The European Natura 2000 Award selection and evaluation process begins with the deadline of the call for applications. It is completed with the announcement of the winners of the five categories and the European Citizens’ Award at the high-profile Award Ceremony, usually held in Brussels on or around Natura 2000 Day, on 21 May.
The selection and evaluation process consists of three key steps: eligibility, selection and decision.
Applications must be submitted using the online application form.
All applications are screened for their eligibility. Any entity or group based in the EU is eligible to apply. Applications must explicitly refer to one or more Natura 2000 sites. They can be written in any of the official EU languages except Maltese and Gaelic. All efforts are made to assess the applications in their original language, although in some cases it may be necessary to translate the application.
Applications by multiple applicants are allowed, but one of the applicants has to be designated as the lead applicant. Applicants have to clearly present tangible results achieved in the past five years.
More information on the 2024 eligibility criteria can be found here.
All eligible applications are assessed by an independent evaluation team. They evaluate applications against five criteria: effectiveness, originality, durability, costs and benefits, and replicability. Applications providing descriptive yet to the point qualitative and quantitative information are likely to score better.
Overviews of the criteria for each of the categories are provided below, as well as some examples of successful applications from previous editions (in English only):
The outcome of the selection phase is a shortlist of finalists, established through a ranking of the evaluation scores in each category.
2022 Evaluation Team
The 2022 evaluation team is presented below; the team for the 2024 edition will be announced in due course.
The 2022 edition evaluation team was composed of eight independent experts.
Mariella Fourli holds an MSc in Natural Resource Management. Her career spans over 25 years and focusses on biodiversity conservation and protected areas in Europe, Latin America and Africa. Mariella currently works as a consultant for various international organisations, including the European Commission, providing support for biodiversity-related issues, mostly related to Natura 2000. In parallel, she manages Microsfere, an NGO that she founded in 2007, which focuses on biodiversity conservation and rural development in protected areas in Ghana in West Africa
Tilmann Disselhoff is a nature conservationist working for the Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union (NABU), the German Bird Life partner. He is the president of Eurosite-the European Land Conservation Network, an EU-wide network of natural site managers and conservation practitioners. Tilmann holds a PhD in Civil Engineering from the Technical University of Berlin and has received scholarships from the Robert Bosch Foundation and the German National Academic Foundation. Between2005 and 2017, he worked for the European Commission, the German Federal Environmental Ministry, the German Federal Environmental Foundation and other organisations in the field of nature conservation. In his work, Tilmann has focused on conservation financing and private land conservation.
Claus Goldberg holds an MSc in Biology and a BA in Social Studies and Civics and specialises in habitat and species protection, international agreements and conventions on nature protection, and the national implementation of these agreements. Claus also previously worked as a consultant for the European Commission in evaluating LIFE applications, and as project manager on the ‘Wildlife and Sustainable Farming Initiative’, a project focusing on the biodiversity benefits that Rural Development Policy (RDP) measures can bring.
Claus has assisted with the implementation of the Habitats and Birds Directives in various countries including Estonia, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Latvia, Croatia and Poland. In recent years, many of the projects have been related to Natura 2000-appropriate assessments in relation to new infrastructure, green energy production and coastal protection.
Ana Guimarães Ferreira holds an MSc in Animal Diversity Conservation and a Diploma in Biology. Her areas of expertise include mammal ecology, wildlife tourism and scientific illustration. She has worked for eight years as a member of the external monitoring teams for LIFE-Nature and for more than 15 years as a LIFE application evaluator, three of them as deputy coordinator of the LIFE-Nature evaluation team.
Ana currently works as a consultant for several international organisations, including the European Commission, providing support on the application of environmental law in Portugal and other biodiversity-related issues
Zuzana Guziova holds an M.Sc. in Forestry and Game Management from the Mendel University in Brno, Czech Republic. She has 35 years of post-university professional experience. She has worked as a biodiversity policy specialist, capacity building expert and project manager on many projects, focusing on policies, strategies, capacity building, Natura 2000 network and bird conservation.
Zuzana has participated in the coordination of the UNESCO Man and the Biosphere Programme in Slovakia since 1993. From 1993-1998, she served as a head of the national Secretariat for the Convention on Biodiversity and Project Management Unit at the Ministry of Environment.
Ana Iñigo has 18 years of experience working in nature protection and biodiversity conservation. She is a biologist with an MSc in Protected Areas. Her main specialisation, and also enthusiasm, is the work on bird conservation. She has been part of BirdLife International for 12 years, working alongside people who care about our planet and how best to preserve it for future generations.
