Text by the German Presidency of the Alpine Convention (2015-2016)
The Federal Republic of Germany held the Presidency of the Alpine Convention in 2015 and 2016. Germany’s Presidency came to an end with the XIV Alpine Conference on 13 October 2016, when the Presidency was handed over to Austria. The German Presidency was organised jointly by the Federal Republic of Germany and the Free State of Bavaria, the only German state in the perimeter of the Alpine Convention.
On the basis of the Framework Convention, its Protocols and Declarationsand in accord with the Multi-Annual Work Programme 2011-2016, Germany made a tangible contribution to conserving and developing the unique natural and cultural landscape of the Alps in the period 2015-2016, working closely with Contracting Parties, observers, civil society, Alpine networks and the Permanent Secretariat.
The comprehensive policy called for in the Alpine Convention to ensure conservation and sustainable development in the Alpine region was at the heart of our activities. In this context, Germany paid particular attention to the policy of greening the economy in the Alpine region.
Our focus was on practical implementation and raising awareness of the Alpine Convention at local level. To that end, the Alpine countries were encouraged to launch specific joint projects. In particular, the EU-funded Interreg V-B Alpine Space Programme 2014-2020, with its transnational cooperation, was used intensively in order to develop new projects. The Alpine Space Programme approved a further 23 projects in October 2016. The German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUB) is providing national co-funding for a total of seven projects (AlpES, AlpGov, ALPBIONET2030, Links4Soils, GaYA, PlurAlps, YOUrALPS) in the period 2017-2019.
Expertise, know-how and understanding of the special characteristics of the Alpine region are pooled in the Convention’s working groups and platforms. We therefore assigned a lead role to these bodies in the development of joint projects and the application of their findings.
The Alpine Convention can only come into full effect in cooperation with the region’s inhabitants. Civil society and Alpine networks were therefore important partners for the German Presidency. The Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUB) provided more than 1.4 million euros in funding for projects implemented by the Alpine networks and non-governmental organisations (NGOs). These joint projects laid the groundwork for AlpWeek 2016, whose theme was Alps & People. Linking AlpWeek and the XIV Alpine Conference enabled the Alpine networks and people to engage in direct dialogue with policy-makers.
Dr. Barbara Hendricks
Federal Environment Minister
On 21 November, taking over from Italy, I assumed the chair of the Alpine Conference for the next two years. I have the primary responsibility for the Alpine Convention within the Federal Government, and I look forward to this task and working together with all Alpine countries towards sustainable development in the Alps during this period. I know that expectations are very high. The Alpine Convention can only be fully realised in cooperation with the region’s inhabitants. I therefore want to raise awareness of the common challenges among the key players in the Contracting Parties, the Alpine networks and civil society. On the basis of the Alpine Convention, its protocols and multi-annual work programme, the competent departments of the Federal Government and Bavaria have agreed on a programme for the German Presidency. The title of the German program was chosen deliberately: "The Alps – a symbol of European diversity". For us, European diversity means, among other things, the diversity of the cultures of the Alpine countries, the biodiversity of the sensitive Alpine region, integration into European processes of traffic flows, infrastructure development and the ongoing integration of the Alpine Convention into the development of a European macro-regional strategy. The comprehensive policy called for in the Alpine Convention to ensure conservation and sustainable development will be at the heart of our activities. The "green economy" approach will be the common thread in many areas: for example, the Ecological Network, mountain farming, mountain forests, tourism, transport and water resources management. At the Alpine Conference in Turin my counterparts from the other countries and I agreed to look more closely at the subject of "green economy" in the 6th Report on the State of the Alps. The Federal Environment Agency will lead a group of experts on this.
The focus of our programme will be on practical implementation and raising awareness of the Alpine Convention at local level. We will prepare concrete joint projects and also set up a national co-financing system. In particular, the EU-funded INTERREG Alpine Space Programme 2014-2020, with its transnational cooperation, will be used intensively.
Expertise, know-how and understanding of the special characteristics of the Alpine region are pooled in the Alpine Convention’s working groups and platforms. I think these bodies of experts working from the bottom-up have a very important role in the development of joint projects and the implementation of their results. Germany intends to be particularly active by chairing some of the groups of experts. In this context, I would like to mention:
- the Ecological Network Platform, which the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation will head,
- the water management in the Alps platform, which we want to head together with Italy, the German Co-Chair of which will be Bavaria, and
- the newly established working group on sustainable tourism, which Germany and Italy have agreed to co-chair.
The German programme will also aim to contribute to the implementation of all the protocols of the Alpine Convention. The respective lead ministries at federal level and in the Free State of Bavaria are also planning their own activities. I want to link the Alpine Week and the Alpine Conference, as Switzerland did during the presidency before last. In combination with the 14th Alpine Conference, the Alpine Week 2016 will facilitate a direct exchange of experiences between the Alpine networks, NGOs, the public and politicians.
Civil society and the Alpine networks are important partners for Germany’s presidency. We agreed on joint projects with some of them in advance of our term in office. I would like to mention in particular the community network Alliance in the Alps, the Network of Alpine Protected Areas (ALPARC) and the International Commission for the Protection of the Alps (CIPRA). These two-year projects will prepare for the Alpine Week 2016 in the Achental valley.
Our programme will actively shape the Alpine Convention’s contribution to the European Council’s macro regional strategy for the Alpine region (EUSALP). We are building on 25 years of experience of working together in the Convention. We consider the Alpine regions to be the key players for shaping this process at local level. We have also taken this into account in the organisational structure: Bavaria chairs the working group on EUSALP. For me, it is crucial that the EUSALP actually produces tangible results that are of additional value to the environment and not just long papers and bureaucratic structures.
In the concrete activities over the next two years, I am counting on the support of the Permanent Secretariat as an experienced and reliable partner. I look forward to working closely with Secretary General Markus Reiterer and his international team. I very much hope that we can produce good results to look back on when Austria takes over the presidency at the XIV Alpine Conference on 13 October 2016 at Herrenchiemsee.