The expansion of the Natura 2000 network, especially in its marine part, constitutes a significant step for the conservation of Greece and the Mediterranean as a whole. With this decision, the Νatura 2000 network will cover approximately 28% of the country’s land and about 22% of its marine territory, thus contributing to the attainment of the global targets on protected areas. Following this decision, it is now important for Greece to ensure effective management of these areas.  

The increase of the Natura 2000 network is based on an expansion of the 63 existing and the addition of 32 new Natura 2000 sites. As a result, the marine Natura 2000 network will increase from 6.12% to approximately 22% of its marine territory.

«The significance of this decision by Greece extends beyond the country’s borders. The addition of Natura 2000 sites, increases also the total coverage of protected areas in the Mediterranean and Europe, which still fall behind the global marine protected areas target” noted Demetres Karavellas, CEO of WWF Greece and Chair of WWF’s Mediterranean Marine Initiative. “The designation of marine protected areas is necessary in order to achieve living seas, which is a precondition for sustainable development, especially in sectors such as fisheries and tourism”.

While this decision is a reflection of the richness of Greece’ nature, it is also a source of concern. To date, Greece has not responded adequately to the implementation of nature conservation requirements as the country has yet to identify conservation objectives for its existing Natura 2000 sites, while only two management plans have been officially approved.  

The expansion of the Natura 2000 network signifies Greece’s efforts to meet its global obligations under the Convention on Biological Diversity, in line with its recent commitment at the “Our Oceans” conference in Malta regarding the increase of marine protected areas until 2020.

Furthermore, the decision constitutes an important step towards better implementation of the EU Nature Directives, especially as the European Commission had acknowledged inadequacies in the designation of Natura 2000 sites, with respect to protected species, such as sea birds and habitat types such as Posidonia beds. Greece’s proposals will now be evaluated by the EC to determine the extent to which gaps have been filled.

“With the decision of Greece to expand its Natura 2000 network, Greece retains its positive stance on the need for better implementation of the EU Nature Directives, as expressed during the EC fitness check” noted Ioli Christopoulou, Nature Policy Officer of WWF Greece and she added “However, the road ahead is still long. The designation of protected areas is not adequate for their protection. Integrated management, an operational system of administration, which ensures multi-stakeholder participation and adequate funding, is also required. While the Greek ministry placed a draft bill, which would respond at least in part to these requirements, on public consultation about a month ago, the bill has not yet been submitted to Parliament for consideration. Time is running out. If no provision is adopted in the next few days, on January 1st there is real danger that these new sites will only be protected in paper. Their conservation will be up in the air, as the sites will not be covered by any management body, following the same pattern of inadequate management that has characterized a big part of the existing Natura 2000 network”.


Notes to editors

  1. The Natura 2000 network is based on the EU’s Nature Directives and in particular on the Birds Directives, which provides for the designation of the Special Protection Areas and the Habitats Directive, which provides for the designation of Sites of Community Importance and then Special Areas of Conservation.
  2. Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) have agreed since 2010 to the 2020 Aichi Targets, among which Target 11 provides that “By 2020, at least 17 per cent of terrestrial and inland water areas and 10 per cent of coastal and marine areas, especially areas of particular importance for biodiversity and ecosystem services, are conserved through effectively and equitably managed, ecologically representative and well-connected systems of protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures, and integrated into the wider landscape and seascape.”
  3. A year ago, the European Commission’s Fitness Check concluded that the EU’s Nature directives are fit for purpose. The EC Action Plan on nature, people and the economy which was adopted in April 2017 calls on the completion of the Natura 2000 network, especially in the marine areas.
  4. Read WWF’s report on Preventing Paper Parks: How to make the EU nature laws work:


Silver medal of shame for Greece for non-compliance with decisions of the EU Court of Justice, which result in financial penalties costing millions of euros. Another silver medal of shame for the high number of open EU environmental law infringement cases. Extremely low levels of collection of financial penalties imposed for environmental law violations, endless intransparent efforts to legalise illegal buildings and land uses, restart of the Acheloos River Diversion pharaonic plan. These are a few highlights from Greece, regarding the status of implementation of environmental laws and policies for 2017, according to WWF Greece.

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WWF Greece’s study on the Long-Term Energy Plan of Greece demonstrates that burning lignite not only severely impacts human health and the environment, but is also against the interests of consumers and the Greek economy as a whole. Impressively enough, lignite’s share can drop to nearly zero already by 2035. Last, according to the scenarios examined, ambitious clean energy policies can lead to lower electricity costs by 12% compared to the persistence on lignite.

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WWF takes legal action against anyone responsible for the oil spill polluting the coasts and sea of Athens.

© George Moutafis

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If you are visiting Greece’s wonderful nature this year, or you operate a business in a tourism destination, please consider the following tips and enjoy an environmentally conscious holiday. Share with your friends and spread the word!

