Thirty representatives of non-governmental organizations from Montenegro, FYR of Macedonia and Serbia took part in a training workshop at the end of October organized within the EU funded project on building capacity of CSOs on major EU policies influencing nature conservation. The topics covered by the training were the concept of Green Infrastructure, ecological networks among which NATURA2000, Environmental Impact Assessment and Rural Development policy.
Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) are seen as the driving force for transformation of the society in the Western Balkan countries. Establishing close cooperation and a functional network of skilled and knowledgeable CSOs is essential for achieving the above aim. Proper understanding and development of the EU policies having an impact on nature conservation during the pre-accession stage will have an immense effect on their implementation once the countries join the EU.
While currently a whole range of topics can be encompassed by the Green Infrastructure (GI) concept, it originates from the connectivity theory with main purpose of counteracting fragmentation by applying integrated planning approach. Part of the GI is the enhancement of services that ecosystems provide to human society. The later involves a whole different way of thinking and looking at the natural resources and seems to be easy for people to understand.
Ecological networks are a practical tool for implementing Green Infrastructure – they are counteracting fragmentation while conserving core areas, buffering negative impact on the environment and helping species to adapt to the climate change. NATURA2000 is one of more than 50 ecological network programmes in Europe, many of them in planning stage. Their implementation at the national level can be done by proper spatial planning which means sectoral and stakeholder involvement, i.e. reconciliation between the development and protection. Estimation of the impact of plans and projects on the environment appear to be the very effective for saving nature values. This is being done during Strategic Environment Assessment, Environmental Impact Assessment and Appropriate Assessment for NATURA2000 sites – all envisaged as transparent and participatory processes.
Management of NATURA2000 sites, although coming in some cases much after the designation, is crucial in achieving the objective of the designation. NATURA2000 management plans implementation involves land owners and managers and could be helped a great deal by Rural Development (RD) policy. RD is part of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) established in the early years of the EU. After a number of reforms the policy still does not fully reflect the current needs – namely more public money for public services. However, an achievement in this direction is the RD to which 20% of the CAP budget goes. In its second axis “Improving the environment and countryside” there are 12 measures for forest and agricultural land. These include NATURA2000 payments for costs incurred and income lost from restrictions imposed by site management plans as well as the most popular and widely used agri-environment measures. The later unlike NATURA2000 should go beyond legal requirements and is therefore voluntary. Despite being designed for environmental benefits the measures often drop out small-scale farmers who are contributing most to the biodiversity protection. RD is another possibility to raise the land governance issue and engage people to control their own development.
For further information please contact Veronika Ferdinandova, Biodiversity Project Officer at IUCN Programme Office for South Eastern Europe.