The purpose of the bilateral, bio geographical seminar which was held in Zagreb, on September 29 and 30, 2014, was to assess the adequacy of the proposed Croatian National Ecological Network to be included in the European Natura 2000 Network. Simply put, the EU considered whether the Republic of Croatia had proposed adequate areas for inclusion in the European network of nature protection areas – NATURA 2000.
The seminar was organized by the European Commission in collaboration with the European Topic Centre on Biological Diversity, and was attended by the representatives of the Ministry of Environmental and Nature Protection, the State Institute for Nature Protection, Ministry of Agriculture, independent experts and representatives of civil society organizations (CSOs) and observers.
The seminar produced intensive negotiations on the sufficiency of the proposed Sites of Community Importance for species and habitat types, i.e. the areas for the conservation of 121 habitat types and 253 species listed in the EU Habitats Directive (based on these documents, i.e. on proposed species and habitats, a decision on the inclusion of areas in the Natura 2000 Network is made).
NGO representatives from Hyla, BIOM, WWF and the Association Sunce negotiated the interests of nature protection on behalf of Croatian civil nature protection sector and a number of individuals and institutions. During 2013 and 2014, the above mentioned representatives helped Sunce in collecting comments on the proposed national list. The role of the civil society is to ensure control of available information that the Republic of Croatia places, through its relevant institutions, to the European Commission. In other words, if the institutions missed something, the civil society sector is here to warn them.
The discussion was reasoned and the only arguments accepted were those with expert and scientific references. There were relatively few decisions that would require major modifications (the conclusion was insufficient major and insufficient moderate).
Most of the important proposals by the CSO were finally accepted: we got the decision scientific reserve for “offshore” marine areas, some areas of valuable Croatian rivers as well as some new target species and habitats were added to the list.
According to the European Commission, this was one of the best prepared bio geographical seminars of any one member country. Croatian Ecological Network reflects the full richness of our country’s biodiversity and is one of the crown jewels of the European Network (according to the EC representatives).
Following the conclusions of the seminar, Croatia now has a one year period to update its Ecological Network and it’s up to us to facilitate its preservation.