An EU Strategy for the Alpine Region

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    Routes4U Project aims to enhance regional development in the Adriatic-Ionian, the Alpine, the Baltic Sea and the Danube regions through the Cultural Routes certified by the Council of Europe. The 30-month project (2017-2020) has been launched in the framework of the joint programme between the Council of Europe (DGII – EPA on Cultural Routes) and the European Union (European Commission, Directorate-General for Regional and Urban Policy). 

    The four EU macro-regions, covering 27 countries (19 EU Member States and 8 non-EU countries), are crossed by 25 transnational networks certified “Cultural Route of the Council of Europe” such as the Santiago de Compostela Pilgrim Routes, the Phoenicians’ Routes, the Hansa and the Olive Tree Routes. The Routes4U Project contributes to cultural cooperation and provides a transnational platform for regional and national stakeholders. In line with the Faro Convention (Council of Europe, 2005), the project also promotes the importance of local citizens and their strong connection with their heritage in the creation of a common European narrative. 

    Routes4U implements activities for the four EU macro-regions related to cultural heritage and sustainable tourism in view of regional development. Among the highlighted activities: Research and guidelines on sustainable cultural tourism, a digital platform to discover Cultural Routes landmark sites and less-known destinations in the EU macro-regions and the assistance of new cultural routes projects in view to the certification “Cultural Route of the Council of Europe”. 

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    Interreg transnational cooperation programmes have been operational for more than 20 years, implementing actions in the framework of the EU Cohesion Policy. These programmes bring together European regions and cities that are located in different countries yet are sharing many challenges and opportunities due to their common geography, history, and culture. 

    The geographic and cultural similarities defining the transnational programme areas provide an excellent basis for cooperation. In transnational projects, actors from the private and public sectors, universities and civil society organisations work closely together to advance new or improved solutions designed to meet the most pressing needs of their populations. But what does that mean in real terms? What do transnational cooperation projects and their results imply for the regions, cities, and citizens? Whilst it is impossible to present the full scope, diversity and added value of transnational cooperation in just a few pages, the publication '10 Things to Know About Transnational Cooperation' aims at providing a flavour of what is the role and achievements of Interreg transnational/interregional programmes across Europe. 

    The document was prepared by an informal working group including representatives from Interreg transnational programmes and Interreg Europe, with the support and facilitation of Interact.

    European Territorial Co-operation 

    As of 1 January 2018, the Austrian region Tyrol holds the Presidency of the EU Strategy for the Alpine Region (EUSALP) under the motto shaping.future.together – in the Interest of Alps! The kick-off event of the Tyrolean Presidency took place on 7 February 2018 in Innsbruck/Igls, where Bavaria, who was chairing the Strategy in 2017, officially handed over the EUSALP presidency to Tyrol. In a very symbolic way, the Bavarian representative Michael Hinterdobler handed over the “Kolo wheel” to Günther Platter, the Governor of Tyrol, illustrating that now the Austrian region is in charge of giving direction to EUSALP’s implementation.

    The kick-off event was attended at very high level by the Federal President of the Republic of Austria Alexander Van der Bellen, the Federal Chancellor of the Republic of Austria Sebastian Kurz, Walter Deffaa, Special Adviser to European Commissioner Corina Crețu, in charge of Regional Policy, President of the European Committee of the Regions Karl-Heinz Lambertz as well as the governors of Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, South Tyrol and Trentino, Laurent Wauquiez, Arno Kompatscher und Ugo Rossi.

    In his speech Dr. Walter Deffaa, underlined the importance of macro-regional cooperation by emphasing that 'macro-regional strategies have an evident European Value Added. […] They should be modernised as the whole of Cohesion Policy.' Alexander Van der Bellen, Federal President of the Republic of Austria, in his closing speech reminded that the "EUSALP is bringing all seven Alpine countries together at an equal footing aiming to tackle challenges through cooperation based on friendship and mutual trust.'

    Günther Platter underlined that the Tyrolean Presidency will focus on the thematic areas of mobility and connectivity. Other key topics include dual training, sustainable use of natural resources, disaster management and energy. The work programme of the Presidency is available here in five languages.

    The Innsbruck meeting was also the occasion for Italy and France to announce their candidacy for EUSALP Presidency in 2019 and 2020, respectively.


    The EUSALP is the fourth EU macro-regional strategy, adopted by the European Commission in 2015 and endorsed by the European Council in 2016. The Strategy covers a territory inhabited by 80 million people (16 % of the EU) and includes 48 regions in seven countries: Austria, France, Italy, Germany, Slovenia, Liechtenstein and Switzerland.

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The EU Strategy for the Alpine Region involves 7 countries: Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Liechtenstein, Slovenia and Switzerland.

It builds on the experiences of the already existing macro-regional strategies: the European Strategy for the Danube Region and the European Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region and the European Strategy for the Adriatic and Ionian Region.

The Commission adopted a Communication and an Action Plan on the EU Strategy for the Alpine Region on 28 July 2015 . This followed the invitation from the European Council in December 2013. It also took account – inter alia – of the on-line public consultation that was held in 2014, and the debates and discussions in the Stakeholder Conference on the EU Strategy for the Alpine Region (Milano, December 2014).

The Alpine region is one of the largest economic and productive regions in Europe where about 70 million people live and work, as well as it is an attractive tourist destination for millions of guests every year. However, it faces several major challenges:

  • Economic globalisation requiring the territory to distinguish itself as competitive and innovative
  • Demographic trends characterised by ageing and new migration models
  • Climate change and its foreseeable effects on the environment, biodiversity and living conditions of the inhabitants
  • Energy challenge at the European and worldwide scales
  • Its specific geographical position in Europe as a transit region but also as an area with unique geographical and natural features

Better cooperation between the regions and States is needed to tackle those challenges.

The main added value of the Strategy for the Alpine Region will consist in a new relationship between metropolitan, peri-mountain, and mountain areas.

According to the political resolution adopted by the representatives of the 7 Alpine States and 15 Alpine Regions in Grenoble in October 2013, the new strategy will focus on the following 3 thematic priorities:

  • Competitiveness and Innovation
  • Environmentally friendly mobility
  • Sustainable management of energy, natural and cultural resources

The Commission has encouraged Member States and regions to ensure that the Alpine Strategy is properly embedded in EU regional policy 2014-2020 programmes, as well as other relevant EU, regional and national policy frameworks.

As for the implementation, the Strategy will be based on the key principles applied for the existing macro-regional strategies: no new EU funds, no additional EU formal structures and no EU legislation, while relying on a coordinated approach, synergy effects and a more effective use of existing EU funds and other financial instruments. The aim is to produce a clear added value based on jointly identified objectives.

To get in contact with the team in DG REGIO please send an e-mail to REGIO D1 TRANSNATIONAL AND INTERREGIONAL COOPERATION