We Love Natura 2000
Natura 2000 is a network of nature protection areas in the territory of the European Union. The aim of the network is to ensure the long-term survival of Europe's most valuable and threatened species and habitats listed under both the Birds Directive and the Habitats Directive.
The main aim of the Natura 2000 network is to conserve natural resources of community interest and maintain or restore their favourable conservation status. This is only possible through appropriate conservation measures; especially as the conservation status of habitats and species in Europe is often not good, identification and implementation of conservation measures are crucial. The amelioration of the conservation status of certain species and habitats often requires restoration measures.
In addition, the Natura 2000 network is crucial to physical and mental wellbeing. It delivers a range of ecosystem services which enable us to breathe clean air, drink fresh water and produce our food. Equally important, it provides space for us to connect with nature and with the peace, calm and beauty that comes with it. Natura 2000 also benefits society and the economy by providing new employment and diversification opportunities, attracting investments, and enhancing the quality of life for local communities.
Natura 2000 is not a system of strict nature reserves from which all human activities would be excluded. While it includes strictly protected nature reserves, most of the land remains privately owned. A significant part of Natura 2000 sites is under agricultural cultivation, where the availability of targeted subsidies is very important.
ADDED VALUE OF CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE
The Central and Eastern European (CEE) Region has a special character within the Natura 2000 network: the occurrence of natural resources is higher here than in Western Europe, with some unique biogeographical regions (i.e., the Pannonian, the Steppic, and the Black-sea regions) and rare, threatened, or endemic species and habitats. As some countries in the region are not part of the European Union, their important natural heritage gets protected through alternative protected area networks (e.g., the Emerald Network)
The common feature of most countries in the region is that the new natural resource governance frameworks — including Natura 2000 — added a new layer to the already complex national regimes established during the period of socialism. This has caused practical challenges with the transposition of EU legislation and its effectiveness into the national contexts, as well as rapid social and institutional changes conflicting with the traditional centralized decision-making that characterises this region. However, CEE countries maintain extraordinary natural values, including Europe’s last wilderness areas and diverse cultural landscapes.
The Natura 2000 network in the CEE region ensures the protection of rare and endemic species. Natural and semi-natural habitats with their respective species are generally much more plentiful and extensively distributed in the Central and Eastern European countries compared to the other EU Member States. The CEE countries use various traditional techniques to support their Natura 2000 sites, such as sustainable grazing and meadow management, mosaic mowing, shrub removal, organic farming, or non-intervention.