Ana began her professional career in Spain; however, she has lived in different countries coordinating international projects, developing conservation strategies, and influencing advocacy and environmental policy development. Currently, she is the team leader of a project to establish Natura 2000 in the Republic of Serbia,
Boriana Mihova has been working in the field of nature conservation for more than 30 years. Boriana has an MSc in Biochemistry and an ongoing PhD thesis in philosophy. The changes in Eastern Europe in the 1990s changed her life course and she joined the IUCN’s East European Programme as the first intern in project development.
Boriana has a long practical experience in protected area management and sustainable development, including managing national parks and establishing Natura 2000 sites both nationally (Bulgaria) and in Croatia and Kosovo. Since 2002, Boriana has been working as a freelance consultant and specialises in project development and evaluation work.
João Pedro Silva holds a Diploma in Plant Biology. His areas of expertise include botany, ecology, and conservation biology. He has worked for 13 years as LIFE Nature and Biodiversity expert on the LIFE programme Communications external team, and previously he was a LIFE Nature and Biodiversity project manager.
He is an ecologist with large experience on Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA and SEA) evaluations in Natura 2000 of projects and EU programmes such as RDPs, ERDF and more recently as international expert for the Environmental Strategy and Action Plan of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
João is currently providing support to the European Commission on biodiversity EU policy, in particular on Natura 2000 implementation and CAP. He is also an evaluator of Horizon 2020 biodiversity projects.
Based on the shortlist of finalists, a high-level jury chooses the winners of the five category awards. In a parallel and independent process, the winner of the Citizens' Award is chosen by a public vote. The European Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries announces all six winners at the Award Ceremony.
The members of the jury include the Director-General of Environment of the European Commission, and representatives of the European Parliament, the Committee of the Regions and other involved stakeholders.
The 2022 edition jury is presented below; the jury for the 2024 edition will be announced in due course.
Dr. Florika Fink-Hooijer is the Director-General of the Environment of the European Commission (DG ENV).
Having occupied various senior management positions in the European Commission, Florika Fink-Hooijer is recognised for her strong management and leadership skills and her in-depth experience in EU policy making and shaping.
A lawyer by training, Dr. Fink-Hooijer brings a proven record of accomplishment in foreign external policy and security matters, as well as in disaster risk reduction and environmental affairs. She also has extensive experience in leading complex inter-institutional and intergovernmental negotiations. In each of her assignments at senior level, she has helped to instil a culture of transparency and accountability and steered transformational processes.
Dr. César Luena López is a Member of the European Parliament (MEP) as part of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats.
César Luena has been a Member of the European Parliament since July 2019. He works as Vice-Chair in the Committee on the Environment, Health and Food Safety (ENVI), as well as in the Delegation for relations with the Korean Peninsula.
Dr. Luena has been the European Parliament's rapporteur for the European Union Biodiversity Strategy to 2030, in which he has advocated ambitious targets for nature conservation and restoration and the need to address the main drivers of biodiversity loss. He is currently working on legislative dossiers to increase the EU's level of ambition in relation to reducing emissions from various sectors to decarbonise the economy.
Roby Biwer has been member of the Commission for Environment, Climate Change and Energy at the Committee of the Regions (CoR) since 2014, and Vice-chair in the last term.
Roby Biwer was rapporteur for the CoR opinion on the fitness-check of the Nature Directives, and for other opinions on forests and biodiversity. Mr. Biwer is currently the rapporteur for the new opinion on "Bio-diverse cities and regions beyond 2020 at the UN CBD COP 15 and in the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030". Since 2000, he has been president of SICONA, a politically based inter-municipality group of 21 municipalities which is engaged in synergies to protect and improve natural habitats and biodiversity as well as helping national government in implementing the Birds and Habitats Directives.
Mr. Biwer has also been member of board of a local section of "natur&ëmwelt" (nature and environment), the largest association for protection of biodiversity and environment in Luxembourg, since 1981. Since 2014, he has been the "natur&ëmwelt" national president.
Hélène Koch has been Policy Advisor for the Confederation of European Forest Owners (CEPF) since 2018.
Hélène Koch is an expert in forest-related EU policy, focusing on environment, climate change adaptation and rural development.
Ms Koch holds degrees in MSc. in European Forestry, MSc. Forest Sciences, and Ing. MSc. in Agronomic Sciences, specialising in environmental and land management.
Luna Milatović is Biodiversity Policy Expert at the CEEweb for Biodiversity network. CEEweb for Biodiversity is a network of 32 organisations from Central and Eastern Europe striving to conserve the natural heritage of the region.
A biologist by training, Luna Milatović’s role focuses on activities related to nature and species conservation, protected areas (with a strong emphasis on Natura 2000), biodiversity and health, and water protection.
Previously, Ms. Milatović has worked as a consultant on protected area and wildlife management at the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, and as a conservation officer at the International Council for Game and Wildlife Conservation.
Ms. Milatović holds an MSc in Environmental Sciences and Policy (Central European University, Hungary) and a BSc in Biology (University of Belgrade, Serbia).