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International support for campaign against Brenner wind farm

Apr 26, 2012 / alpMedia
With its planned wind farm on the Brenner Pass, Italy is breaching the Alpine Convention, according to the Club Arc Alpin, which has petitioned the Alpine Convention's committee of inquiry. For the first time in the history of the convention, "complaint proceedings" have begun.
Image caption:
Wind farm on the Brenner pass: the Alpine Convention review committee is currently examining whether Italy is obliged to apply the energy protocol of the Alpine Convention. © Andreas Ludwig/
The plan is for 19 wind turbines to be built at an altitude of over 2,000 metres on the Sattelberg mountain in Italy. The project was approved in October 2011 by the South Tyrol regional authorities, although the environmental appraisal was negative. The administration in the Austrian Tyrol objected to the project, too. Its opinion was requested because the wind farm on the Brenner frontier also has consequences for Austria: the facilities will stand right next to a protected landscape area in Austria as well as being close to a Natura 2000 site.
Is the energy protocol part of EU law?
The wind farm, argues the Club Arc Alpin, umbrella organisation of Alpine Clubs, breaches the energy protocol of the Alpine Convention. This states that the parties to the convention, in this case Italy, should maintain protected areas including their buffer zones and improve energy infrastructures, in this case the wind turbines, to take account of the stress they impose on Alpine ecological systems. The planned location of the wind farm is in the buffer zones of the two protected areas. However, the province of Bozen/Bolzano has not as yet examined the consequences of the wind turbines and access roads for the affected protected landscapes and Natura 2000 sites.
The Alpine Convention is in force in the European Union as in Italy. Italy did not in fact ratify the energy protocol of the convention, but is a member of the European Union. The energy protocol has been in force within the European Union since 2006. The Alpine Agreement's committee of inquiry must now examine whether the energy protocol also forms part of EU law. It would then be binding on all member states, including Italy, and therefore on the province of Bozen/Bolzano.
The Sattelberg wind farm proceedings are making legal history
Every four years the Alpine states and the European Union deliver a report on how they are meeting their obligations under the Alpine Convention. Independently of this periodic examination, since the year 2002 all observers may petition the review committee if a party to the convention breaches its obligations. The Club Arc Alpin is the first observer to make use of this right. The committee is not a legal but rather a political panel, made up of representatives from the individual Alpine states. Decisions are taken with a three-quarters majority. It will now be seen whether the review committee is a suitable instrument for resolving such contentious questions and proceedings against breaches of the Alpine Convention.
Source and further information: (de), (de), (de)