With over 80 million inhabitants, the Alpine Region is one of Europe’s largest and most significant macro regions. It ranks among the most innovative and economically productive regions of the EU and with its millions of visitors every year is also among the most attractive tourist destinations in Europe. Despite its central location at the heart of Europe, the Alpine Region’s unique geography and natural features mean that it is particularly affected by some of the challenges of our times:
- Economic globalisation requires sustainable and consistently high competitiveness and the capacity to innovate.
- Demographic change leads to an ageing population and outward migration of highly qualified labour.
- Global climate change already has noticeable effects on the environment, biodiversity and living conditions for the inhabitants of the Alpine Region.
- A reliable and sustainable energy supply must be ensured in the parts of the Region which are difficult to access.
- As a transit region in the heart of Europe and due to its geographic features, the Alpine Region requires custom-fit traffic concepts.
- The Alpine Region is to be preserved as a unique natural and cultural environment.
With the aim to tackle these transnational challenges, representatives of the seven alpine states (France, Germany, Italy, Slovenia, Austria and the non-EU-member states Switzerland and Liechtenstein) held a conference in in Grenoble on 18 October 2013, during which they adopted a resolution for the establishment of an EU Strategy for the Alpine Region modeled after the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea and the EU Strategy for the Danube Region. On the basis of this resolution, the European Council of 19-20 December 2013 tasked the European Commission to elaborate alongisde the member states a macro-regional strategy of the EU Strategy for the Alpine Region until June 2015. Subsequently, a EUSALP Steering Committee staffed by representatives of the EUSALP states, regions and the European Commission was established to support this task.
The EUSALP Action Plan was adopted by the European Commission in July 2015 and has been in use since early 2016. It encompasses three thematic focuses – economic growth and innovation, environment-friendly mobility and connectivity, as well as sustainable use of energy, natural and cultural resources. Austria has taken up a leading role in three of the EUSALP’s nine action groups: Natural and cultural resources (co-chaired by Carinthia and the Alpine Convention), Climate change and natural risks prevention (co-chaired by the Austrian Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water Management, and Bavaria), Inter-modality and interoperability in passenger and freight transport (chaired by the European Region Tyrol-South Tyrol-Trentino). The EUSALP’s chairmanship is currently held by Bavaria. In 2018 Tyrol will take over the chairmanship.