Political Framework in the Alps


Public Policies on Different Territorial Levels

The Different Territorial Levels Within the Alps:

Designing public policies needs the interaction between different territorial levels:
  • The configuration of public policies – the legislation, the elaboration of diverse strategies and programmes and the budgeting – primarily takes place on national and regional level (e.g. Bundesländer, Kantone) – with considerable differences between more federally and more centrally organised Alpine countries: Austria and Switzerland are an example for the first category, Italy and France for the second.
  • For various policy sectors, the European Union sets a frame by issuing normative, financial and planning instruments: There are binding directives (e.g. as a base for the NATURA 2000 network) and policy proposals formulated in Green and White Books (e.g. for services of general interest). Financial funds (such as the agricultural funds or the structural fund) are provided, and corresponding support programmes determine the conditions for the use of these funds. National or regional co-financing is a precondition for the use of EU funds.
  • Trans-national agreements – the most important of which is the Alpine Convention – implicate a commitment for the signing countries. The thematic protocols of the Alpine Convention determine the way of how to implicate the Convention within several sector policies such as traffic, tourism or nature protection.
Further Readings & Links

Alpine Convention
The exact wording of the Alpine convention.

The Importance of the Sub-Regional and Local Level

The sub-regional and local level – generally located between the administrative levels of regions (e.g. Kantone, Bundesländer) and municipalities – are most important for the implementation of public policies: Here, the specification to the local context, the involvement of the persons concerned and the generation of implementation projects take place. Whatever the level at which a policy is initiated, the important thing is the degree to which local stakeholders actively involve themselves in any given project. This territorial level is explicitly addressed for example by European Rural Development policies: The LEADER programme is oriented towards "Local Action Groups".

There appear to be considerable differences between the political cultures of individual Alpine states. In federalist countries such as Austria or Switzerland, the regional and local communities have a greater degree of competence than in traditionally more centralised countries such as Italy or France who have, anyhow, already made some steps towards decentralisation: whereas consultation and decision-sharing procedures are considered to be the main features of the general trend towards decentralisation, supra-community organisations such as the Italian Comunità Montane and the French Comités de Massif have been introduced, although their areas of competence are still very limited (BLANC & AMOUDRY 2003).

European Commission 2006, The LEADER Approach
A short guide that explains the LEADER approach of the European Union.

Regional Intermediate Organisations

Intermediate organisations on sub-regional/local level frame an interface between public and private actors and between the different economic sectors within a territory. Such intermediate organisations succeed in mobilising rural actors for regional development and in integrating different policy sectors. The Austrian example shows that "regional management organisations" that are often characterised by a low level of institutionalisation are considered an important innovation in the field of regional development (BUNDESKANZLERAMT 2004, HEINTEL 2005).

Recently, the catchword "regional governance" has often been cited in the regional development discourse. The concept of regional governance results from a systemic approach to regional development and underlines the importance of networks which can be seen as the third form of societal steering of development (beside market and hierarchy mechanisms). According to HEINTEL (2005), "regional governance" implies:

  • The perception of diverse players of regional development.
  • The introduction of instruments and procedures for co-operation, participation and negotiation.
  • A flexible delimitation of regions, e.g. bound to specific themes or projects.
  • The importance of learning procedures, reflection and evaluation.
The sub-regional and local level are most important for the implementation of public policies (Source: C. LUMINATI).
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