On January 26, the Autonomous Provinces of Bolzano/Bozen and Trento officially took over the Presidency of the European Union Strategy for the Alpine Region (EUSALP) on behalf of Italy for the year 2022 [find here the videos of the kick-off event].
In his opening speech, the President of the Autonomous Province of Bolzano/Bozan Arno Kompatscher - who welcomed the participants "in South Tyrol, in the heart of the Alps, and now in the heart of EUSALP" - emphasized that, especially in the sensitive Alpine region, "only unity and cooperation make it possible to meet the challenges of the future". And it is precisely EUSALP that is increasingly establishing itself as a solid and stable instrument of cross-border cooperation in the Alps". Kompatscher emphasized that "the goal of the Italian EUSALP 2022 Presidency will be to make the Alpine region the first long-term Carbon Neutral macro-region in Europe, in line with the EU climate measures and the European Green Deal".
Main themes: climate change and climate protection
"Climate change and climate protection will also be a central theme of our presidency" recalled the President. "The South Tyrol Energy Agency CasaClima coordinates Action Group 9 (Energy) of EUSALP and our vision is clear: by promoting energy efficiency and energy transition we will pave the way for a Carbon Neutral Alpine Macroregion." Kompatscher argued in favor of a greater involvement of municipalities in decision-making processes as key pillars in key areas such as energy efficiency, building renovation and spatial planning. The President also stressed the importance of tourism and sustainable mobility, cooperation in civil protection and natural risk management, spatial planning and the multifunctionality of forests. In the spirit of last year's EUSALP Declaration of Intent, "rail transport, especially over medium and long distances, should form the backbone of a more efficient, multimodal and interconnected sustainable transport system."
"The Autonomous Province of Trento is honored to be able to contribute to the Italian EUSALP Presidency 2022" reminded the Concillor for Education, University and Culture of the Autonomous Province of Trento Mirko Bisesti, describing the Presidency as "an important opportunity to address with shared solutions the major global changes that challenge the sustainable development of our territories". In 2022 a special attention will be dedicated to young people: "One of the main objectives of our Presidency will be to put young people at the center, making them protagonists in defining the development model of the Alpine regions, focusing on their skills to lead the processes of ecological and technological transition, to imagine new models to live, work, produce and bridge the gap between centers and peripheries, between cities and rural areas. To do this, it is necessary to improve access to services and sustainable mobility, creating a network of "smart" mountain centers and regions and promoting innovation and widespread digitalization".
In her video message, the Commissioner for Cohesion and Reforms, Elisa Ferreira, called on the Alpine regions to work together to address the challenges of climate change, particularly evident in mountain regions, referring to the different European models for strengthening political cohesion.
The wheel of the Presidency as a symbol of traditions and movement in the Alps
The two years of the French presidency of EUSALP were described by the French Secretary of State in charge of rurality Joël Giraud: "The Alpine territories constitute one family. In order to be heard in Brussels, it is important that the Alpine territories speak with one voice and EUSALP makes this cooperation possible". During the event Giraud passed the baton to President Kompatscher and councillor Bisesti by handing over the presidency wheel, a Slovenian wheel which is a symbol of Alpine tradition.
In his video message, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Luigi Di Maio thanked the presidents of the Autonomous Provinces of Bolzano/Bozen and Trento for having "prepared in a very short time priorities and program of the presidency" and declared that "Italy is going to play this role with enthusiasm and with the will to give a tangible contribution to the cooperation in the Alpine Region". The Foreign Minister listed four points as priorities for the Italian Presidency. Firstly, strengthening the governance of the Alpine Macro-Region Strategy in order to improve the capacity of EUSALP to act. Second, address with determination the challenge of combating climate change, especially in light of its more intense impact in this region than the global average. Thirdly, to give more space and visibility to the young citizens of the Alpine macro-region by putting them at the center of decisions that affect their future. Fourthly, to seize the opportunities opened up by the 2021-2027 programming of EU funds and by the connection with the National Recovery and Resilience Plans, in order to implement the priorities of the Strategy.
