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CEEweb newsletter – 2013 Issue 1

In this issue: Editorial Natura 2000 steals the limelight Lobby for Greener Common Agricultural Policy The new EU budget cuts down budget lines important for biodiversity and environment CEEweb supports Emerald designation in the West-Balkans Scientific factsheets to aid EU policy implementation CEEweb member visit in Bosnia and Herzegovina Lead poisoning in birds of prey in Macedonia Dear Reader, The short spring is almost over after a long winter – however, nature conservation policy processes in the European Union are far from being over yet. It is a busy season especially that the European Union launches its new multiannual budget in 2014. Discussions and negotiations should be finished this year, so the high level of activity is not unexpected at all. The new budget determines the conservation policy in many ways, no wonder that there are big debates and active lobbying in the related processes. One of the most important policy areas that has a strong impact on nature conservation, is the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). The CAP budget forms a significant part of the EU budget and it does matter from the conservation point of view, how it will be spent. Apparently, the new CAP will not be as green as we wanted to see it initially – however, it could have been worse if all the environmentally problematic proposals would have been taken aboard. The game is not over yet, but it is likely to get a solution somewhere between. Of course, NGOs should use all the chances to push proposals to the ‘green trail’ and contribute to finding the solution most beneficial  for European nature. CEEweb has been involved in working for a greener CAP, along with other conservation processes. Beside that you can read more about previous activities  on Natura 2000 issues, site designations in the West Balkan for the Emerald network as well as lead poisoning of birds of prey in Macedonia. In addition, you can read about the scientific factsheets we prepared on various topics affecting nature conservation issues and workshop reports to contribute to sharing experience in Natura 2000 site management and financing. I hope you will find this issue useful for your work. Enjoy reading CEEweb newsletter, Mátyás Prommer secretary general Natura 2000 steals the limelight CEEweb for Biodiversity’s activities in 2012 and early 2013 focused to a great extent on Natura 2000. We carried out a workshop on Natura 2000 management and Natura 2000 payments for CEE NGOs and authorities in Kamienica, Poland. The outcomes of the workshop along with national recommendations were compiled in the workshops’ report. We also prepared a brochure on Natura 2000 financing that presents specific cases from five Central European countries to show pitfalls, advantages and opportunities of the current EU and national financing. We also updated two relevant brochures: (1) on Natura 2000 management from NGO’s perspective and (2) on ecosystem services where the economic benefits of the network were emphasized. We got actively involved in the new Biogeographic Process on management of Natura 2000. It is an EU level series of expert workshops and seminars aiming (1) to define the proper management of certain habitat types to achieve favourable conservation status of the sites as well as (2) to share expertise and experience, and (3) to strengthen trans-boundary co-operation. CEEweb cooperated with other networks (especially with EEB, IUCN and WWF) within the European Habitats Forum to contribute to the Biogeographic process. We channeled NGO expertise into the discussions in cooperation with the Baltic Environmental Forum regarding the Boreal process and with Umweltdachverband regarding the Alpine process. Besides, we provided capacity building and EU policy update on biodiversity and Natura 2000 for the Croatian conservation NGOs in March during a workshop organized by our member, Sunce. And of course, we put much attention to raise awareness about Natura 2000 for the general public through a photo competition and the Green-Go short film contest, which we continue this year, along with the “1 Euro for Nature” campaign and with a new photo competition. Lobby for Greener Common Agricultural Policy “The CAP is in crisis”, but the members of the European Parliament could “prevent a backwards and biased reform” exclaimed the authors of an open letter that was signed by over 270 organisations from across Europe. The letter was sent to the members of the European Parliament with a request to act on behalf of real public interest when voting on Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) reform in March. In January 2013 the European Parliament’s Agriculture and Rural Development Committee (COMAGRI) agreed on the position about CAP reform that was “against the environment, our health, jobs, animal welfare and developing countries”. The open letter called that the members of the European Parliament resist this position at the plenary voting. CEEweb and a number of its member organisations signed the letter that was initiated by EEB/WWF/BirdLife Europe and voiced Civil Society’s concerns on the current reforms of the CAP. The letter can be found here >>. On March 13th at the Plenary the European Parliament rejected some of the worst reform proposals of the COMAGRI. However, the Parliament refused to support such important reforms as High Nature Value Farming Systems and some elements that would have made the CAP contribute to climate action (ban on ploughing up wetlands and carbon rich soils). It is disappointing that while 40% of EU budget is spent on CAP, these funds will not bring a major shift to environmental practices in agriculture. The new EU budget cuts down budget lines important for biodiversity and environment On February 8th in Brussels, the European