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Leader seminar "Challenges and methodology of transnational Cooperation"

2-6 April 1997, Dieulefit (Drôme), France


Case study

Pro Vita Alpina - for the survival of the Alps, for a new life in the Alps

The action

The Pro Vita Alpina network is an association whose purpose is the cultural, social, ecological and economic development of the Alps. Founded in 1972 as a Swiss working group, it became an international network in 1989 embracing all the Alpine countries of Austria, Italy, Switzerland, France and Slovenia.

In addition to organising cultural and artistic events and opening a documentation and publications centre, the network conducts actions in the field of agriculture (organic farming and diversification), tourism, regional development, training and cultural innovation.

Over two hundred people and associations are members and partners of Pro Vita Alpina, and all are from Alpine regions.

The transnational cooperation action examined during this workshop primarily concerns an example of cooperation in organic farming and the marketing of local products between the Tyrol in Austria and Savoy in France.


The key elements

  • The members of Pro Vita Alpina are not institutions but active individuals and associations that play an important role in their region in a whole range of fields.
  • Transnational cooperation aims to broaden minds and to strengthen an approach that enables integrating cultural, social, economic and environmental aspects.
  • Cooperation actions are conducted by people on the ground.
  • These on-site actors can cooperate, because they have a similar approach to development problems and an in-depth knowledge of the Alps.
  • Cooperation takes the form of exchanges of ideas, projects and know-how. The exchanges are generally the element triggering future collaboration.
  • The local impact of exchanges between Savoy and the Tyrol is wide-ranging:
  • application of new marketing methods to local products;
  • improvement and diversification of cheese productions;
  • organisation of fairs and points of sale of local products.

Difficulties are encountered when translating the idea into concrete development, when inevitably progressing from idealism to the actual economic results. Difficulties linked to mentalities are also unveiled.

The success of the cooperation is also linked to the promotional tools, information and documentation (collective memory) in all the areas of development (cultural, social, economic, environmental). Transnational cooperation must be mediatised.

Transnational cooperation may create an environment conducive to job creation. However, its aim is not to create jobs but to develop an area.


Local context

The Alps and their development constitute the local context. The areas concerned are characterised by mountain agriculture and the problems of rural living in the mountains.


Point of departure

The international association began with the publication of the book "VOM NEUEN LEBEN" by Hans Haid. The book describes nearly one hundred local development initiatives in the Alps. The network was originally formed by the people and initiatives described in the book. Its aim was to favour cooperation between its members. The first exchanges between the network's members took the form of excursion visits to the network's different members.

In 1992, 1993 and 1994, three exchanges took place between the French Alps and the Tyrol on the themes of cheese production, marketing local products and the tourist approach.

At one of these exchanges, the Austrians discovered the "eco-museum" concept as the standard model of a museum having an impact on the region's development. An eco-museum project was put together by the Local Action Group in Otztal in the Tyrol. The project is the first "structured" project of transnational cooperation.


It was in Switzerland in 1972 that a working group called "Pro Vita Alpina" was created. Pro Vita Alpina's objective is to increase the possibilities of socio-economic activities and developments in mountain regions. These possibilities must be satisfactory for people and for the environment. Ecological farming seemed to meet these conditions.

In May 1989, twenty people from different parts of the Alps met. Pro Vita Alpina was founded as an international association whose scope of activities extends to all of the Alps. The association wanted to evolve towards a network of exchanges where a maximum number of active people in the Alps would meet.

Pro Vita Alpina is the only association whose scope of activity extends to the entire Alpine region, with global and interdisciplinary points of view. It will not be until all facets of life are integrated (the economy, culture, ecology, tourism, social activities) that a new way of living will emerge in the Alps.

Little by little, Pro Vita Alpina has implemented the following objectives and projects:


  • In Innsbruck, Pro Vita Alpina founded a documentation and international and interdisciplinary research centre for culture and development in the Alpine region. The research findings from over two hundred development initiatives in the Alps have already been compiled there as have 2,000 media items on the Alps.
  • Since 1989, Pro Vita Alpina has organised and held a large number of symposiums seminars, conferences and cultural actions
  • Pro Vita Alpina has organised several exchange visits in the Alps to discover local development initiatives
  • Following these different visits, Pro Vita Alpina in 1993 set up a documentation centre devoted to innovative projects in the Alpine region. Concrete models and projects for the survival of agriculture have been tested and divulged.
  • Since January 1995, members of Pro Vita Alpina have become members of the LEADER II Local Action Groups in Austria.

Pro Vita Alpina's budget for exchanges is roughly ECU 3,000 to 3,700 per year. All excursion expenses are co-financed by the participants themselves.

The Italian, Austrian, French and German partners are involved in a project whose aim is the creation of an eco-museum and multimedia means in the framework of Article 10 of the ERDF - economic development through culture measure.

The network will continue its cooperation in the framework of RECITE II and probably OUVERTURE II with Slovenia.

A new ideas fair is being organised in the Tyrol in November 1997. Emphasis will be placed on the potential of organic farming.

The Austrian model of having more than one activity that combines agriculture and tourism will be examined in a specific study.



Roger Desbiolles

Musée Paysan

F-74250 Viuz-en-Salloz

Tel: 33 00 50 36 89 18

Fax: 33 50 36 96 13


Dr Hans Haid

Pro Vita Alpina

Heiligkreuz 8

A-6450 Sölden

Tel/Fax: +43.5254 2733


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