EUSALP and the challenge of multi-level governance policies in the Alps
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Purpose “Wide area cooperation” may be the ultimate challenge within transnational cooperation processes. Although the Alps share a remarkable history of mutual collaboration, they are facing the challenge of a new sustainable-coordination paradigm. The Alpine territories are at a turning point. They are striving for a new governance arrangement and trying to avoid both the Scylla of top-town dirigisme and the Charybdis of poor local governments. This paper aims to address the recent literature on the EU Strategy for the Alpine Region (EUSALP) macro-regional strategy; provide some insights into the role that EUSALP could play as ultimate coordinator of the numerous networks operating in the Alpine space; and discuss a workable division of labour among the different actors that can ensure a renewed focus on sustainable development. - Design/methodology/approach The review addresses two main strands of literature related to “wide area cooperation” and “multi-level governance” to synthesise the debate on the most appropriate governance structure for the Alps. The paper examines, dating back to 2000, the recent history of bottom-up projects related to sustainable tourism in the western arc of the Alps. The study uses a subset of best practices to evaluate the emerging governance frame. - Findings The main outcomes of this study are a framework for a theoretical debate on the most appropriate governance structure for the Alps, guidance for policymakers on a division of labour among different stakeholders that can promote sustainable tourism in the Alps and a set of suggestions for practitioners. Further, the study acknowledges “sustainable tourism” as a highly relevant field to the emergence of bottom-up arrangements aimed at developing workable governance agreements. - Research limitations/implications The paper provides a state-of-the-art framework for “wide area cooperation” in the Alps and serves as a basis for discussion between academics and practitioners. As EUSALP is still in its infancy, its success will depend on the pro-active involvement of national stakeholders. In the case of Italy, this is all but granted because of the current unstable political situation. - Originality/value This paper provides a rigorous framework for addressing top-down strategies and bottom-up planning in the Alpine space. The study also makes a practical contribution by addressing some topics of interest to policymakers.