Executive Director European Environment Agency
Observation and information is a cornerstone for policy-making in the Alpine region, as it is
for Europe and every large-scale collaborative effort aiming at sustainable development.
Targeted research, permanent data gathering, including citizen observers, combined with
regular policy-relevant assessments are a prerequisite for environments as fragile and
under pressure as the European Alps. That something as apparently immovable as a
mountain range should be “fragile” seems counter-intuitive; but when considering the
evidence of glacial retreat, floods, landslides, air pollution along transport corridors and
land use conflicts, it is clear that the extent and speed of change cannot be ignored.
It is in pursuit of this goal to provide the best available information, that the European
Environment Agency (EEA) supports enhanced cooperation with the Alpine Convention.
The EEA, and EIONET (European environment information and observation network),
established in 1990 and operational since 1994, has a mandate to support its 32 member
countries and the European Union in making informed decisions about improving the
environment, integrating environmental considerations into economic policies and
moving towards sustainability. For the Alpine Convention, a “treaty for a specific (mountainous)
territory” signed in 1991 and in force since 1995, observation and information play a crucial role.
Though straddling many national borders, the Alpine arc constitutes a single strategic region;
it is the water tower for the cities and farms of the plains, an abundant reservoir of biodiversity
and natural resources, a major tourist destination and, not least, the home to communities
with particular livelihoods and cultures. An integrated approach to policy formulation in such
an area is essential and it is therefore no surprise that the Alpine Convention, in its Article 3,
places emphasis on research and systematic monitoring. Even more each Protocol to the
Convention requires that the national results of the research and systematic observation are
integrated in a joint permanent observation and information system accessible to the public.
In the past two years the EEA and the Alpine Convention have mutually benefited from cooperation
on topics of setting priorities for environmental observation, developing methodologies, managing
data and exchanging information. This has led to the production of thematic reports and publications,
such as the second Report on the State of the Alps (June 2009) and the third Report (currently in
preparation), plus the September 2009 EEA report on regional climate change and adaptation.
The EEA is therefore pleased that the Alpine Convention fully recognizes the potential of this
cooperation and that the Alpine Convention’s governing body recently called for the continuation
and further building of synergies between the two institutions.
In order for the Alpine Convention to strengthen its role as a possible reference centre for
observation and information on mountain related issues, it is important to enhance knowledge
about mountains, plus the perception of the Alps as an example of a coherent and strategic
region of Europe.
Today’s challenges call for an integrated approach, that recognises the interdependencies
between sectors in the environment rather than viewing them in isolation. Similarly, for
operational information services such as web service applications, avoiding duplication and
making best use of technological developments is a fundamental requirement. Cooperation
between the EEA and the Alpine Convention on monitoring and reporting on developments in
the Alps is an exemplar of this integrated approach in action.