Major expansion of protected natural areas in Europe
Natura 2000, the EU network of protected areas, has undergone a significant expansion. Nearly 18 800 km2 have been added, including a major addition of marine areas covering 17 000 square kilometres which will increase protection for many endangered marine species. The network now covers almost 18% of the EU landmass and more than 145 000 km2 of its seas. The main countries involved in this latest expansion are the UK, France, Belgium, Greece, Cyprus, Hungary, Lithuania and Italy. Natura 2000 is the centrepiece of Europes battle to halt biodiversity loss and safeguard ecosystem services.
Janez Potocnik, European Commissioner for the Environment said: Natura 2000 is at the moment one of the most effective tools we have in Europe to combat biodiversity loss, and it plays a key role in our strategy to protect our natural heritage. I particularly welcome the improved coverage of European seas: protecting Europes marine environment and its unique features has never been more important.