Origins of the Convention

In March 1994, a few months before the 1st Plenary Session of the Council of Europe's Congress of Local and Regional Authorities (hereinafter: the Congress), the Standing Conference of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe, its predecessor, adopted Resolution 256 (1994) on the 3rd Conference of Mediterranean Regions. In this text, the Standing Conference called on its succeeding body, the Congress, "to draw up, on the basis of the Mediterranean Landscape Charter – adopted in Seville by the regions of Andalusia (Spain), Languedoc-Roussillon (France) and Tuscany (Italy) – a framework convention on the management and protection of the natural and cultural landscape of Europe as a whole".

One year later, in response to the 1st Conference of European Environment Ministers held in Dobríš in June 1991, the European Union’s European Environment Agency published Europe’s environment: the Dobríš assessment, an in-depth analysis of the state of and prospects for the environment in “the greater Europe”. Chapter 8 deals with landscapes, and in its conclusions it expresses the hope that the Council of Europe will take the lead in drawing up a European convention on rural landscapes.
In 1995 the World Conservation Union (IUCN) published Parks for life: actions for protected areas in Europe with the support of, among others, the Swedish Agency for Environment Protection, the Dutch Ministry for Agriculture, Regional Planning and Fisheries, the Norwegian Ministry for the Environment, the British Countryside Commission, the German Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Reactor Safety, the French Ministry for the Environment and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). This text advocates an international convention on rural landscape protection in Europe, involving the Council of Europe.

In view of these recommendations and the growing social demand, the Congress decided to draw up a draft European landscape convention for adoption by the Council of Europe's Committee of Ministers. In order to draw up this project, in September 1994 the Congress set up an ad hoc drafting group. The first meeting of this group, made up of Congress members and experts (Régis Ambroise, Michael Dower, Bengt Johansson, Yves Luginbuhl, Michel Prieur and Florencio Zoido-Naranjo), took place in November of that year. Riccardo Priore, Council of Europe official, has been Secretary of the Working Group. This group met for the first time in November that year. In accordance with the principle of consultation and participation, several international, national and regional bodies and programmes were invited to take part in the group’s work. Among these were the Parliamentary Assembly and the Cultural Heritage Committee of the Council of Europe (CCPAT), the Committee for the activities of the Council of Europe in the field of biological and landscape diversity (CO-DBP), the Unesco World Heritage Committee, the IUCN, the Committee of Regions and the Commission of the European Union, and the Bureau for the Pan-European Biological and Landscape Diversity Strategy and the regions of Andalusia (Spain), Languedoc-Roussillon (France) and Tuscany (Italy).

In view of the scientific complexity of the subject and its varied treatment in national law, the group drew up, as preparatory documents, a full version of the draft convention in nonlegal language and a comparative study of European landscape law. The purpose of the study was to clarify the legal situation and practices relating to landscape protection, management and planning in Council of Europe member States.

In addition, the group constantly referred in its work to existing national and international legal instruments in this field. These include the Unesco Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage, the Convention for the Protection of the Architectural Heritage of Europe, the Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats, the European Convention for the Protection of the Archaeological Heritage, the Committee of Ministers Recommendation 95 (9) on the integrated conservation of cultural landscape areas as part of landscape policies and Recommendation 79 (9) of the Committee of Ministers concerning the identification and evaluation card for the protection of natural landscapes, the Mediterranean Landscape Charter, the European Community regulation on agricultural production methods compatible with the requirements of the protection of the environment and the maintenance of the countryside, the European Community directive on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora, the European Community directive on the assessment of environmental effects, and other important national, European Community and international instruments.

Given the need for democracy and the special nature, multiplicity and variety of landscape values and of demands on the landscape, the drafting group held two hearings in Strasbourg as part of its programme of consultation on the draft convention. The first, on 8 and 9 November 1995, was attended by interested national and regional scientific bodies, both private and public, as well as interested European non-governmental organisations; the second, on 24 March 1997, was for interested international organisations and regional authorities.

Following these hearings, at its 4th Plenary Session held in Strasbourg from 3 to 5 June 1997, the Congress adopted a preliminary draft European Landscape Convention in Resolution 53 (1997). The draft convention, which is written in non-legal language, and the comparative study of European landscape law already mentioned were presented as appendices to the resolution’s explanatory memorandum (CG (4) 6, Part II). Also at the 4th Plenary Session, in Recommendation 31 (1997), the Congress requested the Council’s Parliamentary Assembly to examine the preliminary draft European Landscape Convention in Resolution 53 (1997), give an opinion and, if possible, express its support. The same request for an opinion and support was made to the European Union's Committee of the Regions.