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Pioneering project aiming to achieve clean energy autonomy for remote islands wins two EU awards

The innovative project TILOS has brought home two awards for Greece and the remote Aegean island of Tilos. TILOS, conceived by a team of engineers working at the Soft Energy Applications & Environmental Protection Laboratory of the Piraeus University of Applied Sciences (PUAS), has been awarded the first prizes at the prestigious EU Sustainable Energy Week (EUSEW) contest in both the Energy Islands and the Citizens' Awards categories. The Energy Islands Award was announced by an expert committee, while the Citizens Award was a result of an online public vote among 12 final nominees. Participation of voting EU citizens in this year’s competition was unprecedented: participation was almost twice as that during last year’s competition. TILOS received half of the public’s votes.
The awards were presented by the EU Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy Miguel Arias Cañete, during the EU Sustainable Energy Week, the most important sustainable energy policy conference.

The aim of the TILOS project, that begun in February 2015 and will be completed by early 2019, is to achieve maximum energy autonomy from clean energy sources for the Greek island of Tilos. The project is entering now its most critical phase, as the installation of a medium scale turbine and a medium scale PV park will be completed in the next coming days. The hybrid energy system is expected to go into trial operation at the end of the summer, when batteries for energy storage are also in place. 
The successful completion of the project will mark a new day for islandness around the world, as the proposed technical solutions address interconnection and energy supply security issues, promoting the energy autonomy of islands and minimizing their reliance on expensive and polluting diesel.

“We are very happy with the recognition received by the European Commission and European citizens. Working together with many partners and in close cooperation with the local community, we have a clear objective: to convert Tilos into an island running on renewable energy. More importantly, the TILOS project is showing us the future energy paradigm for the country. In these challenging times for Greece, this is an opportunity for the government to learn from the Tilos example, replicate and scale it up.” said Demetres Karavellas, CEO of WWF Greece.

Notes to editors:
• The Tilos project involves 13 partners from seven EU countries led by the Piraeus University of Applied Sciences Soft Energy Applications and Environmental Protection Laboratory (SEALAB). Greek participants include the Hellenic Electricity Distribution Network Operator S.A, the companies Eunice and Eurosol and the environmental NGO WWF Greece. With the support of the local community and the Municipality of Tilos the project aims at achieving maximum energy autonomy of this remote Dodecanese island, that till today relies on electricity provided through subsea cables from the diesel stations in Kos.
• This innovative hybrid energy system, currently at implementation stage, comprises of a medium scale wind turbine, a medium scale PV park and battery energy storage, with the capability also to provide guaranteed energy exports to the island of Kos.
• You can find more information on the project on the TILOS website.
• More information on the awards can be found here.
• TILOS project nomination trailer can be found here.

For more information:
Anthimos Chatzivasileiou, policy communications officer WWF Greece, tel. 210-3314893, cel. 6944989749

The streets of Zakynthos are filled with garbage, as local authority tries to bury municipal waste in landfill illegally operating within the sea turtle Caretta caretta national park and ignores the need for a new and safe sanitary waste disposal site. 

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Environmental NGOs urge the three littoral countries and the European Union to move quickly ahead with the operation of the transboundary Prespa Park

Last Tuesday, 14th February 2017, was a historic day for Greece’s policy record in the field of nature conservation and sustainable development. The parliament of the country ratified the international ‘Agreement for the Protection and Sustainable Development of the Prespa Park Area’ by an overwhelming majority. The agreement was originally signed on 2nd February 2010 by the Ministers of Environment of the 3 littoral countries and the EU Commissioner for the Environment, but Greece did not ratify it for the 7 years that ensued. Nonetheless, it has now done so and the agreement is free to enter into force and be implemented.

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The Greek Public Power Corporation knows perfectly well that its two new lignite units under development, won’t be economically viable unless they are allowed to emit CO2 without paying. That’s why GPPC is claiming in every possible forum that Greece should get a pertinent exemption from the EU Emissions Trading System (EU ETS) rules*. In its effort to conceal the real reason behind its desperate plea, which is the perpetual continuation of the lignite-based electricity model as recently described by Guardian, GPPC is employing a series of arguments, which couldn’t be further from the truth. It comes a moment though that all myths get busted. 

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Seven years of crisis and austerity in Europe are placing great strain on the European project. In Europe’s nature, life goes on: Greece hosts a unique ecological treasury, which is threatened by increasing pressures for rapid but unsustainable growth and environmental deregulation. Greece’s debt can hardly be deemed sustainable and is crippling for the prospects of the country’s economy, environment and social well-being. This condition also prolongs the economic uncertainty of the entire euro-area. Debt relief seems inevitable. A green debt relief agreement, under the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, can offer a long lasting solution to this European crisis.

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