The alpine convention finally approved the text of a transport protocol when its standing committee met under Swiss presidency in Interlaken last week. The document has been controversial, with talks breaking down in 1996 and again in 1998 because of differences over the extent to which road building should be curbed to reduce the environmental impact of transport (ENDS Daily 20 October 1998). The new compromise now says "fundamentally there would be no new main roads built across or within the Alps". A Swiss environment agency official explained to ENDS Daily today that "main" meant roads that would allow transit of lorries across the Alps. The draft now goes for consultation to the eight parties to the convention: Switzerland, Austria, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Slovenia, Germany, Italy and France as well as to the ninth member of the convention, the EU. The Swiss environment agency official said the agreement was extremely important and should be signed by transport ministers at the Alpine Conference next year. If it successfully gets through the consultation stage, it will be signed when parties' transport ministers meet next year. She added that it was not certain that it would get through the consultation process but that "experts say that the way the protocol is worked out now is a good compromise which could be accepted".
Swiss environment agency, tel: +41 31 322 9356.
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