by Maguelonne Dejeant-Pons
"Humankind can live without learning, without bread: only beauty is indispensable. The whole secret, the whole story, is there." (Dostoyevsky)
The main objectives of the Council of Europe are to promote democracy, human rights and the rule of law and to seek common solutions to the main problems facing European society today. The Organisation is active in environment protection and in promoting sustainable development in line with Recommendation Rec (2002) 1 of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe to member states on the Guiding Principles for Sustainable Spatial Development of the European Continent, previously adopted by the European Conference of Ministers responsible for Regional Planning (CEMAT). These seek to protect Europeans' quality of life and well-being taking into account landscape, cultural and natural values.
Why a convention on landscape?
As an essential factor of individual and communal well-being and an important part of people's quality of life, landscape contributes to human fulfilment and consolidation of the European identity. It also has an important public interest role in the cultural, ecological, environmental and social fields, and constitutes a resource favourable to economic activity, particularly tourism. Now, the advances of production techniques in agriculture, forestry, industry and mining, together with the practices followed in town and country planning, transport, networks, tourism and recreation, and more generally the global economic changes, have in very many cases led to the degradation, debasement or transformation of landscapes. While each citizen must of course contribute to preserving the quality of landscape, it is the responsibility of the public authorities to define the general framework in which this quality can be secured. The European Landscape Convention thus lays down the general legal principles, which should guide the adoption of national, and community landscape policies and the establishment of international co-operation in this field.
The objectives and originality of the convention
The object of the European Landscape Convention is to further the protection, management and planning of European landscapes, and to organise European co-operation for these purposes. Today it represents the first international treaty wholly devoted to the protection, management and enhancement of the European landscape. Its scope is very extensive: the convention applies to the entire territory of the parties and relates to natural, urban and peri-urban areas, whether on land, water or sea. It therefore concerns not just remarkable landscapes but also ordinary everyday landscapes and blighted areas. Landscape is thus henceforth recognised irrespective of its exceptional value, since all forms of landscape are crucial to the quality of the citizens' environment and deserve to be considered in landscape policies. Many rural and urban fringe areas in particular are undergoing far-reaching transformations and must receive closer attention from the authorities and the public. Given the breadth of scope, the active role of citizens regarding perception and evaluation of landscapes is another essential point of the convention. Awareness-raising is thus a key issue, in order that citizens participate in the decision-making process which affects the landscape dimension of the territory where they reside.
In accepting the principles and aims of the convention, the contracting parties undertake to protect, manage and/or plan their landscapes by adopting a whole series of general and specific measures at national level, in keeping, moreover, with the subsidiarity principle. In this context, they undertake to encourage the participation of the public and of local and regional authorities in the decision-making processes that affect the landscape dimension of their territory. The contracting parties undertake to implement four general measures at national level:
The contracting parties further undertake to implement five specific measures at national level, to be applied consecutively:
The contracting parties undertake also to co-operate at international level in catering for the landscape dimension in international policies and programmes, and to recommend as appropriate the inclusion of landscape considerations in these policies and programmes. They accordingly undertake to co-operate in respect of technical and scientific assistance and exchange of landscape specialists for training and information, and to exchange informa tion on all questions covered by the convention.
Transfrontier landscapes are covered by a specific provision: the contracting parties undertake to encourage trans-frontier co-operation at local and regional level and, wherever necessary, to prepare and implement joint landscape programmes.
Landscape Award of the Council of Europe
The European Landscape Convention provides for the conferment of a "Landscape Award of the Council of Europe". This constitutes an acknowledgement of the policy or measures applied by local and regional authorities or by nongovernmental organisations to protect, manage and/or plan their landscape, which have proved lastingly effective and can thus serve as an example to other territorial authorities in Europe. The award will thus help to stimulate local agencies in encouraging and acknowledging exemplary landscape management. It is to be made by the Committee of Ministers at the proposal of the committees of experts responsible for monitoring the implementation of the convention.
The First Conference of Contracting and Signatory States of the European Landscape Convention was organised in Strasbourg on 22 and 23 November 2001 in order to urge the signature and ratification of the convention and for considering the effective implementation of the convention after its entry into force. Five workshops on the implementation of the convention were also organised in Strasbourg on 23 and 24 May 2002 in order to discuss and present concrete examples and experiences on the following themes:
The Second Conference of Contracting and Signatory States held on 28 and 29 November 2002 in Strasbourg enabled participants to further their thoughts on each of these themes in order to prepare for the entry into force of the convention.
Contemporary lifestyles are such that people aspire more and more to rediscover an unspoiled setting and to preserve their natural as well as cultural heritage. By means of this growing social demand, landscape gains or regains prestige and begins to be perceived as a major component of sustainable development policies. It is necessary to recognise the importance and value of landscapes and to reconcile the right to achieve profitability with the right to enjoy well-being, health and scenic beauty.
* Article published in Naturopa 98/2002, page 8-9