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Eusalp without Swiss cantons?

At an end? The common path for Swiss mountain cantons and Eusalp. (c) Lukas Bieri, Pixabay

The Swiss mountain cantons want to leave the Eusalp – but not entirely: this surprise contradiction was dropped into talks about a future Eusalp presidency at the beginning of October 2020.

Switzerland should actually take over the annual rotating presidency of the EU Strategy for the Alpine Region (Eusalp) in 2022: discussion however ended abruptly when a letter from the mountain cantons to the Swiss federal authorities was received on 1 October 2020. Both the higher-level conference of all cantonal governments and the smaller conference of mountain cantons announced their commitment to Eusalp in the letter. They had “come to the conclusion that further participation by the cantons in the political bodies of Eusalp was no longer appropriate”. Assuming the presidency was thus “not up for discussion”. At the same time, they declared that “participation and collaboration at the technical level in concrete projects is definitely sensible. If the Swiss Confederation wants to become more involved in EUSALP, however, there is from the cantons' point of view nothing to stop it”.

The competent national authorities were surprised at the announcement, which had not been agreed with them. Thomas Egger, one of the most active Swiss Eusalp players, also regrets the sudden change of heart on the part of the cantons: “Switzerland's position in the whole process is weakened and the much-needed closer cooperation with neighbouring regions is made more difficult. In my view, we must now continue to achieve the best possible results in concrete terms in the nine EUSALP action groups. In this way we can also clearly communicate the added value of EUSALP”, says Egger, Director of the Swiss Working Group for Mountain Regions (SAB) and a former member of the Swiss Federal Parliament.

Directed towards cooperation

As a supra-regional association, Eusalp comprises 48 regions with 80 million inhabitants. With the exception of Slovenia, Switzerland borders on all Eusalp members, and its mountain cantons signed an initiative paper in Bad Ragaz/CH in 2012 to establish the Eusalp. “It is obvious, geographically and economically, that Switzerland is more dependent on this cooperation than any other Alpine country”, says Kaspar Schuler, Co-Executive Director of CIPRA International. “It would be unbelievably sad if the will to engage in political cooperation were to disappear”.

 

Sources and further information:

EUSALP EU Strategy for the Alpine Region (en), Regierungskonferenz der Gebirgskantone (de), Konferenz der Kantonsregierungen (de), Schweizerische Arbeitsgemeinschaft für die Berggebiete (de) 

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