Europe and Central Asia
9 Oct 2015

The EU is calling for entries for the 2016 Natura 2000 Awards

Białowieża National Park, Poland, is a Natura 2000 site. Photo: Frank Vassen/Flickr
By Sanya Khetani-Shah

The Natura 2000 network consists of over 27,000 terrestrial and marine sites and is a vital part of the EU’s nature and biodiversity policy. They help ensure the protection and survival of Europe’s most valuable and threatened species, and their functioning ecosystems benefit human health, society and the economy (to the tune of €200 to €300 billion per year).

Also, around 4.4 million jobs are directly dependent on the maintenance of healthy ecosystems, a significant proportion of which are situated within Natura 2000 sites. But despite all these benefits, most EU citizens don’t even know about them. This is why, in 2014, the European Commission launched the annual European Natura 2000 Award.

The aim of the award is to demonstrate what the network is, what it does to preserve Europe’s biodiversity, and how it benefits all of us. It recognises excellence in the management of Natura 2000 sites through five categories of awards : Conservation; Socio-Economic Benefits; Communication; Reconciling Interests/Perceptions and Cross-Border Cooperation and Networking. The third edition of the award was announced earlier this month.

“The Natura 2000 Network… is also a hugely effective framework to connect the thousands of Europeans working and volunteering to conserve our precious protected areas,” Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Commissioner Karmenu Vella said.

“For the past two years, the Natura 2000 Award has highlighted the top conservation achievements of these dedicated citizens and groups. In 2016, we will once again recognise the best of the best and I encourage organisations and individuals involved in the Natura 2000 network to apply now!” The deadline for applications is 1 December 2015.

The Award is open to any organisation or person involved in Natura 2000, including public and local authorities, businesses, NGOs, landowners, educational institutions and individuals. Independent experts assess applications and a jury that includes representatives from EU institutions and organisations active in nature conservation decides the winners.

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Since its inception, there have been 250 applications and 11 winners in the five categories and of the European Citizens’ Award, for which the general public votes. The finalists will be shortlisted by March 2016 and the awards will be given out at a ceremony in Brussels in May.

Previous winners of the award include the BSPB (Birdlife in Bulgaria), RSPB (BirdLife in the UK), SEO (BirdLife in Spain), DOPPS (BirdLife in Slovenia) and BirdLife Europe. “Winning the Natura 2000 Award [Conservation category] in 2014 has helped create a positive public image of our organisation, especially among the local communities and municipalities,” said the BSPB spokesperson. “Significantly, it also really enhanced our relations with the state authorities and socially responsible businesses.”

For further information about the EU Natura 2000 Award 2016, please contact:

Stichting BirdLife Europe gratefully acknowledges financial support from the European Commission. All content and opinions expressed on these pages are solely those of Stichting BirdLife Europe. The European Commission is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.