Large European massifs


Observations for policy

The analysis of European massifs gives the opportunity to identify relevant fields of action, including seasonal employment, investments in local small and medium scale renewable energy production, and specific measures to develop higher education. Additionally, it constitutes a window of opportunity to promote access to ICT and innovative methods of service provision.

Policy context

Regions with specific territorial features have received increasing attention in recent years most notably in article 174 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, but also on the Green Peter on Territorial Cohesion. These two key documents identify certain territories in two distinct ways: as having particular challenges or particular assets. Such territories include cross-border regions, islands, or sparsely populated areas.

Map interpretation

The map shows the delineation of massif areas grouped into 16 massifs. Mountains cover 28,4 per cent of the EU27 and are home of nearly 17 per cent of its population. For the EU27+4 the proportions are 41,3 and 25,4 per cent, respectively.

Massifs have no particular economic structure, but a significant number have high residential attractiveness. This is due to their environmental assets and very often due to their social and cultural capital. Many mountain areas are also characterised by relatively high levels of biodiversity and protected areas.

Concepts and methods

According to EEA and DG Regio, the delineation of mountains is based on altitude, terrain roughness and slope. The map is based on a set of grid cells with mountainous topography which was approximated to municipal boundaries (LAU2).

For analytical purposes, mountain areas were grouped into 16 massifs. The notion of massif is inspired on French policies for mountain areas and is used to designate mountainous territorial units. Massifs are identified on the basis of national perception, but also on the definition and naming for geophysical and socio-cultural parameters.