Before recommending adoption of the European landscape convention to the Committee of Ministers, the Congress decided, again in Resolution 53 (1997), to consult the national ministries concerned. It accordingly instructed the drafting group to organise a consultation conference for ministerial representatives and major international and non-governmental organisations with technical expertise in landscape matters. At the invitation of the Italian ministry for Cultural Heritage and Environmental Assets, this important conference took place in Florence (Italy) from 2 to 4 April 1998. The Congress consultation conference achieved constructive dialogue with the national authorities responsible for landscape matters in the Council of Europe member countries. More particularly, thanks to the open, informal exchange of views between the drafting group and the experts assisting them on the one hand, and representatives of the ministries responsible for landscape matters on the other, the Congress was able to gain an understanding of the countries’ requirements with regard to establishing common rules of international law on the protection, management and planning of their landscapes.

On the basis of very encouraging results from the Florence Conference and the positive views which the international bodies concerned expressed on the preliminary draft Convention (The Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly and Cultural Heritage Committee, the European Union’s Committee of the Regions, Unesco’s World Heritage Committee, the World Commission on Protected Areas and the Commission on Environmental Law of the World Conservation Union (IUCN) presented official opinions at the Florence Conference. A number of non-governmental organisations with technical qualifications in landscape management also gave favourable opinions on the preliminary draft Convention at the conference), and taking account of the proposals put forward at the hearings, the working group produced a final draft European landscape convention in the form of a draft recommendation which was presented to the Congress for adoption at its 5th Plenary Session (Strasbourg, 26-28 May 1998). The working group was chaired by Mrs Cristiana Storelli (Switzerland) from 1994 to 1996 and by Mr Pierre Hitier (France) from 1997 to 1998. Mrs Storelli and Mr Hitier were also Rapporteurs. The draft recommendation, which the Congress adopted on 27 May 1998 (Recommendation 40 (1998)), asked the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers to examine the draft European Landscape Convention with a view to adopting it as a Council of Europe Convention, if possible during the heritage campaign which heads of State and government had called for at the second Council of Europe Summit in October 1997. The recommendation also urged the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe to support the draft European Landscape Convention with a view to its adoption by the Committee of Ministers. The Recommendation 40 (1998) contains in an appendix a list of examples of specific legal, administrative, fiscal and financial measures for landscape protection, management and planning. The recommendation is completed by an explanatory memorandum including in an appendix a draft Explanatory Report of the draft Convention.

At their 641st meeting (15 to 18 September 1998), the Council of Europe Ministers’ Deputies considered Recommendation 40 (1998) and asked the Committee for the activities of the Council of Europe in the field of biological and landscape diversity (CO-DBP) and the Cultural Heritage Committee (CC-PAT) to consider whether a Council of Europe landscape Convention could and should be drawn up on the basis of the Congress draft landscape Convention in Recommendation 40 (1998). The CC-PAT and the CO-DBP delivered their opinions on 17 February and 19 April 1999 respectively. 

On this basis, at its 676th meeting (1 and 2 July 1999), the Committee of Ministers decided to set up a select governmental Committee of experts responsible for drafting the European landscape Convention on the basis of the draft prepared by the Congress. The Committee of Ministers recommended in particular that the select Committee pay attention to the articles concerning the body supervising the implementation of the Convention and the identification of landscapes of European interest.
This Committee of Experts met three times (September and November 1999 and January 2000) and submitted a new draft convention to the CC-PAT and the CO-DBP in January 2000. Both Committees jointly examined the text on 10 March 2000 and decided to submit it to the Committee of Ministers together with the report of their meeting [T-LAND (2000) 4] for consideration and possible adoption and opening for signature.

On the basis of the texts appearing in the aforementioned report and the opinions of the Parliamentary Assembly and the Congress of regional and local authorities of Europe of 25 May 2000 and 26 June 2000 respectively, the Secretary General of the Council of Europe submitted a draft Convention to the Committee of Ministers for adoption. The Committee of Ministers adopted the text of the Convention on 19 July 2000 and decided it would be opened it for signature on 20 October 2000.

(cf. Explanatory report to the Convention, pages 1-4)