Natura 2000 – the biggest network of protected areas
Head of the EU Delegation to Serbia Vincent Degert said that Natura 2000, the EU-wide network of nature protection areas was the biggest network of this kind in the world to assure the long-term survival of some 2,000 threatened species inhabiting more than 230 habitats.
In his words, the maintenance of such a network in the EU requires a lot of money, but this system also brings income, as there are between 1.1 and 1.2 billion visits annually to these areas by the people who want to enjoy the nature.
Degert pointed out that it was important for Serbia to understand that there is no adjustment period after the EU accession for nature conservation standards, i.e. for establishment of a network of protected areas, which means that the whole system has to be established by the date of Serbia’s EU accession.
At the Closing Conference of EU-funded Twinning Project "Strengthening Administrative Capacities for Protected Areas in Serbia - NATURA 2000”, he highlighted that the EU will continue to support Serbia in this area, because, despite the success in implementation in the previous period, many problems remain for the future, such as protection of the 246 endangered animal and plant species in Serbia.
Degert said that the twinning project has managed to further harmonise the Serbian legislation with EU’s directives on nature conservation. Secondly, it has prepared a proposal of the designation of NATURA 2000 sites and established reference lists for the 133 animal and plant species and 87 habitat types that need to be protected. Also, expert training programmes have been implemented.
In 2012, Serbia plans to increase its nature protection areas from 6 to 9% of the territory, Serbian Minister of Environment, Mining and Spatial Planning Oliver Dulić said.
"Serbia also plans to increase its nature protection areas to 15% of the country’s territory in the next few years," he added. The EU-wide network of nature protection areas NATURA 2000, which Serbia aspires to join, represents in Dulić’s words one of the "most complex EU directives which entails protection of a significant part of the state territory".
"NATURA 2000 represents a basis for establishing a protection system for biodiversity in Serbia and for using the natural potential for development of sustainable tourism, organic agriculture and underdeveloped areas," Dulić said. He reminded that the EUR 1 million EU-funded twinning project started on 1 January 2010 and will be finalized on 30 June 2012.
Dulić reminded that the costs of Serbia’s EU integration in the area of environmental protection have been estimated at EUR 10.6 billion by 2030 and that the implementation of NATURA 2000 will require EUR 72 million.
Austrian Ambassador to Serbia Clemens Koja says that NATURA 2000 project represents a continuation of EU integration and introduction of EU standards in Serbia. He added that the project will help improve the protection of endangered species and their habitats, and also significantly improve our level of knowledge about Serbia’s natural heritage.
Greek Ambassador to Serbia Dimostenis Stoidis hopes that Serbia will continue to implement the NATURA 2000 programme. Stoidis reminded that institutions from Greece and Austria, as well as international experts from the Czech Republic, Germany, Slovakia and Hungary participated in the project.
Georg Rebering, Managing Director of Environment Agency Austria, said that pilot management plans for the Special Nature Reserve Obedska bara and Tara National Park were developed during the twinning project.