In a ceremony today, First Vice-President of the European Committee of the Regions, Karl-Heinz Lambertz has taken part in the launch of the 21st May as the " European Natura 2000 Day ". First Vice-President Lambertz has co-signed a joint declaration together with Commissioner for Environment, Karmenu Vella , Chairwoman of the European Parliament's Environment Committee, Adina-Ioana Valean, and Neil Kerr, Deputy Permanent Representative of Malta.
First Vice-President Karl-Heinz Lambertz (BE/PES) declared: "Protecting our biodiversity is also about preserving our local economies, cultural heritage and way of life. The 'European Natura 2000 Day' is both an acknowledgement of the tireless efforts of individuals' work on the ground and a commitment to further collective action. It is therefore essential to bolster support for cities and regions in managing Natura 2000 sites in order to promote regional identity, revive the relationship between rural and urban communities and foster protected areas as a valuable asset for jobs and sustainable growth".
The European Natura 2000 day will be celebrated annually across Europe. Already this year hundreds of local events and networking activities across Europe will mark this special day for nature. What started as a grassroots initiative through an EU funded LIFE project in Spain is now becoming an official European day.
Karmenu Vella, Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries , said: " With the European Natura 2000 Day we pay tribute to this unique network and its value for people and our economy. For me it is one of the European Union’s truly outstanding achievements: a network of over 27,000 protected sites, covering over 1 million square kilometres across the land and sea, made possible through the co-operation among all our Member States".
Natura 2000 is the largest coordinated network of protected areas in the world. It covers 18 % of the EU’s land area and almost 6 % of its marine territory and contributes between 1.7% and 2.5% of EU GDP through the provision of ecosystem services such as carbon storage, water purification, pollination and tourism. Natura 2000 was created 25 years ago through the Nature Directives which include the EU Birds and Habitats Directives . The Nature Directives are the cornerstone of Europe’s legislation on nature conservation, protecting around 2,000 of Europe’s most vulnerable species and habitats. While the cost of implementing Natura 2000 has been estimated at EUR 5.8 billion per year, its annual benefits are assessed at EUR 200-300 billion.
The CoR and the European Commission are closely cooperating to improve environmental law implementation in Europe. For the first time, the CoR joined a project team of EU commissioners to steer the new Nature Directives Action Plan launched last 27 April. CoR members are further contributing to the Environmental Implementation Review (EIR) via an opinion currently being drafted by Andrew Cooper (UK/EA), Member of Kirklees Council. It is scheduled to be adopted in October 2017.
Today also saw the launch of the next round of the European Natura 2000 Award . This is a European Commission initiative dedicated to rewarding excellence in the management and promotion of the network and raising awareness about Natura 2000 and its benefits to European citizens. The winners of the 6 Award categories will be revealed on next year's European Natura 2000 Day.
Please click here to watch the ceremony video
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