Natura 2000 is a network of protected areas within the borders of the European Union. The aim of establishing this network was to identify conservation areas with the aim of ensuring the long-term survival of the most valuable and most endangered species and habitats in Europe according to the Council Directive 92/43/EEC on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora, the Habitats Directive and its Annexes (for the habitat types in Annex I and for the species listed in Annex II) and according to the Birds Directive (Directive 2009/147/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council on the conservation of wild birds), which has been adopted in 1979 - Council Directive 79/409/EEC and includes species listed in Annex I.

Currently, the network of 28 Member States covers over 27000 land and marine areas accounting for as much as 18% of the EU territory. In relation to our country, the ecological network will be established and become part of the European ecological network Natura 2000 by the date of accession of the Republic of Serbia to the European Union. In that sense, Serbia, as a future member, has yet to make its contribution, not only in increasing the area of the network, but also in developing this system of protection that will take place simultaneously with the protection implemented at the national level. In the previous period, the identification of habitat types in Serbia that are also listed in Annex I, has been done along with the identification of plant and animal species from Annex II of the Habitats Directive, and a list of bird species has been determined in accordance with the Birds Directive.

The procedure of establishing Natura 2000 protection system

When selecting and designating a Natura 2000 site, all candidate countries must go through three phases of dialogue with the European Commission:

Phase I: Preparation of a national list of proposed Sites of Community Importance (pSCIs)

According to Article 4 of the Habitats Directive, each prospective Member State submits to the European Commission a list of proposed Sites of Community Importance (pSCIs) on the day of its accession to the EU. These sites combine the habitat types from the Annex I and the habitats for species from Annex II. They are proposed according to certain rules and their selection is exclusively a scientific process based on the standard selection criterion explained in the Directive, as well as on some other documents agreed between the European Commission and the Member States. For this purpose, Interpretation Manual of European Union Habitats, EU28, European Commission, 2013 is used. Serbia should prepare its own manual for the habitat types on its territory, the same as most EU member states have already done. Specific information on each site is communicated to the Commission via the so-called Standard Data Form (SDF).

Phase II: The determination of Sites of Community Importance (SCIs).

When a national list of sites is submitted by a new Member State, the European Commission forwards that list to its expert body, European Topic Center for Biodiversity - ETC/BD. This body analyzes the proposal and organizes a biogeographic seminar for the European Commission to check whether all habitat types and species in the country are sufficiently or not sufficiently represented in the proposed sites, especially in each biogeographical region in the territory of the state.

Biogeographic seminars are held to select Sites of Community Importance (SCIs) from the list of proposed Sites of Community Importance (pSCIs). The aim is to determine whether the state has proposed sufficient quality sites under the provisions of Article 4 of the Habitats Directive and other applicable EU-harmonized documents. The European Commission-led biogeographic seminar is attended by the candidate state, experts from European Topic Center for Biodiversity, independent experts on habitats and species, who are appointed by the Commission and representatives of non-governmental organizations, former representing "green" associations and latter representing users and landowners.

Although very rare, certain sites may also be deleted from the list if it is found that there are insufficient arguments to accept them.

In the event that the number of newly proposed sites is insufficient, the European Commission may ask for more than one amendment. The amendments are negotiated bilaterally between the European Commission and the state, and only after all deficiencies have been eliminated, the European Commission, in agreement with all Member States, adopts the finite list of Sites of Community Importance (SCIs) of a particular state, which is published in the Official Journal of European Communities.

Phase III: Designation of Special Areas of Conservation (SACs)

Within six years of the adoption of the list of Sites of Community Importance (SCI Areas), Member States should designate them as Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) according to national laws and in line with the requirement of Article 4 (4) of the Habitats Directive. At the same time, all Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) should be provided with the necessary conservation measures and appropriate legislative, administrative and/or contractual measures to meet the ecological requirements of the habitat types and species for which the individual areas have been designated.

Special Protection Areas (SPAs) are designated according to the Birds Directive primarily to protect the rarest and most endangered bird species at the European level, including migratory bird species. Special Protection Areas are designated through a simpler procedure, that is, they are directly integrated into the Natura 2000 network, unlike all the necessary steps to be taken to identify Special Areas of Conservation according to the Habitats Directive. In addition, certain Special Protection Areas may also be Special Areas of Conservation if, besides birds, there are other species or habitat types as well, which are in accordance with the Habitats Directive.

Finally, the Natura 2000 network consists of the Special Areas of Conservation and Special Protection Areas declared by the Member States in accordance with both Directives.

Schematic representation of the phases in the designation of Natura 2000 sites and areas

Grafikon Natura 2000