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Resolution 1150 (1998)

Preliminary draft European Landscape Convention

Author(s): Parliamentary Assembly

Origin - See Doc. 8030, report of the Committee on the Environment, Regional Planning and Local Authorities, rapporteur: Mr Ruffy. Text adopted by the Standing Committee, acting on behalf of the Assembly, on 18 March 1998.

1. Within the framework of Resolution 256 (1994), the former Conference of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe invited its successor body, the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe (CLRAE), to draw up a framework convention on the management and protection of the natural and cultural landscape of Europe as a whole.
2. In order to respond to this invitation, the Congress set up a working group, on which the Assembly was represented, to draw up a draft European landscape convention. The final version of the draft is to be submitted for adoption by the Congress at its 5th Plenary Session (25-28 May 1998) and forwarded to the Committee of Ministers for adoption and opening for signature by governments as an international convention.
3. With this in mind, the Congress, at its 4th Plenary Session (3-5 June 1997), adopted a preliminary draft within the framework of Resolution 53 (1997), and also, in Recommendation 31 (1997), asked the Parliamentary Assembly to examine the preliminary draft and to advise it of its opinion prior to the drawing up of the final draft.
4. Furthermore, before adopting the final draft convention, the Congress decided to consult the representatives of the national ministries concerned and to hold a consultative conference, which is to take place in Florence from 2 to 4 April 1998 and will be attended by these representatives and those of the main international and non-governmental organisations which have technical expertise in the landscape sphere.
5. By taking this initiative, and in its capacity as a body which represents the interests of local and regional authorities, the Congress is demonstrating its awareness of the importance attached by Europeans to the surroundings in which they live, and of their wish for account to be taken of this element in every policy which has an effect on the land. The quality of the surroundings in which people live depends, inter alia, on the impression derived from the perception, especially the visual perception, of the environment, that is to say the landscape, and it has to be said that the quality and diversity of many landscapes are diminishing as a result of factors which are as numerous as they are varied, and that this problem does impinge on the quality of everyday life.
6. The Congress is therefore endeavouring to respond to this concern and to meet the unsatisfied European need for a specific and complete reference to the protection, management and planning of the European landscape in international legal instruments relating to the environment, spatial planning and the cultural heritage. The Congress has thus expressed its political will to offer Europeans an international legal guarantee for the sake of their individual and collective well-being and their personal development at local level.
7. There is no doubt that it will be a difficult task to fulfil this aim. Activities to conserve the landscape – due to its link both with human sensitivity and imagination and with the disciplines involved in identifying its constituent elements – form a particularly complex area for political action.
8. The Congress took up this challenge by putting forward common international rules and particularly appropriate technical and legal solutions, especially where definitions, the field of application, participation, identification, evaluation, intervention and international co-operation are concerned.
9. The Assembly welcomes the fact that the field of application of the preliminary draft convention covers both outstanding landscapes and ordinary ones. In practice, all landscapes shape the quality of the surroundings in which Europe’s populations live, and landscape protection measures must not be exclusively reserved for sites and landscapes of exceptional quality. In this spirit, the CLRAE’s decision is in line with the democratic and social values upheld by the Council of Europe.
10. Furthermore, the Parliamentary Assembly shares the idea put forward by the Congress that a European landscape convention must be designed as a flexible legal instrument. The convention to be introduced must be able to refer to landscapes which, in the light of their specific features, will require varied action, ranging from the strictest conservation to actual creation, also encompassing protection, management and planning.
11. The Assembly also appreciates the innovative contribution made by the preliminary draft convention in terms of the break with the traditional dichotomy between "natural landscape" and "cultural landscape". It is not desirable that there should be a conceptual and operational distinction between landscapes altered by human beings and those which have not been altered. Account must be taken of the various component elements of landscapes during activities to protect, manage and plan them, but without this creating artificial divisions.
12. With a view to the introduction of activities to protect, manage and plan landscapes, the preliminary draft convention puts forward means of action comprising legal and/or financial measures. In order to take account of the diversity of landscapes and of the different national conservation traditions, however, the preliminary draft is very wisely limited to putting forward, in an appendix, a range of different solutions on which the future Parties to the convention will be able to draw, depending on their specific needs.
13. Where measures of international scope are concerned, the preliminary draft convention offers solutions complementing the measures which ought to be taken by states at national level. With this in mind, a list of landscapes of European significance should be drawn up, with a view to better preservation of landscapes, the value of which is one of the foundation stones of European cultural identity. Furthermore, local and regional authorities could earn recognition through an international distinction, the European landscape quality seal, awarded for their efforts to maintain their landscapes. This recognition would yet again highlight the spirit of the convention, which is, rightly, intended to relate to the whole landscape dimension of the continent of Europe.
14. In the light of the above, the Parliamentary Assembly:
14.1. congratulates the Congress for taking the initiative of drawing up a draft European landscape convention, and emphasises the importance and necessity of such an initiative, which demonstrates the significance attached by elected representatives at local and regional levels to the quality of life of the populations of Europe, as well as helping to consolidate the European cultural identity;
14.2. takes the view that this preliminary draft European landscape convention has the merit of clearly identifying the problems of Europe’s landscape and of putting forward innovative remedies, also distinguished by their democratic nature, their flexibility and their scientific rigour;
14.3. expresses its support for the initiative of the Congress, to which it would like to continue to contribute with a view to the final draft, on which it will also express its opinion.