Project A

Schmidt, Kira Janina:  'Network Building and Negotiation Processes in European Alpine Transit Policy'

Project number: 392198021 (DFG)

Description ↓↑ 

Subproject A aims to analyze and discuss the intergovernmental and supranational dimensions of the EU’s Alpine Transit Policy. In a top-down approach, it focuses on the most important bodies of the EU (and its precursors), the European Commission and the European Parliament, but also considers influential international and intergovernmental institutions, as well as relevant non-governmental organizations.

The (European) Alps have always represented a geographical boundary within the European continent. Since early modern times, warlords, travelers and traders tried to and successfully did conquer the natural mountain barrier. The Alps themselves have been divided by various political boundaries, national borders, that separated markets and constrained collaborations.

In the course of European Integration in the 20th century, some boundaries were eliminated, but at the same time the Alps now represented a boundary between the northern and southern parts of the developing EU. Transit Policy became an important issue form the 1980s onwards during the creation of the European Single Market. The necessary infrastructures for transalpine traffic, e.g. tunnels and bridges, and tariffs caused controversy among EU member states and between the EU and non-member states – as did ecological concerns for the fragile alpine ecosystem. In Austria and Switzerland, local Alpine conservation movements were formed to fight transit traffic.

This research explores the area of conflict between ecological and economic interests concerning the Alpine region and the formal and informal networks that shaped EU transit agendas. The study employs an actor-centered approach to the negotiations within the complex multi-level governance of the EU. It asks how the actors argued for or against transalpine traffic; how they presented their arguments; how they used expert knowledge; and how they collaborated. Thus, the actors’ transnational networks and institutional links will be examined.

Using Alpine Transit Policy as a case study, this dissertation points to the influence of various nation-state and civil society actors on the EU’s agenda-setting and policy making, and the relevance of transnational networks within the EU’s multi-level governance.

Project B

Buck, Maria: "For a new political culture in the Alps" – Transit resistance and Alpine Conservation in Tyrol (1975-2005)

Project Number: FI036970 (FWF)

Description ↓↑  

In the 1950s, Austria realized many infrastructure projects to push forward a system of alpine crossing streets. A transit country was regarded as a beneficial for European Integration. Since the 1970s there has been a huge resistance by the population against the increasing transit traffic along the Brenner route, which resulted in foundations of local protest groups. They defended themselves against noise and exhaust emissions that had caused environmental damage and personal injuries caused by transit traffic. By using spectacular forms of protest – like blocking the motorway – they caused a press sensation and established transit traffic as a relevant topic in politics that dominated the Austrian discussions and negotiations about joining the EU.

Because of protests of local initiatives and environmentalists this problem has been gaining importance in political agendas not only on a national but international level over the last 30 years, and it is still an important and controversial topic in society.

The debate got even more serious during Austrian negotiations about joining the EU and the contract conclusion of the transit negotiations with the EU in 1992. When Austria joined the EU in 1995, there was an institutional integration of transport policy and, consequently, the liberalization of transit traffic. This process went hand in hand with the rise of the Alpine conservation movement, pushing an ecologisation of transport policies. In consequence, the EU took a contrary position towards local initiatives, aiming for opposite developments. In fact, the initiatives needed the EU to realize their goals on the basis that the EU had more power and possibilities to change something in comparison to smaller governments.

Taking Alpine transit as a case study, the dissertation focuses on the complex negotiations of transport and environmental policy in the context of European Integration. In a bottom-up approach the study focuses on different actors of local protest groups, transit, politics and environmental organisations dealing with transit traffic and Alpine Conservation on regional, national and European levels. The dissertation focuses on the ambivalent position of the defender of the Alps and transit opponents towards the EU. By applying a network analytic approach, the dissertation seeks to examine the impact of Tyrolean and South Tyrolean protest groups on Austrian transport and environmental policies, but also on EU policies. The study aims to analyze the controversial process of Europeanization and ecologisation on national and transnational levels.

Project C

Aschwanden, Romed: Heart of Europe, Fringe of Switzerland – Development and Conservation of the Swiss Alps in the Context of European Integration (1975–2005)

Project Number: 100019E_176479 (SNF)

Description ↓↑  

In Switzerland as well as in Austria, politicians of the post-war era endeavored to ensure that Switzerland could comply with its function as a “transport hub” and promoted the building of road and rail infrastructure through the Alps. Similar to Austria, the late 1970s gave rise to groups against the construction of transport infrastructure, later followed by protests against traffic emissions and the growing freight traffic on the road. The increase in transalpine traffic on the road, invigorated by the dynamically developing economic integration of Europe, created doubt even for politicians and traffic experts, who feared financial losses of the Swiss Federal Railways. When the Swiss sovereign decided against joining the EEA in 1992, the controversy between Switzerland and the EU over how to deal with transalpine traffic became an open conflict. A dispute that was further aggravated in 1994 by the adoption of the popular initiative “for the protection of the Alpine area from transit traffic” (“Alpenschutz-Initiative”). Beside the struggle against the EU (the Alpine Conservation Movement had found its archenemy in the EU), domestic Swiss debates took place: The left-alternative Alpine Conservation Movement doubted the goodwill of the government on protecting the Alps against traffic. In view of this constellation, the Alpine protectors saw the possibility of gathering green allies in the EU and mobilizing them against the “business friendly” Swiss government.

The dissertation project examines these complex and multi-layered alliances of Alpine conservationists from a Swiss perspective. Under application of network analytic approaches, the Swiss Alpine Conservation Movement will be characterized, its internal organizational and social structures will be analyzed. Furthermore, the approach serves to delineate the complex transnational network of politicians and actors of the Alpine Conservation Movement. Conceptually inspired by a multi-level model of European governance, the network-approach serves to understand the political and social negotiation processes in the developing European Union. The whole debate in the Swiss case can only be understood by confronting the analysis with the "Alpine Myth" and its evolution during the second half of the 20th century – a process that must be understood in context of debates about Europeanization and Ecologization.


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