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Event Report – Webinar on Natura 2000 Award Ceremony

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The 2018 Natura 2000 Award Ceremony took place on 17 May 2018 in the Berlaymont building, Brussels.

Natura 2000 is the main instrument of the European Union's biodiversity conservation policy. It is made up of about 27500 protected areas and offers a protection to all most endangered animal and plant species in Europe.

Natura 2000 is composed by the areas covered through 2 EU Directives:

  • Council Directive 79/409/EEC on the conservation of wild birds, which protects all wildlife in the EU.
  • The so-called "habitat" directive of 1992, Council Directive 92/43/EEC on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora, which requires EU countries to protect the habitats of endangered plants and animals and endangered habitats.

The main objectives of Natura 2000 sites are:

1) to avoid activities that may seriously disturb the species or damage the habitats for which the site has been designated;

2) to take the necessary measures to conserve or restore these habitats and species, in order to improve their protection.

The ceremony, which takes place annually, has been an opportunity to listen to the "state of the art" on the functioning of the network, thanks to the introduction speech given by the European Commissioner for the Environment Karmenu Vella; although the 2014-2020 LIFE Programme that allows the provision of funds necessary for the operation of Natura 2000 has grown in terms of budget, a report published by the UN shows that much still needs to be done in terms of biodiversity conservation.

However, the results gained over time by Natura 2000, thanks to the efforts of all those who have worked and work on it, allow us to be able to claim that the network is the largest example of a coordinated network about protected areas in the world.

Five winners were announced for the individual categories, chosen by a jury composed by some important personalities from the environmental sector, in addition to the most prestigious award, the "EU Citizens’ Award", chosen with the votes of European citizens.

The Conservation Award went to the project “Partnership to stop the poisoning of imperial eagles" led by the Hungarian not-for-profit association BirdLife, which carried out interventions in 20 Hungarian Natura 2000 sites and surrounding habitats, to track down illegal activities, bringing environmentalists, hunters, police and veterinarians to work together in the fight against illegal crime.

The Communication Award went to "“Natura 2000: Connecting people with biodiversity”, in which SEO BirdLife and the Agencia EFE news agency disseminated the role and goals achieved by Natura 2000 through documentaries, workshops, news and information in 50 hypermarkets.

The Socio-Economic Benefits Award went to "LIFE to alvars: restoration and grazing reintroduction for 2500 hectares of Estonian alvar grassland", managed by the environmental committee of Estonia and partners. The LIFE project has restored pastures in 19 Natura 2000 sites in close cooperation with over 600 landowners, who now are going on to manage the grasslands with the help of a dedicated environmental scheme.

The Reconciling Interests/Perception Award was awarded by the program: "Co-existing with bears in the 21st century: Difficulties and achievements"; with the support of LIFE funding, the Greek NGO CALLISTO built several measures in the Kastoria district on the newly built highway in order to avoid collisions between bears and vehicles.

The Cross-border Cooperation and Networking Award went to "Joint conservation efforts across three continents to save the sacred bird", in which, with a partnership between the members of BirdLife in Greece, the United Kingdom, Bulgaria and the WWF in Greece, 178 customs officers in Greece and Bulgaria have been trained to control the illegal trade in Egyptian vultures.

The “EU Citizens’ Award” was won this year by the "School of Nature" in the north of Portugal, with about 5,000 votes. The project, developed by the Environmental Monitoring and Interpretation Center of the Municipality of Viana do Castelo, has sought to bring local schoolchildren closer to their unique natural heritage, part of Natura 2000. All of this has been made possible through field trips organized in order to introduce the nature to the students and training courses on sustainability and nature conservation for teachers.

Lorenzo Russo
Winner of the Master’s Degree Prize “Europe that will be” given by the Emilia-Romagna Regional Council
Europe Direct Emilia Romagna