Questions and answers

What is NATURA 2000?

Natura 2000 is an EU-wide network of nature conservation areas set up on the basis of scientific criteria, in compliance with the EU Birds and Habitats Directives /the two main normative documents regulating biodiversity conservation in the EU/.

Natura 2000 is at the core of EU biodiversity policy and is a remarkable demonstration of Europe’s commitment to act to preserve its rich native biodiversity for future generations, by guaranteeing its sustainable use. The EU has pledged to halt the decline in biodiversity by 2010, and is part of a global agreement to significantly reduce biodiversity loss by that date.
Guidebook for journalists – Natura 2000. Questions and Answers. 437 Kb (pdf) download

Birds and Habitats Directives?

These are the two main directives regulating the species and habitats conservation in the EU.
The Directives’ full names are:
Council Directive 2009/147/EC of 30 November 2009 on the conservation of wild birds
Council Directive 92/43/EEC of 21 May 1992 on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora
In the Bulgarian legislation the requirements of the Directives have been transposed into the Biological Diversity Act adopted by the National Assembly in August 2002

What is a Directive?

A "directive" is a legislative act that sets out a goal that all EU countries must achieve. However, it is up to the individual countries to devise their own laws on how to reach these goals. One example is the requirements of the EU Birds and Habitats Directives which are "transposed" into the Biological Diversity Act of Bulgaria.

How many species and habitats are protected by the EU Directives and which are they?

In Bulgaria the Directives include:
1. 237 bird species from the Birds Directive lists. These species require the establishment of Special Protection Areas (SPAs).
Bird species fall in 2 categories - nesting and regularly occurring migratory species:
 - nesting species are described in Annex 1 to the Birds Directive. Special protection areas are established for 118 nesting birds in Bulgaria.
 - each Member State is to prepare a list of migratory species for which special protection areas are established. In Bulgaria, 119 bird species are included in this list.
All of these 237 species are listed in Annex 2 to the BDA, which regulates the establishment of special protection areas for them.
2.The Habitats Directive aims to protect the 88 types of habitats as well as the habitats included in Annex 1 to the Directive. They are also described in Annex 1 to the BDA. 26 of them are habitats of priority for the EU.

The Directive also aims to protect the following species from Annex 2 (respectively from Annex 2 to the BDA):
            Mammals: 25 (28) species in total, 3 priority species
            Amphibians and reptiles: 10 (13) species in total, 2 priority species
            Fish: 25 (28) species in total, (1) priory species
            Invertebrates: 36 (40) species in total, 6 (7) priority species
            Plants: 20 (25) species in total, 1 (3) priority species

For the protection of the species and habitats included in the Habitats Directive, Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) are established.

*The numbers in brackets represent the total number of species occurring in Bulgaria, including those considered to be extinct in the country.

What are Bulgaria's obligations to the EU, related to NATURA 2000?

In general, our country's duties are as follow:
  • to identify the most suitable territories, in terms of number and size, for the protection of the species and habitats included in the Directives. These territories must be sufficient for the long-term conservation and restoration of the biodiversity within them. Special measures must be taken to protect wetlands of international importance
  • to take measures to prevent the destruction or deterioration of habitats and the deterioration of the populations of the species included in the Directives' Annexes

!!! Bulgaria has to submit to the EC the full list of territories under the Birds and Habitats Directives before the date of the country's accession to the EU (01.01.2007) /according to the Treaty of Accession of the Republic of Bulgaria to the EU/

'Protected areas' vs 'Special areas of conservation' and 'Special protection areas' - what's the difference?

It is important to differentiate between these terms.

The establishment of protected areas is regulated by the Protected Areas Act, promulgated, State Gazette No. 133/11.11.1998. The categories of protected areas are: strict nature reserve; national park; natural monument; managed nature reserve; natural park; protected site.
The Protected Areas Act regulates the categories of protected areas, the assigned use thereof and the regime of protection and use, designation and management of said areas.

The terms 'Special areas of conservation' (SACs) and 'Special protection areas' (SPAs) are introduced in the Biological Diversity Act. SACs and SPAs are part of the European Ecological Network NATURA 2000. SPAs and SACs are both designated in pursuance of the Birds and Habitats Directives.

According to the Biological Diversity Act 'The special areas of conservation are intended for maintenance or restoration, at a favourable conservation status, of the natural habitats therein incorporated, as well as of the species within their natural range.'

All protected areas are regulated under the Protected Areas Act, including those not included in the NATURA 2000 network.

Does the designation of a Natura 2000 site alter the ownership of territories therein?

