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Point of view: The Alps: on course for sustainability

Katharina Conradin is president of CIPRA International © Heinz Heiss

It is time to reflect on the unique values of the Alps, emphasises the President of CIPRA International, Katharina Conradin, after her first 100 days in office. Her plea is for a common goal: the Alps as a model region for sustainability.

European policy for mountain regions – quo vadis? After some 100 days as President of CIPRA International, this question appears to me more pressing than ever. What is the common element today? Bringing growth to the most remote valleys? Minimising transit traffic? Establishing more protected areas? Unlike some decades ago, it seems that today there is no common vision for the development of mountain regions. But that does not mean we are merely doomed to wait - the numerous projects springing up around CIPRA are showing the way: sustainability is the goal!

For many people, the visions contained in the Alpine Convention have lost their original glamour. Long the precept for future-oriented development in the Alps, the Alpine Convention today leads a shadowy existence. Bureaucratic obstacles and lengthy decision-making processes in the signatory states are making it difficult to implement measures. The emerging Macro-Regional Strategy for the Alps is on the other hand almost stratospheric in conception; its statements of objectives are so open to interpretation that they are destined to fall prey to various interest groups. Instead of acting as a spur for new action, it threatens to become a mere daydream.

Yet alongside international politics we can apply our own values as guiding principles. Despite the many challenges facing the Alps, such as transit traffic, climate change and demographic issues, they are also blessed with unique natural landscapes, innovative minds and relative prosperity. Outstanding projects show what sustainable living and economic activity in the Alps really mean. Let us do the same! The Alpine Convention can serve as a basis while the Macro-Regional Strategy can become an implementation-oriented instrument.