Enrico Giovannini, Minister of Sustainable Infrastructures and Mobility, thanked President Kompatscher and Fugatti for taking over the Presidency, stressing that it is a common issue, of Europe, EUSALP and its Ministry, to promote soft and sustainable mobility, as well as the strengthening of the railways and the Brenner corridor.
According to Reinhold Messner it is necessary to limit individual transport
In his speech "The Alps in Europe", Reinhold Messner elaborated on the history and the multiple importance of the Alps as a habitat, as an economic area, as a tourist destination and as a sporting arena. Messner pointed out that the Alpine arc is not only composed of mountains, but also includes cities that put a strain on the Alpine ecosystem. He pointed out the phenomenon of migration from rural areas to urban centers as a danger, calling for a contextual protection of the landscape, also by prohibiting the individual use of cars by tourists.
In his presentation, Thomas Egger, Co-Leader of EUSALP Action Group 5 (Connectivity and Accessibility) and Director of the Swiss Association for Mountain Regions SAB, gave an overview of the work of the EUSALP Action Groups. The five years of activity of the Actions Groups have led to the développement of policy recommendations, gathered in a publication that will be issued in June 2022. These policy recommendations address different political levels from local level up to European level.
Leading Representatives at the EUSALP Round Table
Political representatives of EUSALP discussed at the round table: Günther Platter, Governor of Tyrol, emphasized the importance of the younger generation and climate protection: "We are facing major challenges in the Alpine regions, so it is important that, especially in the European Year of Youth, new ideas and future-oriented visions are brought to EUSALP by young people. Furthermore, during this year's Tyrolean Arge Alp Presidency, we will focus on priorities such as climate and nature protection, sustainable mobility, innovation and research. We need to give the regions a strong voice at all levels and present ourselves in a unified way before governments and the EU." South Tyrolean MEP, Herbert Dorfmann, described the perception of EUSALP in the European Parliament and spoke about the implementation of EUSALP issues at the European level. Ira Carabetchi, representative of the EUSALP Youth Council from South Tyrol, spoke about the expectations on EUSALP, the participation of the Youth Council to the strategy. She stressed the necessary conditions for young people to stay in the Alpine region and emphasized the need to find a balance on the issue of tourism in order to avoid over-tourism and to not make the lives of the citizens depend only on the tourism economy. Raffaele Cattaneo, Councillor for Environment and Climate of the Lombardy Region, stressed the need to design policies from the bottom-up in order to align them to the needs and characteristics of the territories: "in the territories you can feel the power of the Alps". Barbara Zilli, Councillor for Finance of the Friuli Venezia Giulia Region, online, emphasized that in order to overcome the obstacles synergies should be sought in the coordination of the use of resources and between stakeholders. She also mentioned the need to attract young people to peripheral areas, relying on digitalization to do so. Melanie Huml, Minister of European and International Affairs of Bavaria, online, emphasized the added value of EUSALP and the Danube Region Strategy focusing on the coordination of financial resources. The delegate for mountain valleys and member of the Auvergne-Rhone Alpes Regional Council, Fabrice Pannekoucke, also online, highlighted the successes and obstacles of the EUSALP Presidency indicating the priorities that the strategy should address.
A kickoff event characterized by "determination, motivation and a willingness to kickstart things"
For the concluding remarks, Christian Rathgeb, Councilor Graubünden, President of the Conference of the Governments of the Cantons, online, expressed Switzerland involvement within the strategy. Jean-Pierre Halkin, Head of Unit Macro-regions, Transnational / Interregional / External Cooperation, Enlargement, DG REGIO, European Commission, online, quoted Antoine De Saint-Exupery "We do not inherit the earth from our parents, we borrow it from our children" to remind the importance of the transition needed in our societies and economies. Arno Kompatscher concluded thanking all EUSALP partners and participants to the kickoff event, and reminding the Italian Presidency goals for 2022.
At the presentation day, the South Tyrolean provincial councillor for energy and environment, Giuliano Vettorato, expressed his full satisfaction with the organizational and programmatic role that will be assumed by the CasaClima Agency during the Presidency. "Thanks to the competence acquired in many years of work I am convinced that in this year of joint EUSALP Presidency we will be able to set new goals for the Alpine region with concrete projects, especially in the field of environment, energy and sustainability".
Photo credit: LPA/Ivo corra