Two Croatian Projects Among Finalists for European Natura 2000 Award

Daniela Rogulj

Romulic & Stojcic

Romulic & Stojcic

September 8, 2020 – The European Commission has announced the finalists of the European Natura 2000 Award for 2020.

The Natura 2000 network is formed of 27,800 sites and ensures the survival of Europe’s invaluable and threatened species and habitats. The Natura 2000 Award thus rewards excellence in the management of these sites and highlights the value of the network for local economies. 

Among the 27 finalists this year are two projects with Croatian partners, which will compete in five categories.

Namely, LENA – Local Economy and Nature Conservation in the Danube region, received 295 votes to become a finalist. 

“WWF Bulgaria, in partnership with 12 other organisations, led this initiative aimed at addressing the economic difficulties and depopulation linked to unemployment in the lower reaches of the Danube region as part of the Interreg project LENA.

The overall objective was to find ways of creating new nature-based business initiatives and to share know-how and experience on sustainable economic development in 15 Natura 2000 sites in six EU countries and one neighbouring country: Bulgaria, Croatia, Germany, Hungary, Romania, Slovenia and Serbia. Over 1 100 small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) were involved in the initiative. Wild plant collectors, fishermen and farmers were trained and given assistance in adding value to their businesses.

A refrigeration showcase was purchased to support the local trade in fresh products in Bulgaria. 169 participants engaged in capacity-building workshops on sustainable wild plant collection in four countries according to the FairWild certification. Links between harvesters, traders and processors were established and a business plan for a wild plant purchasing point was made in Ivanovo, Bulgaria.

Certificates for products from three protected areas were introduced (for Slavonian pigs in the Dunav-Vukovar Natura 2000 Site in Croatia, non-GMO products in future Natura 2000 sites in Serbia, and local agricultural products in the Comana Natura 2000 site, Romania). 225 local and national authorities were involved in policy workshops, and four guidance documents and recommendations for better policy support of green jobs were distributed to stakeholders. Around 280 000 tourists and locals from Natura 2000 sites were made aware of the importance of the sites and nature-based jobs.

Sustainable forms of tourism, such as rural, cultural and culinary tourism, were supported through the establishment of a network of Danube guides represented by each country (Germany, Croatia, Slovenia, Serbia, Romania and Bulgaria). Currently, the network has 100 trained guides in six countries, a protected logo and a website ( Building on the success of the project, an additional network has been launched on E-mobility– with E-stations, E-bikes and E-managers. A policy framework for green jobs was also supported,” reads the description on the EU Natura 2000 website.

ECO KARST – For Nature and For People, received 566 votes.

“Led by the Slovenia Forest Service in partnership with 11 organisations from nine countries (Slovenia, Croatia, Austria, Germany, Hungary, Romania, Montenegro, Serbia and Bosnia Herzegovina), the Interreg-funded ECO KARST project aimed to address one of the main challenges in nature conservation, namely bridging the gap between the needs of biodiversity preservation and the improvement of the livelihoods of local populations.

To do this, the project brought together seven protected areas – so-called karst bio-regions – from across the Danube Region to find ways of generating and supporting new socio-economic opportunities that are in keeping with the extremely fragile karstic Natura 2000 habitats (e.g., intermittent lakes, beech forests, wet and dry meadows) and that are based on their valued ecosystem services.

The first step was to map all the ecosystem services generated by the karst habitats in these seven Natura 2000 sites. 57 maps (eight per pilot area) were produced in total and then analysed, in close collaboration with local stakeholders, to identify areas that could become Biodiversity Investment Opportunities (BIO). The 23 BIO maps were used in turn to prepare Local Action Plans, in which each protected area aimed to combine the necessary conservation guidelines with the potential for local, sustainable, and nature-friendly economic development.

These Action Plans have since been integrated into official park management plans and other relevant documents in each of the parks, to ensure that locals and nature are brought closer together and where possible are mutually supportive. The Action Plans include some 146 new measures (21 per protected area) that are of common interest to both park authorities and local stakeholders, with shared responsibilities.

The project also sought to actively encourage new socio-economic activities in the sites and therefore launched a call for Pro-Biodiversity Businesses (PBBs). In total, 70 entrepreneurs responded to the PBB award calls, and 23 were awarded support. These are businesses that create profits, without harming nature or even by actively conserving it. PBBs represent a concrete and viable option for achieving sustainable development within European protected areas and the entire Natura 2000 network.

Together, the Action Plans and PBBs have been a vital step in bridging the gap between the needs of biodiversity preservation and the improvement of the livelihoods of local populations,” says EU Natura 2000 on its website.

You can read more about the Natura 2000 finalists HERE.

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