Protecting Biodiversity in Albania through promotion of Natura 2000

Geographical location:

Europe/Middle-East > -Regions- > Mediterranean Sea

Europe/Middle-East > Eastern Europe > Albania

Summary

Albania is home to a rich natural biodiversity, which has the potential to help in its economic development. WWF aims to work with other non-government organisations (NGOs) to help move the country towards adequate protection of its natural areas.

The specific aims of this project are to promote the EU’s Natura 2000 Network within Albania, to ensure compliance with the EU’s environmental legislation and to protect habitat within Albania.

Background

Albania’s rich biodiversity is a unique national asset and an opportunity for the economic development of the country. The radical political and social changes over the last few decades have led to the current situation where the environment is overlooked and, in many cases, severely abused.

Illegal woodcutting, fishing and hunting, along with overgrazing and the occupation of forest and pasture land, are priority issues for Albania. Protected areas and their good management are critical for the conservation of wild flora and fauna and, in the long term, they might become a major repository of the Albanian natural ecosystems. Although protected land has increased significantly in recent years - from 3.6% of the country’s surface area in 2002 to the current 9.9% - the size and, above all, the management of protected areas in the country remains insufficient to ensure the conservation of its biological diversity.

The Natura 2000 Network is the cornerstone of the EU's approach to protect biodiversity. It currently covers about 20% of Europe's territory and provides legal protection to the most sensitive habitats and species. It is considered by many as the most advanced and effective system for nature protection and, as such, one of the greatest achievements of EU environmental policy. Natura 2000 includes a Birds Directive and a Habitats Directive, which are concerned with the protection of natural habitats, fauna and flora and the creation of a European network of protected sites. The establishment of a network of protected areas also fulfils the EC obligation under the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). Expanding Natura 2000 Network in Central Eastern Europe would be of crucial importance since a great proportion of Europe’s biodiversity is now in those countries which are part of the former Soviet Union.

As a potential candidate country for EU Accession, Albania is committed to “combating environmental degradation….and to develop and strengthen collaboration (with EU countries) on priority areas related to the Community acquis in the field of environment”.

The promotion of Natura 2000 in Albania would help the Albanian Government to align its environmental legislation to the EC acquis as well as create development opportunities for local communities which are living in rural areas. The Albanian legal framework, notably the “Law for Protected Areas” and “Law on Biodiversity Protection” establish the legal basis for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity and for achieving the 2010 target under the CBD. These laws, however, are largely by-passed and insufficient to cope with the critical status of Albania biodiversity.

The economic impact and the value of protected areas have been described in many studies over the past two decades. Such studies acknowledge that though the core reasons for establishing protected areas are not based on economics but on environmental arguments there are tangible and market-based economic benefits associated with them (e.g. visitors spending, jobs creation, and government spending and revenues).

Objectives

The overall objective is to protect Albanian biodiversity by advocating Natura 2000. This will be pursued by supporting the government to adapt its environmental legislation to the European Community acquis in regard to nature conservation.

To this end, a working group on Natura 2000 Network (N2000_WG) composed of regional and national NGOs will be established and its capacity strengthened to enable its members to advocate Natura 2000.

Solution

- The capacity of N2000_WG on Natura 2000, EIA/SEA, Advocacy techniques and EU biodiversity standards is increased.
- N2000_WG support to government agencies for filling up the gaps between national environmental legislation and EU biodiversity standards is completed.
- N2000_WG overall access to global resources (knowledge, skills and partnerships) related to Natura 2000 is improved.
- A study (in local language) for adapting Natura 2000 in Albania is expanded.