painstakingly, in the numerous Working Groups and Platforms of the Alpine Convention should be more widely publicised and distributed, for example the invaluable “Common Guidelines for the Use of Small Hydropower in the Alpine Region”, which the Water Management Platform prepared in 2009-2011.
Since 2017, another discussion process has been taking place in the bodies of the Alpine Convention with the aim of making the Alpine Convention more perceptible by setting priorities and orienting the working groups and platforms towards the Multi-Annual Work Programme. The CAA is also actively involved in this process.
Current issue: Macro-regional Strategy for the Alps EUSALP
One of the most important issues in the last Alpine Conferences – the Ministers of Environment meet roughly every two years – was the strategy for an Alpine “macro-region”, EUSALP. This idea is based on the already adopted EU strategies for the Baltic Sea, the Danube region and the Mediterranean Sea region and strives for a similar strategy to strengthen the Alpine region, mainly economically. Furthermore the transnational collaboration should be strengthend and a better distribution and use of the existing EU-funding programmes should be reached. The alpine regions, especially the prosperous like Bavaria, Tyrol and Lombardy are the driving forces of the strategy. After years of complex and partly not transparent development of the contents of the strategy by different organs, EUSALP was adopted in 2015. In 2016 started the implementation with the constitution of nine "action groups", corresponding to the actions of the "action plan". They developed a programm and projects.
The CAA fundamentally welcomes a strategy that could give the Alps greater importance within the EU and facilitate access to funding. It tried to participate actively in the process, e.g. in the public consultation in 2014 and the working group "macro-regional strategy" of the Alpine Convention, and developped already in 2011 a position, updated in 2014/15 . A reinforcement of the Alpine Convention was and is important. In the political organs of EUSALP, General assembly and executive board, the Alpine Convention takes part "only" as observer, but it leads the action group 6 which deals with the preservation of natural and cultural resources and watermanagement.
The CAA will continue to observe the EUSALP process actively and to support a strong position of the Alpine Convention for the protection and the sustainable development of the Alps.