The designation of a Special area of conservation (SAC) or Special protection area (SPA) does not alter the ownership of the land tracts, wooded areas and aquatic areas therein. Owners or users of landtracts, wooded areas and aquatic areas within a Natura 2000 site are required to comply with any bans or restrictions in respect of operations, contradictory to the objectives for protection of the relevant protected area.

What are the restrictions within Natura 2000?

The Biological Diversity Act does not ban activities within Natura 2000 sites. It does not stop agricultural activities, livestock breeding, forestry and other activities, even construction. However, SACs and SPAs require the establishment of an integrated approach to ensure sustainable development and the conservation of biodiversity. The designation orders and management plans of these areas pose some restrictions that ensure the sustainable management of sites and their preservation for future generations. Management plans are elaborated for each Natura 2000 site under terms and according to the subject of protection /habitats or species from the EU Directives described for the respective territory/.

For example, the construction of wind turbines is banned within Natura sites, essential for bird migration. Land owners might be required to carry out the mowing of meadows and pastures later in the year, so as not to disturb birds, neasting within these territories.

In the event of any property damage, the EU provides for compensation mechanisms, balancing the interests of the owners with the long-term conservation of nature. The owners of territories, included in the NATURA 2000 network, have the right to receive compensation from the EU for the activities they are implementing.

How is it determined which activities are allowed and which are not allowed within NATURA 2000 sites?

The designation order for each Natura 2000 site includes any bans or restrictions in respect of operations, contradictory to the objectives for protection of the relevant area. They are subject to public discussion.

Any plans, programmes, or building-development proposals likely to have a significant negative impact on the relevant area, are subject to an environmental assessment or an environmental impact assessment of their effect regarding the long-term conservation of biological, geological and landscape diversity.

All other activities are allowed.
Management plans may be elaborated in respect of the Natura site guaranteeing the sustainable management of biological resources and conserving biological diversity therein.

Is logging prohibited in Natura 2000?

Logging is not completely prohibited in Natura sites. It is aimed at developing at a steady pace so that the area can be used for logging purposes not for 2 but for 200 years. Efforts are being made in the EU to develop the so-called multifunctional forestry, in which the maximum benefits for the society /ecological, economic, protective and social functions/ are derived from forests, rather than solely logging. At the same time, endangered or highly conserved forest habitats, such as “virgin” forests, will be subject to special protection measures so that they can survive rather than be used for logging purposes.

The Ministerial Conference on the Protection of Forests in Europe in Lisbon (1998) adopted the following Pan-European Criteria for Sustainable Forest Management:
  • conservation and appropriate remediation of forest resources
  • maintaining forest ecosystems in good sanitary and living condition
  • maintaining and promoting the productive functions of forests /wood and non-wood products/
  • maintenance, conservation and enrichment of biological diversity in forest ecosystems
  • maintenance and appropriate stimulation of the protective functions in forest management /especially with regard to soil and water/
  • maintenance of other socio-economic functions and conditions
These principles are in line with the interests of society in each country and allow forest management to ensure the long-term use of their benefits.

Is hunting prohibited in Natura 2000?

Natura 2000 sites are declared for the protection of specific species and habitats included in the annexes to EU Directives. These are the object of protection. Species that do not have high conservation value, such as most game species, are not subject to protection and, accordingly, it does not make sense to ban hunting in Natura areas. Possible restrictions on hunting can be envisaged in some places, at certain times of the year, for example if an important species nests in the area and hunting can be a cause for concern and thus threatens it.

What are the compensatory mechanisms in case of possible damages to landowners in NATURA 2000?

The Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Forestry is preparing 2 measures for compensation of agricultural land users within the Rural Development Program for 2007-2013 /which replaces SAPARD/. The measures are: payments under NATURA 2000 for agricultural land and payments for forests. They provide for compensation of up to 200 EUR per ha, depending on the specific restrictions. Farmers must be registered in IACS /Integrated Administration and Control System/.
Payments for land will start with the issuance of orders for the declaration of protected areas in the state gazette, and at a later stage for forests /after the development of management plans for the respective areas/.
Another possibility for farmers is to apply under the "Agroecology" measure which is part of the Program - funds will be provided primarily to users of land of high natural value /in most cases they fall into NATURA 2000/. There is also a Measure for development of disadvantaged areas - mountains and others /they overlap with the proposed for inclusion in NATURA 2000 lands at 50%/. These owners will receive 100-150 euros per ha.
For additional information: Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Forestry - Rural Development Directorate

How is it determined what percentage of the country should be included in NATURA 2000?

The sites included in NATURA 2000 are determined entirely on the basis of scientific criteria. The Habitats Directive sets out such criteria, while the Birds Directive leaves it to the Member States to decide for themselves what approach to take in determining the most important sites for the Community (in Bulgaria these criteria have been developed by BSPB based on BirdLife international criteria).
Scientific criteria completely prevail over the economic ones.

