Set up under the Bern Convention, the Emerald Network of protected areas aims to supplement the Natura 2000 Network, on a similar basis, in non-EU countries, based on the highest possible methodological synergy. Once established, the network will significantly speed-up future designation of Natura 2000 in EU candidate and potential candidate countries. As the European Union is also a Contracting Party to the Bern Convention, Natura 2000 is considered to be the EU contribution to the Emerald Network.

Council of Europe Information Document on Emerald

Latest news on site designation

Switzerland was the first one to officially adopt their Emerald sites at the 32nd meeting of the Standing Committee to the Bern Convention. List of the sites is available here.

However, candidate sites were nominated in a number of further countries during the recent years.

On the 32nd meeting of the Standing Committe to the Bern Convention, 30 November 2012, the following countries have nominated their candidate sites: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Republic of Moldova, Russian Federation, Ukraine.

Between 2 and 4 November 2011, the Council of Europe and the Bern Convention has organized a biogeorgaphic seminar for the designation of Emerald sites in 6 West-Balkans countries: Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia & Hercegovina, Montenegro, Macedonia and Albania, covering four biogeographic regions: Alpine, Continental, Mediterranean and Pannonian. The seminar was technically and scientifically supported by the European Topic Centre on Biological Diversity. Following this event, on the 31st meeting of the Standing Committe to the Bern Convention, 02 December 2011, the above countries have nominated their candidate sites (except for Croatia, where, having become an EU member states, Natura 2000 will substitute the Emerald network). At the same meeting, Morocco and Norway have also nominated their sites. Detailed list of sites in the above countries is available here.

It became clear during the Bar seminar that the majority of species and habitats requiring specific conservation measures are not yet sufficiently covered by national proposals of West-Balkans countries. Therefore the process will be continued by a new seminar envisaged in 2014, requiring governments to submit an updated set of proposed Areas of Special Conservation Interest.

NGO goals in the Emerald process

NGOs’ goal is to set up an established Emerald network ensuring the favourable conservation status of its species and habitats, by sufficient coverage of their area as well as secured pre-protection status of designated sites. For the latter, NGOs are ready to lobby at national governments as well as get involved in the work of the Bern Convention through the European Habitats Forum, which is a member of the Convention’s Standing Committee.

Proper funding for designation and protection of sites is also crucial. NGOs have drawn the attention of DG Environment of the European Commission that it should carefully check the implementation of Pre-Accession Funds, in order to avoid funding development project deteriorating proposed Emerald sites. National priorities for IPA fund should include a strong nature conservation element, enabling its use for designation and maintenance of the Emerald network. This way the EU could ensure good quality of the ecological network of its future members.

Being aware that available scientific data are often scattered and old, and governments’ capacities and financial resources have been and are low, NGOs have offered their partnership for West-Balkans governments and the ETC during the process. They are ready to contribute with collecting available information, gathering new information and help in establishment, management and monitoring of the Emerald network.

NGO activities in Serbia in 2013:

Serbian CEEweb member Protego gave presentation on the meeting of the Group of Experts on Protected Areas and Ecological Networks, 18 – 19 September 2013, titled Preparations of the NGO community for creation of the Shadow list – NGO lobby for new sites. NGOs participated in the national consultation about new regulation on ecological network in Serbia, including Emerald sites. NGOs participated in the national consultation of new regulation on changes in the Law on nature protection about appropriate assessment of protected sites and ecological networks, including Emerald.

CEEweb activities related to the Emerald process

Being a member of the Emerald Working Group of the European Habitats Forum, and including most of participating West-Balkans NGOs in its membership, CEEweb for Biodiversity has supported the NGO input in this region to the process by providing expert advice, sharing experiences from the Natura 2000 designation seminars, and organizing preparatory meeting and training.

NGO input into the Bern Convention document ‘Draft Guidelines on the management of Emerald sites at national level with respect to climate change adaptation and mitigation’ was provided during the 32nd Standing Committee meeting of the Bern Convention (November 2012), in cooperation with Friends of the Earth Europe.

CEEweb organized its first NGO meeting, the 1,5-days long preparatory meeting for the Biogeographic Seminar for Emerald designation in the West-Balkans back-to-back to the Emerald designation Biogeographic Seminar in Bar, Montenegro, November 2011. The meeting helped NGOs contributing to the seminar with significant amount of information in a coordinated way.

As a follow-up of that, CEEweb and Petnica Science Centre have organized a technical meeting with training session for NGO expertsin October 2012, enabling participants to personally meet with representative of the Bern Convention, too. Download the  Agenda and Meeting notes.

The meeting has covered, among others, the following important issues:

  • update on the official process of Emerald designation in the West-Balkans and agree on NGO next steps to accelerate and influence the process
  • getting familiar with the Bern Convention, its monitoring system and case-files, exploring potentials in the Bern Convention complaint procedure
  • learning methodology of databases for spatial data of additional sites, presenting the resently established data collection system of Serbian NGOs
Read the related article in CEEweb newsletter.

A methodological blueprint: Polish NGO experiences on Natura 2000 site designation

Since the methodology of Emerald designation is very similar to that of Natura 2000, we encourage NGOs from the West-Balkans to learn how Polish NGOs gained a spectacular success in the Polish Natura 2000 designation process.

presentation ‘The role and experience of Polish NGO’s in site designation’ by Pawel Pawlaczyk, Naturalists Club Poland

Polish NGO experiences on Natura 2000 site designation

Polish shadow list 2004

Polish shadow list 2006 (xls)

Shadow list vs official list in maps, Poland 2006

Letters to the European Commission from Polish NGOs:

2006 letter + Annex
2007 letter + Annex I and Annex II
2008 letter + Annex I (xls) and Annex II (xls)

The NGO meeting in 2012 in photos