The European Landscape Convention and its application in the Netherlands

The European Landscape Convention and its application in the Netherlands
Gerrit-Jan van Herwaarden & David Zelm van Eldik

The Netherlands, National Strategy Landscape, Monitor Landscape, Environment & Planning Act, EU Green Deal

In 2000, the Council of Europe opened the European Landscape Convention (ELC) for signing and rat-ification in Florence. The ELC is the only European treaty that deals specifically with landscape. It was considered urgent by the Council because many national and European level policies have major con-sequences for the quality of the landscape, also at the regional and local levels. Nowadays, climate change, the energy transition and water management, changing agricultural production methods and the rapid increase in the construction of buildings and infrastructure have a huge impact on the land-scape. By ratifying the ELC, Member States agree to take the quality of landscape into account in their policies.

Summary: In 2005, the Netherlands ratified the European Land-scape Convention (Florence Convention). The Dutch government at the time pursued a policy that broadly met the principles of the convention. Six years later, this situation had changed dramatically. A govern-ment took off ice that made drastic budget cuts with regard to environmental and landscape policies. Pol-icy documents stipulated that landscape policy was no longer a task of the state. Although this decentralisation of landscape policy is not contrary to the Florence convention, it was carried out as a budget cut rather than a deliberate devolution. In recent years, landscape has again been incorporated into Dutch national environmental visions and laws, such as the new Environment and Planning Act, although still in a non-committal manner. Another trend is the modest development of landscape observatories and monitoring landscape changes. Local initiatives refer to the principles of the Florence convention. There is a growing awareness that an attractive land-scape and living environment is a fundamental right. The role of the new Dutch government in creating conditions for adequate protection, management and development remains crucial and seems to be recognised as such. In this sense, the Netherlands is once again operating on the terms of the Florence convention. However, there is still much to be desired. Elaboration of landscape quality objectives as mentioned in the ELC is crucial. The quality of landscape is increasingly part of spatial development programmes, but there are no legal guarantees that this will be incorporated to an acceptable degree. Furthermore, there is a shortfall of resources for local initiatives and landscape management. In particular, this applies to a European exchange of experiences by landscape organisations and volunteers.

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