In the course of this year's European Natura 2000 Award competition, applications have already been subjected to a rigorous evaluation process. A total of 23 applications made it through to the finalist stage. Now, a high level jury of independent experts select the best applications from each of the five Award categories: Communication, Conservation, Socio-Economic Benefits, Reconciling Interests/Perceptions, and Cross-border Cooperation and Networking.
The highlight of this year's European Natura 2000 Award scheme is simultaneously a premiere: For this first time, European citizens are being directly involved in the Award process. To this end, an online-voting scheme has been established to determine the winner of the "European Natura 2000 Citizens' Award". As of now and until the end of April, the European public are being given the opportunity to decide which finalist project will be awarded with this first public choice award. Both the selected category winners and the winner of the European Citizens' Award will be honoured at a high level ceremony on May 21 (Natura 2000 day).
With their vote, European citizens acknowledge the hard work of those who manage, through very different activities, a variety of Natura 2000 sites. The long-term objective is to raise awareness about the Natura 2000 network and mobilise the European public in the promotion the network.
The Natura 2000 Award - promoting excellence in management of the largest coordinated network of protected areas in the world
Natura 2000 is an EU-wide coordinated network of protected areas for the protection of endangered or characteristic habitats and species. Established under the EU's Birds Directive and Habitats Directive, the network consists of over 27,000 sites, covering around 20% of land area and substantial parts of the surrounding seas. The aim of the network is to assure the long-term survival of Europe’s most valuable and threatened species. Not only does Natura 2000 provide an array of environmental advantages, it also serves essential – and sometimes unnoticed – social and economic functions. Around 4.4 million jobs are directly dependent on the maintenance of healthy ecosystems, a significant proportion of which are situated within Natura 2000 sites. In addition, the financial benefits that flow from the network itself are estimated to be in the region range of €200 to €300 billion per year. Please find further information on the Natura 2000 website and in the Award e-newsletter.