Alpine transport protocol finally signed

Agreement between all nine convention parties a "breakthrough" opening road to ratification

The nine parties to the Alpine convention today agreed a transport protocol at the sixth annual meeting of environment ministers held under Swiss presidency in Lucerne. Agreement over transport, the hardest fought of the protocols under the convention, finally opens the way for the 1991 convention to enter into force.

It has taken many years of negotiations to formulate a transport protocol to which all parties could agree. In 1996, talks broke down completely, before restarting in 1998 (ENDS Daily 20 October 1998). Last year, an acceptable text was produced (ENDS Daily 27 October 1999), to which members gave oral approval in May.

The protocol was finally signed today by Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Liechtenstein, Monaco and Switzerland. Slovenia and the EU did not sign, though they do not object to the text. The former was unable to provide a signature two weeks after national elections and the latter did not send a representative.

Under the transport protocol, members agree to consult over significant changes to transport infrastructure, to give environmentally acceptable modes of transport preference, not to build any new trans-alpine roads and to internalise the environmental costs of new transport infrastructure. However, expansion of the Gotthard tunnel will not be hindered, according to Swiss press reports.

Eight other protocols have been agreed since 1991. They cover regional planning and sustainable development; nature conservation; mountain farming; mountain forests; tourism; soil conservation; energy and finally a "conciliation" protocol also agreed at today's meeting. Delegates also agreed to form a permanent secretariat for the convention.

Swiss environment agency official Arthur Mohr, told ENDS Daily that today's agreement was a "breakthrough for the whole convention". He said that it was "not only Switzerland which wanted all protocols agreed before starting ratification". His government would now send papers to parliament for approval. Mr Mohr said that the convention as a whole would be in place in 2002.

Follow Up:
Swiss environment agency, tel: +41 31 322 9311, and press release.

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