What is the average percentage of the territory of the member states included in NATURA 2000?

Statistics show that Natura 2000 covers 19% of the entire territory of the European Union. However, this cannot be considered as an indicator of comparison!
Many countries in Europe have already lost their biodiversity and most of their territory simply does not meet the criteria of NATURA 2000.
The size (territory) of Natura 2000 for each country is determined according to the richness of its biodiversity and the preservation of ecosystems.

Why is the offered percentage in Bulgaria higher than the European average?

Bulgaria is one of the countries in Europe with the greatest biodiversity. This is due on the one hand to our geographical location (there are 3 biogeographical regions in Bulgaria) and the diverse terrain, and on the other - to the attitude towards nature that people have had in our historical development.
For this reason, our country cannot be compared with countries such as England, Germany and others which have already lost their biodiversity. The same countries have already assessed this loss and are investing enormous resources and efforts to recover it.

How and by whom is this percentage determined?

The systematic work for the construction of NATURA 2000 in Bulgaria began in 2003.
The legally responsible institution for building the network is the Ministry of Environment and Water.
In Bulgaria, however, due to the extremely short deadlines and the lack of sufficient capacity on the part of the Ministry, NGOs played a leading role.
Organizations, official importers of protected areas are: Green Balkans, the Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds, the BALKANS Wildlife Association, WWF Danube-Carpathian Program Bulgaria, Centre for Environmental Information and Education.

Who and how finances the work of NGOs and what specialists take part in the process?

In 2003-2004 the "Conservation of species and habitats in Bulgaria: convergence with the EU" project was implemented. The contractor – DARUDEC and the financing organization - DEPA. The main goal of the project was the preparation of documentation for potential Natura 2000 sites in Bulgaria (initially 12.5% ​​of the country's territory were identified). A team of 4 people in the project office and 80 field experts worked on the project /contribution of biodiversity experts equals to 2,680 working days/. The project budget was 0.5 million euros. The following activities were performed: inventory 6% for habitats and flora, 10% for fauna; identified potential protected areas on 34% of the country's territory.
Additional information about the Natura network in Bulgaria: http://natura2000.moew.government.bg/. With possibility to make reference about different locations (map http://natura2000.moew.government.bg/Home/Map and administrative affiliation of territories http://natura2000.moew.government.bg/Home/Natura2000ProtectedSites) of potential Natura 2000 sites.

In the period 2005-2006, EMEPA https://www.moew.government.bg/en/ /Enterprise for management of environmental protection activities/ financed two major projects:
- "Construction of the Natura 2000 network of protected areas in Bulgaria" Project, implemented by the "Green Balkans" Federation - the main goal of the project is to prepare a complete list of protected areas before the date of accession of our country to the EC and thus implementation of the commitments made by Bulgaria. https://greenbalkans.org/natura2000/index.php?c_lang=2
The project involved not only representatives of relevant organizations, but more than 150 scientists from all scientific institutions in the country: Bulgarian Academy of Sciences: Institute of Zoology, Institute of Botany, Institute of Oceanology, Central Laboratory of General Ecology, University of Forestry, Sofia University, University of Plovdiv, various Natural History Museums, Sofia Zoo, etc. This gave a guarantee for scientific justification and impartiality in determining all sites.
- "Building a representative and functionally unified national ecological network in the part of protected areas for birds, as part of the European ecological network NATURA 2000" Project, implemented by BSPB, which aims to prepare documentation for sites under the Birds Directive. http://bspb.org/en/index.html
In addition, there are other projects and organizations supporting the construction of Natura 2000 in Bulgaria:
  • CEIE project “NATURA 2000 in Bulgaria - public contribution”, funded by the PIN-MATRA program of the Dutch Ministry of Agriculture, Environment and Food Quality
  • GEF project “Conservation of Globally Significant Biodiversity in the Rhodope Landscape”
  • WWF Danube - Carpathian Program
  • Association of Parks in Bulgaria
  • Project of Butterfly Conservation Europe (Wageningen) and the National Museum of Natural History, funded by the Government of the Kingdom of the Netherlands (BBI MATRA) - Prime Butterfly Areas
  • Project of the Bulgarian Herpetological Society "Determination of herpetologically important places (for terrestrial turtles and snakes) in Bulgaria of European importance for the purposes of Natura 2000"
  • Project “Inventory and strategy for management and protection of virgin forests in Bulgaria”, PINMATRA 2001/11, IG, BAS
  • Action plan for the chamois in Bulgaria: 2007 -2016. BBF-NFA, Sofia. 
Funds for the implementation of NATURA 2000 activities were provided both by EMEPA/MoEW and international foundations.
Green Balkans
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Natura 2000