The European Landscape Convention encourages the preservation, management and planning of European landscapes, and invites for Europe-wide cooperation on landscape issues. It is the first international treaty concerned with all dimensions of the European landscape. It also acknowledges that the landscape is important part of quality of life of people everywhere. Specifically, it applies to urban and rural areas, open countryside, coastal and inland water areas, ordinary and degraded landscapes, and also to areas with official protection. The Convention complements the Council of Europe’s and UNESCO’s heritage conventions. The Council of Europe Information System on the European Landscape Convention contains information about the policies developed to implement the European Landscape Convention at national and regional level.

Europe is rich in diverse landscapes with valuable natural and cultural characteristics. The Interreg Europe Programme provides support to the protection and sustainable management of landscapes as part of the environment and resource efficiency theme. Of current Interreg Europe projects several address protection and preservation of cultural and natural values of landscapes:

SWARE project focuses on waterway regions and tackles the growing demand of people living in the surrounding urban areas to explore these landscapes. The project plans to test a cross-sectoral management concept and innovative policy-making approaches that could help preserve the uniqueness of these landscapes. 

A challenge for many regions in Europe is how to balance protection of landscapes with socio-economic development. It is recognized that this goal can be achieved through integrated governance and community engagement. Tipperary County Council (Ireland), a partner in SWARE project, has traditions in cross-sectoral cooperation and stakeholder involvement (e.g. the Lough Derg Marketing Strategy Group aiming to bring coherent marketing and branding to the Lake Derg). Still, the Council recognises that the current arrangements are often fragmented, and the SWARE project is seen as a mechanism to enhance these arrangements. 

HERICOAST focuses on maritime and fluvial regions and aims to improve regional policies for heritage management in these areas. Like SWARE, HERICOAST also highlights the need for participatory and integrated models for heritage management. These should help regions achieve better balance of exploitation and preservation measures applied for coastal and fluvial landscapes. The project will create a methodological framework for assessing and developing heritage of all cultural landscapes with a view to the social and economic impact of heritage. 

EPICAH project deals with natural and cultural heritage protection in cross-border areas. The project aims to contribute to the improvement of a number of policy instruments, one of those being the Interreg V­A Slovakia­Hungary Cooperation Programme 2014­2020. The border between Slovakia and Hungary divides organically cohesive landscapes, and the Programme is an important policy instrument supporting integration of natural and cultural landscapes on both sides of the border. EPICAH aims to improve the Programme by focusing on project design, pilot actions, and measures that combine sustainable tourism development with the promotion of region’s natural and cultural heritage.

Interregional cooperation can be used to increase awareness and understanding of the cultural and natural values of diverse European landscapes, and also a way to facilitate closer cooperation in their management and governance.

Image credit: Photo from Pixabay by Pexels