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1. The Alps

The Alps are one of the largest continuous natural areas in Europe and the living environment for 14 million people. According to the delimitation given in the Alpine Convention, the Alps cover an area of 190,959 sq km, with a length of around 1,200 kilometres and a maximum width of 300 kilometres. The Alps start at sea level and peak at 4,807 metres, the top of Mont Blanc. The Alps are present in eight countries: Austria (28.7 % of the overall area), Italy (27.2%), France (21.4 %), Switzerland (13.2 %), Germany (5.8 %), Slovenia (3.6 %), Liechtenstein (0.08%) and Monaco (0.001 %). 
The Alps are a unique natural area in the middle of continental Europe and are home to around 30,000 animal species and 13,000 plant species. Many of these plant and animal species are endangered, among which some of the Alps’ 388 endemic plant species. Humans have settled in the Alpine area for centuries, which is characterized by the presence of cultivated and reclaimed landscapes even at high levels. Its 14 million inhabitants live in 5,867 municipalities and belong to many linguistic groups and, on a relatively small area, show an unparalleled cultural variety.
For over 150 years, the Alps have been one of the most beloved tourist resorts worldwide, with a growing number of tourists mounting to 100 million per year. Issues and new questions have arisen in recent decades because of a more dynamic economic development in and around the Alps, the solution of which cannot be found at a national level. Among them, there is an increasing mobility with dramatic growth rates in transport for people and goods, a trend towards the urbanisation of many Alpine valleys and growing conflicts connected with the limited soil reserves in the Alps. These developments have also put the safeguard of nature under pressure, as much as the cultural diversity and identity of the Alpine population.

The Alpine Convention and its Protocols essentially represent the tools for the sustainable development of the Alpine region. The approach to the economic development of the Alpine Convention is based on the same rules throughout the Alps in order to prevent competition to the detriment of nature and, in the end, of man. Shared efforts must lead to methods for the most economical use of the limited resources of this mountain area, without damaging future generations. Among them, the preservation of the diversity of nature and culture is of paramount significance. Therefore, in the Alpine Convention, the concept of protection is not only on equal footing with that of development, but it dialectically integrates it.