Among other notables in attendance were Florika Fink-Hooijer, Director-General at DG Environment of the European Commission, and Herman Van Rompuy, former Belgian Prime Minister and European Council President, and the Sonian Forest Foundation’s current Board President.
Florika Fink-Hooijer praised LIFE and Natura 2000 for their years of work in safeguarding Europe’s forests, which are a key target of the European Biodiversity Strategy for 2030. Protecting old-growth forests like the Sonian is vital for preserving biodiversity, mitigating climate change and our well-being, she said. She added that the Commission will soon adopt the EU Forest Strategy to help ensure healthy and resilient forests.
Herman Van Rompuy said that the Sonian Forest Foundation was set up to preserve the ecological heart of the forest and its vulnerable fauna and flora. He added that working with LIFE has helped improve the forest’s connectivity, while benefiting habitats and species.
Natura 2000 was created on 21 May 1992, coinciding with the adoption of the EU Habitats Directive and the LIFE programme. The network forms the backbone of EU nature conservation policy. It is the world’s largest coordinated network of legally protected areas and covers 18% of the EU’s land area and more than 9% of its sea area. Natura 2000 is therefore vital for the European Green Deal’s successful implementation.
29 years old today, LIFE has co-financed conservation actions on more than 5 700 Natura 2000 sites – that’s roughly 20% of the total network. €3 billion has been spent on 1 800 nature and biodiversity projects. LIFE projects have safeguarded some 750 species and 5 400 habitats. Also, LIFE has purchased around 200 000 hectares of land across the EU – this land is protected indefinitely.
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