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News article25 February 2022Directorate-General for Environment3 min read

Biodiversity: 30 years of the Natura 2000 network of protected areas and the LIFE programme

To mark 30 years of the Natura 2000 network and the LIFE programme, a Ministerial Conference is taking place at the European Parliament in Strasbourg today, co-organised by the French Presidency of the European Union and the European Commission. EU Ministers and Commissioner for the Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Virginijus Sinkevičius will participate in a ministerial session hosted by the French Presidency, drawing conclusions from the debates and adopting a joint declaration.

Virginijus Sinkevičius said:

Natura 2000 network is now more important than ever. These protected areas ensure the long-term survival of Europe's most valuable and threatened species and habitats, preserving biodiversity and helping to mitigate and adapt to climate change. I warmly welcome today’s declaration demonstrating our reinforced joint commitment to EU biodiversity targets and will work to see this momentum also at the COP15 on biodiversity.

Bérangère Abba, Secretary of State for Biodiversity of the French government, said:

EU Member States, together with the Commission and Parliament, are more determined than ever to work on the protection of biodiversity and the restoration of nature areas in the long term. We welcome the fruitful exchanges between European ministers and experts that enabled us today to adopt the Strasbourg Declaration at the celebration of the 30th anniversary of the Natura 2000 network.

The Conference began yesterday with discussions on governance, efficiency, restoration and financing of the network, and the role of the LIFE programme in its successful management. The role of Natura 2000 and the LIFE programme in delivering the European Green Deal was another key topic of discussion, with a particular focus on the goals of the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030 to put biodiversity on the path to recovery by 2030, by expanding and effectively managing protected areas, and stepping up nature restoration.

The declaration of Strasbourg, signed by Ministers today, underlines the commitment to significantly strengthen the implementation and enforcement of the Birds and Habitats Directives and to support the objectives of the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030. It supports actions to increase biodiversity mainstreaming, and calls for a reflection on the opportunity and possible shape of a funding tool dedicated to biodiversity at European level. Ahead of the crucial COP 15 meeting of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, it calls on parties and organisations to join one of the major global coalitions (High Ambition Coalition for Nature and People or the Global Coalition United for Biodiversity) working to raise awareness about the need to protect biodiversity and recalls the commitment to build on the Natura 2000 network and ensure that all ecosystems in Europe and globally are restored, resilient and sufficiently protected by 2050.

At the closing session, the major contribution of the LIFE programme to the management of the Natura 2000 network and the Biodiversity Strategy will be showcased through the launch of the LIFE Integrated Project Biodiv’Est. This ambitious project and Finland's LIFE Biodiversea are the two LIFE Integrated Projects with a focus on nature to be launched this year.


About Natura 2000

Natura 2000 is the European Union network of protected areas. It is the largest coordinated network of protected areas in the world with about 27 000 terrestrial and marine sites, covering more than 18% of EU land areas and about 9% of the surrounding seas. It consists of an enormous variety of different sites across the continent, aiming to assure the long-term survival of Europe’s most valuable and threatened species and habitat types, safeguarding them for future generations. It also provides a wide range of products and services beneficial to society and the economy.

The Natura 2000 network is founded on two pioneering pieces of EU legislation – the 1979 Birds Directive (updated in 2009) and the 1992 Habitats Directive – and plays an essential role in halting biodiversity loss in the EU. While the network does include strictly protected nature reserves, the approach to conservation and sustainable use is much wider in the rest of Natura 2000, largely centred on people working with nature. The emphasis is on ensuring that management is sustainable, both ecologically and economically.

About the LIFE Programme

The LIFE programme, the EU’s funding instrument for the environment and climate action, was established by the Habitats Directive in 1992. LIFE has greatly supported the implementation of the Natura 2000 network. It has co-financed conservation actions in more than 6 000 Natura 2000 sites and has enabled the expansion of the marine Natura 2000 network, which doubled in the last five years. LIFE projects have supported some 750 species and 5 400 habitats, through 1 800 projects worth €3 billion of EU co-financing. LIFE has also supported the purchase of approximately 200 000 hectares of land across the EU which has been permanently set aside for the protection and restoration of nature.


Publication date
25 February 2022
Directorate-General for Environment

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