Natura 2000 is the world's largest coordinated network of protected areas, established by two pieces of EU environmental legislation: the so-called Birds and Habitats Directives. The Natura 2000 network now comprises over 27000 sites across the 28 EU Member States. It covers over million km², more than 18% of the EU terrestrial area and over 4% of the marine area where EU Member States have national jurisdiction. The EU Birds and Habitats Directives and Natura 2000 are the cornerstone of the EU biodiversity policy and the backbone of its Green Infrastructure.
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In order to enhance the implementation of the Article 8j of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), to better safeguard the rights of the indigenous Saami people and to secure participation and involvement of the Saami people in protected area management planning process, the application of the voluntary Akwé: Kon Guidelines of the CBD were piloted in the development of the Management Plan of Hammastunturi Wilderness Area in Finnish Lapland.
The ENPI-MED Programme – a financial instrument of EU for enhancing the North-South cooperation in the Mediterranean area – has funded in 2012 the MEET (Mediterranean Experience of Eco-Tourism) project, which has established a Network of 20 Protected Areas (from 8 Mediterranean countries) that are testing a Catalogue of eco-tourism packages addressed to foreign markets. The project is led by Federparchi – Europarc Italy with a partnership of the main PA policy-maker Institutions of 6 Mediterranean countries.
Protected areas provide multiple socio-economic benefits. However, these benefits are often not assessed and remain unappreciated by decision-makers and the wider public alike. Therefore using public funding to establish and maintain protected areas is often of low priority. Information about the socio-economic benefits of protected areas, such as streams of revenue to local economies from recreation and tourism, can provide valuable support to maintaining and managing protected areas. The United States National Park Service (U.S.