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:


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