Council decided on the new budget for the 2014-2020 period. The overall budget got somewhat reduced (by 3.4 percent in comparison to the current budget), however the significance of changes lies not in the reduction of total amount, but in the relocation of spendings. The Sustainable growth: Natural Resources budget category suffered a severe cut of 11.3 percent. The most important budget categories for biodiversity and for the environment were cut, including the Rural Development Fund in CAP and the LIFE programme. The CAP will continue the controversial Direct Payments system, which keeps on providing subsidies to farming systems that cause detrimental effects to the environment. LIFE in the proposed agreement does not reach the 1 percent of the budget. The budget is still to be adopted by the European Parliament. CEEweb supports Emerald designation in the West-Balkans CEEweb and Petnica Science Centre has organized a technical meeting for NGO experts to discuss the preparation of Emerald ecological network in the West-Balkans in the second half of 2012. During the meeting a representative of the Bern Convention provided an update on the official process of Emerald designation, the participants got familiar with the Bern Convention under which the Emerald Network is created, its monitoring system and case-files. NGOs also learned about the methodology of databases for spatial data of additional sites as well as about a concrete example of the recently established data collection system of Serbian NGOs. The meeting inspired further ongoing cooperation and projects between NGOs. The meeting was organised as a follow-up of the Biogeographic Seminar for Emerald designation in the West-Balkans that took place in 2011. Once established, the Emerald network will significantly speed-up future designation of Natura 2000 in EU candidate and potential candidate countries. Acceding country at its finish line, Croatia will become the 28th EU member country on 1 July 2013. In recent years Montenegro, Serbia and Macedonia were granted EU candidate status, while Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina are potential candidates. These countries host invaluable natural heritage at European scale. CEEweb is closely following the conservation processes in the West-Balkans and cooperates with national NGOs in various EU-related and international processes. Read more about Emerald network and related CEEweb activities >> Scientific factsheets to aid EU policy implementation CEEweb has prepared factsheets related to land use and green infrastructure, to resource use, and to ecosystem-based adaptation to climate change and the role of agriculture and forestry in mitigation of climate change. The documents contain (1) introduction to the current situation and problems in these fields with their consequences, (2) policies developed so far aiming to tackle these challenges, as well as (3) concrete recommendations for effective tools to modify positively the current unsustainable trends. Scientific facts and data are the best indicators for our environment and serve the basis for effective and well-targeted policy. In order to meet the targets of the EU 2020 Biodiversity Strategy as well as to realize a resource efficient Europe by 2020, efforts should be strengthened at all levels to address the current unsustainable trend of resource use, land use and climate change. The factsheets of CEEweb draw attention to these challenges and provide a brief insight to current trends and policies. CEEweb member visit in Bosnia and Herzegovina At the heart of CEEweb for Biodiversity are its members. Therefore, the secretariat of the network finds it crucial to connect with them and share information about current policy issues, learn about their work and brainstorm together about future cooperation. On the 20th of March, CEEweb staff visited the Center for Environment, CEEweb member NGO in Banja Luka, Bosnia and Herzegovina. A training session was focused on providing insight into the network’s policy and experience. This included presentations on biodiversity policy update at EU and international levels and case studies from CEE countries on campaigning and lobbying against infringement. Also, the meeting included group work sessions and discussions related to effective campaigning and lobbying, and identification of potential common projects with CEEweb. During the meeting the participants worked out common targets and projects for a more effective NGO networking in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Participants were also actively engaged in a group discussion directed at identifying benefits and returns related to membership in CEEweb. CEEweb head office staff got an insight to the Bosnian situation and burning issues in the region including the case about Sutjeska National Park and the hydro power investment, which is strongly opposed by local NGOs. Read more >> Lead poisoning in birds of prey in Macedonia “After 75 days of treatment, we successfully released a first-winter female Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos)”, reports CEEweb member NGO, Macedonian Ecological Society. Acute lead poisoning was confirmed. This was the first recorded case of lead poisoning in birds of prey in Macedonia although it is a well-recognized issue in Western European countries where it is routinely monitored. As a result of such research, many countries have fully banned the use of lead pellets in hunting in certain areas. This problem in Macedonia is probably seriously underestimated and secondary lead poisoning can be considered as one of the factors for decrease of bird populations of other endangered birds of prey. The case of this Golden Eagle reminded of one more problem that faces injured wildlife in Macedonia – the lack of a specialized, professional and equipped wildlife rescue center. Read more >>