Natura 2000 Awards : EU rewards excellence in nature protection across Europe

At a virtual ceremony yesterday evening, Commissioner for the Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, Virginijus Sinkevičius, announced this year’s winners of the Natura 2000 Awards. The Awards recognise conservation success stories across the EU and raise awareness about one of Europe’s outstanding achievements – the Natura 2000 network of protected areas. The six winners include projects from Belgium, Bulgaria, Finland, France, Spain, and a trans-boundary project involving partners in Austria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia and Ukraine. Commissioner Sinkevičius said: “The COVID-19 pandemic has brought to light the link between healthy, resilient societies and keeping our natural environment in good condition. This year’s winners demonstrate that investing time, energy and resources into nature protection brings big rewards not only for nature, but also for us. These are the models of cooperation and solutions that need to be scaled up if we are to deliver on the commitments of the EU Biodiversity Strategy.” 85 applicants competed in five categories: conservation, socio-economic benefits, communication, reconciling interests, and cross-border cooperation and networking. The special European Citizens’ Award went to the project ‘Partnership for protection of Bulgarian old-growth forests in Natura 2000‘. The project helped to reconcile conflicting interests over the designation of forest-related Natura 2000 sites. As a result, an additional 109,300 ha of old growth forests were designated for protection and excluded from harvesting. In its Biodiversity Strategy published earlier this year, the Commission proposed the planting of 3 billion trees by 2030 as part of a far-reaching EU Nature Restoration Plan. More information and the full list of winners can be found here.