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Demographic changes in the Alps: presentation of the 5° Report on the State of the Alps

The Italian Delegation of the Alpine Convention presented the 5° report on demographic changes in the Alps during a conference in Brussels on the 10th February 2016.

All in all, the resident population as a whole in the Alps has increased, with a higher incidence of foreign inhabitants (often in combination with negative natural changes). In some areas, however, these processes were not enough to slow down population ageing and a decline of working-age population. In other areas, instead, high birth rate and foreigner inflow may explain the relatively young age of the resident population. All these aspects have generated a complex mosaic, where the main road networks and tourist site attractiveness have contributed to attract people and have accelerated these developments.

This 5° report is trying to create a common framework of knowledge, with comparable data and common thoughts in the different countries. Thus, the analysis is structure around the demographic data, the employment and education situations and the services provided to population.

Some good practices to attract people in the Alps are also detailed: one of them is an example (page 107 of the report) taken from PADIMA (Policies Against Depopulation In Mountain Areas), the Interreg IV C project coordinated by the Province of Teruel and Euromontana.

In addition, during the conference, the high-level speakers insisted on the necessity to maintain people in mountain areas. To achieve to do so, Herbert Dorfmann, MEP, vice-president of the RUMRA (Rural, Mountainous and Remote Areas) intergroup explained that the difference of situations in the different areas can sometimes be explained by political reasons more than geographical ones. Thus, policy-makers should have a strong will to develop the attractiveness of their regions. He also emphasized the role of agriculture in mountain areas: even if agriculture doesn’t represent more than 10% of the GDP in several mountain areas, it creates a link to the land and it helps preparing the field for other activities, such as summer tourism. So mountain agriculture should be encouraged.

Paolo Angelini, Head of the Italian Delegation of the Alpine Convention from the Italian Ministry of Environment Land and Sea insisted on the need to recognise the role played by mountains in the provision of ecosystem services. According to him, mountain areas provide a lot of ecosystem services (like water supply or forests) that benefit to people living within but also outside mountain areas. Euromontana is currently working on the recognition of the role of agriculture and forestry in the provision of ecosystem services thanks to the European H2020 project, PEGASUS, which aims to stimulate long-lasting improvements in the delivery of social, economic and environmental benefits from EU agricultural and forest land in policy and in practice. Hopefully, the findings of this project will also help to better reward the role played by mountain farmers and forest owners and will help to maintain the attractiveness of mountain areas.

16 February 2016

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