The Swiss Business Federation has promised to fight the imminent ratification of the Alpine Convention, a comprehensive policy on the protection and sustainable development of the Alps, which amongst other things, places strict controls on road and other building projects throughout the Alps. The plan has already been ratified in all other Alpine nations, except for Italy, but the mountains take up a far smaller portion of national territory in most other central European nations than in Switzerland.

It is the transport and energy protocols in the convention, which also controls land use planning, mountain forests, the protection of nature and landscape, tourism and leisure activities and soil protection, which have caused the most consternation. Under the transport protocol, member nations agree to consult over significant changes to transport infrastructure, to give environmentally acceptable modes of transport preference, not to build any new trans-alpine roads and to internalise the environmental costs of new transport infrastructure. On energy, the protocol calls for massive investment in renewables.

The Federation calls the convention “anti-economic” and says that it “systematically gives privileges to environmental concerns at the cost of economic and social imperatives”. It will also be implemented, most unusually for Switzerland, without a referendum. The Federation says this is unacceptable when it will apply to almost all local authorities and public bodies nationwide. Finally the group says that application of the convention has given an exaggerated importance to green groups.

The Swiss government is keen to implement the legislation with a minimum of fuss. It has just announced that last year there was a 7% increase in freight carried by lorry through the Alps, although train freight saw a 12% increase.

The signatories to the Alpine Convention are: Austria; the European Union; France; Germany; Italy; Liechtenstein; Monaco; and Slovenia.

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