Nature 2000 in Arco Latino
Establishment, commitment, land use and funding. A Mediterranean vision from a local perspective
In its 2006-2007 Work Plan, the Commission for Protected Natural Areas (PNAs) of the Arco Latino Association 4 agreed to initiate discussions within the Association on the process of establishment and development of the European Natura 2000 Ecological Networks (RN2000) in the areas that it covers, following the recommendation arising from the Strategic Plan approved by the Association in 2004. Therefore, on 26 and 27 October 2006, a specific seminar was convened in Barcelona to which a selection of prominent experts and representatives from administrative departments involved in PNA governance, direct managers of these areas, university researchers and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) were invited to take part. The organisation was carried out with the valuable collaboration of the associations IUCN, FEDERPARCHI, EUROPARC Espanya, LEGAMBIENTE e FEDENATUR, who were put in charge of technical services for the meeting.
A total of 92 participants from Italy, France and Spain gathered in the Drassanes (Shipyards) of Barcelona and in a series of consecutive sessions discussed and put forward proposals regarding five thematic areas suggested by the organisation: the process of establishment of RN2000 in the Mediterranean area; measures and conservation commitments in RN2000 protected Mediterranean areas; funding and development of RN2000; land use implications of RN2000 and consideration of Mediterranean particularities: economic, social and cultural requirements.
The seminar's 40 main conclusions, broken down into the five thematic areas, are presented below. These conclusions, which were approved at a meeting of the General Assembly of Arco Latino held in the Italian city of Nuoro on 23 January 2007, will be raised at the European Commission, the European Parliament and the main bodies and associations in our area that are directly interested in the RN2000 process. It is hoped that they are an accurate reflection of the opinions shared by the participants at the seminar, and that, in any case, they fulfil the meeting's primary objective, namely, to formulate an initial Mediterranean vision of RN2000 from a local perspective.
A summary of these conclusions, would include these five priority aspects:
- RN2000 involves a very substantial part of European territory and in particular the Arco Latino area, and therefore has a great influence on the future. So far its establishment and development have produced mixed results. On the positive side, extension of European awareness of the need for a broad and organised vision of land and landscape conservation; recognition of its impact on people's lives, health and opportunities; and orientation towards more sustainable and potentially productive land development models in the medium- and long-term. On the negative side, the slowness of the process, which reflects the scant political will to complete it; an unfavourable image in important affected sectors; considerable uncertainties regarding specific characteristics of its development; and limited social and institutional participation so far.
- Greater inclusion of the local level in the process is needed, which first and foremost should be fostered by the European Commission and also by central administrative departments at national level. RN2000 could be a great opportunity to reorientate European land and environmental policies. Moreover, it could enable local authorities and communities as a whole to play a much more decisive role in effectively deploying RN2000, in order to safeguard local areas and eradicate abusive urban development initiatives, which have a particularly strong impact on coastal areas.
- The management of RN2000 areas requires increased intervention capacity, in terms of economic, human and instrumental resources, especially in those areas that have so far had no legal status for protection and, therefore, scarce contributions of resources. On the contrary, the many examples of PNAs that are currently managed effectively, are a source of experiences and good practices that RN2000 should resolutely include. It should be pointed out that the major obstacle at the moment is the confusion and uncertainty regarding additional EU funding that can be counted on. Whilst accepting that the definition of priority for applying European funding has to be dealt with, the overall strategic framework for the 2007-2013 structural funds does not convey the importance that Europe wishes to give to RN2000 sites. Moreover, not only are the specific funding instruments currently envisaged insufficient, but it is also deemed necessary that the European Commission should restore the Life - Nature and Life - Environment programmes, swiftly consolidate Life+ and create mechanisms that allow for the unfreezing of CAP funds which contribute towards Feder funds.
- RN2000 is a strategic opportunity for Mediterranean countries, but this idea must be argued, implemented and disseminated much more strongly. A comprehensive participatory process, aimed at seeking consensus on beneficial aspects, is needed. Such benefits arise from conserving and promoting RN2000 sites and all kinds of socio-economic advantages, including the creation of new activities and jobs, which RN2000 can help to encourage. This is the only way to organise the coordination of the agents involved in order to achieve a comprehensive social contract in favour of development of the Network. It is also vital, in a participatory way, to go beyond the sectoral vision of land use, which hampers integral policies, and to create a common language which encourages the inter-relationship and framing of environmental, economic, social and urban development policies.
- The synergy between biological diversity, landscape diversity and human activity has defined the Mediterranean area over the centuries. In particular, agriculture and stock breeding have always played a vital role in the balance and land use mosaic, which, among other benefits, has enabled adaptation to typical Mediterranean natural disasters (fires, floods, etc.). The agricultural sector and the environmental sector are strongly interlinked. For several years other emerging sectors have been fully incorporated, such as tourism, which in its sustainable dimension has great potential, and should make an effective contribution to the development of nature areas' local populations. Another prospect for the future is the economic appreciation of specifically environmental services, which today are practically considered as being freely available (renewable energy production, replenishing of aquifers, maintenance of biodiversity). To sum up, it is a priority that RN2000 be incorporated with and boost rural development programmes. An interesting instrument is the formulation of sustainable rural development plans, with the participation of all sectors.
4 Association comprising 65 members, all of them supramunicipal local authorities in the Mediterranean area: Italian provinces, councils of French departments and Spanish councils and island councils, which basically proposes to defend its territorial and strategic interests in Europe as a whole.