Europe and Central Asia
2 Feb 2018

A small rock holds back a great wave

Odysseus and the Sirens, Otto Greiner
Odysseus and the Sirens, Otto Greiner
By Ariel Brunner

In the editorial for our Europe & Central Asia newsletter, Ariel Brunner contemplates the journey ahead through the political waters of 2018. Read the January issue in full here.


“…beaten off our true course by winds from every direction across the great gulf of the open sea, making for home…so we have come…” - Homer's 'The Odyssey'

From my perch in Brussels, as I contemplate our journey ahead through the political waters of 2018, my mind’s eye falls upon Odysseus on his epic sea voyage home from Troy: “…beaten off our true course by winds from every direction across the great gulf of the open sea, making for home…so we have come…” Our first newsletter of the New Year details some of what “home” means for us at BirdLife and the ill winds that blow against us.

January has already seen us ride high on the wave of #OceanAlert, with 38 international NGOs rallying fiercely behind our campaign to save precious marine life – such as seabirds, sharks, whales, dolphins and turtles – from the devastating impacts of industrial fishing. Though we made some last-minute gains in a critical vote in the European Parliament, the wave came crashing down when MEPs still voted to continue allowing the drowning of turtles in fishing gear and the catching of baby fish that have not yet had a chance to reproduce.

Nevertheless, our determination is constantly strengthened by the passion and commitment of our national BirdLife partners across Europe and Central Asia. Their work in the face of environment exploitation, abuse and neglect epitomizes the Homeric sentiment that “a small rock holds back a great wave”. Influencing, nudging, demanding and otherwise supplicating the “Gods” of national governments and EU institutions, we push together to protect nature with better laws and better enforcement, and a longer view towards sustainability than short-term economic and political gains.

Across the many fresh-water regions of the Mediterranean, notably in Montenegro and Greece, our local partners have achieved a huge conservation success in providing the Dalmatian pelican with breeding “life rafts” which help them avoid the devastating effects of human disturbance, moving them up a notch from Globally Threatened to Near Threatened on the BirdLife-maintained IUCN Red List. Such is a small rock.

In Greece, we celebrate with HOS/BirdLife in Greece, the addition of over 1 million hectares of Greek sea waters to EU Natura 2000 marine-protected nature sites. The continent-wide framework of EU Nature Laws and protected nature sites (land and marine) give our partners a foundation on which to achieve the small rocks of important local success, benefiting us all.

And as the Odyssey captivated my childhood imagination, so has BirdLife Cyprus done magnificently with its recently released bird guide for young explorers: ‘What’s That Bird?’ As Elena Markitani explains, today’s youngsters will build tomorrow’s new traditions. With each kid captivated by this terrific guide to the wonders of Cypriot nature, so will be created our future “small rocks” to hold back the great, unceasing waves ahead.


Ariel Brunner - Senior Head of Policy, BirdLife Europe & Central Asia

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.