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Ratification of the European Landscape Convention: an opportunity

Margarita Ortega
Head of Division, Technical Office of the Secretariat General for Territory and Biodiversity of the Ministry of the Environment of Spain

The Council of Ministers has approved sending to Parliament the Council of Europe's European Landscape Convention, to proceed with its ratification. This step begins the procedures for the definitive adhesion of Spain to a convention with the category of an international treaty and referring exclusively to the landscape. The commitments it entails are a real opportunity for the application of active landscape policies, of singular importance in our country due to the wealth and diversity of its landscape, but also due to the innovative concept and the role of landscape when facing development in accordance to the potential and the identity of our territory.

A long-running aspiration

The Convention, adopted in Florence in 2000, entered into force in 2004 when it was ratified by at least ten countries. Currently more than twenty-six states in the Council of Europe have ratified it, including our immediate neighbours. Since signing it in 2000, Spanish ratification had been conditional, due to diplomatic reservations. Nevertheless, it was widely demanded, especially by the Autonomous Communities, anxious to have international support to implement its contents. This was the case of Catalonia: its Parliament had already adhered to the Convention in December 2000. Or the creation of specific laws (Valencia, 2004; Catalonia, 2005, and currently the Balearic Islands and Galicia). Congress itself unanimously approved in 2005 a non-legislative motion requesting ratification by the Government.

For this reason it is expected that parliamentary procedures will be rapid and that the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs will present the instrument of ratification before the Council of Europe this autumn. From that moment the commitments that the Convention requires of States will be firm and in our case, due to the system of distribution of competences, it will be shared between the general administration and the regional and local authorities. The Ministry of the Environment and the Ministry of Culture have actively participated, together with the Autonomous Communities, to reach this ratification.

Commitments to fulfil and to share

Ratification implies the public administration assuming the responsibility for consideration and attention to landscape due to its social, environmental, cultural and economic interest, in our territory but also as a part of the European continent. And from an innovative conception of the term that can be summarised in the idea that any territory is landscape: the beautiful as well as the degraded, natural as well as cultural, i.e., transformed by human action, and both rural and urban.

The Convention clearly defines different commitments: from legal acknowledgment of landscape as a fundamental element of the human environment, to the formulation of specific policies, without forgetting a consideration for any other policies that could affect it. But it also includes other, perhaps more innovative, ideas such as the participation of the population in identifying and valuating their landscape, education and training of specialists and the declaration of cross-border landscapes.

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