Maguelone Dejeant-Pons

COE - European Landscape Convention

Bio statement :
Country : FR
Contact :
Website :

Iva Obretenova

COE - Bern Convention

Bio statement :
Country :
Contact :
Website :


The Bern Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats

The Council of Europe is the oldest European organisation, which now covers all the European Continent with its 47 member countries. It has been the first organisation to recommend, already in 1961, the creation of a permanent international system of co-operation on nature protection. Since 1965, the Council of Europe has pioneered such cooperation through the creation of the European Diploma for Protected Areas, a prestigious international award granted, after careful examination, to areas of extraordinary ecological value and of exemplary management. Today, the Network of areas holding the European Diploma is composed of 74 zones from 29 countries across the European continent, with a most recent award of the Diploma in 2015.

Since the early 1970's, the organisation has gradually cantered its work on nature conservation and protection of natural resources, until the opening to signature of the Bern Convention, in 1979. Today, the Convention has 51 Contracting Parties, among which 4 African states and the European Union.

At the time of its birth the Bern Convention was unique for recognising the intrinsic value of wild flora and fauna, which needs to be preserved and passed to future generations as it constitutes a “natural heritage of aesthetic, scientific, cultural, recreational, economic and intrinsic value”. The approach of protecting both species and habitats, including migratory ones, was innovative and forward-looking. The Convention has its own mechanisms for standard setting and monitoring of compliance by its Parties. It further benefits from a unique cooperation with the non-governmental sector through its case-files system, as NGOs but also citizen groups or even individuals can alarm on an alleged breach of the Convention by any Party. The Convention regularly receives such complaints, including on issues which concern the energy and transport sectors and their possible negative impact on the landscapes, habitats and species through fragmentation and other various cumulative impacts.

In 1989, the creation of the Emerald network of Areas of Special Conservation Interest was recommended by the Convention, as a tool for its Contracting Parties to implement their legal obligations. It is thus often forgotten that it is the Bern Convention that is at the origin of the adoption of what many call “the cornerstone of Europe’s nature conservation policy”, the EU Habitats and Birds Directives.

The adoption of the Calendar for the implementation of the Emerald Network (2011-2020), in the aftermath of the agreement on the world Aichi biodiversity Targets, triggered sustained commitment from the national authorities of all Contracting Parties to the Convention which are non-EU member states towards the network constitution. By June 2016, the Network covers nearly 3 500 candidate or fully certified Emerald Network sites in 16 countries, covering almost 600 000 km² and an average of 12% of the national territories of the countries involved.

Nowadays, the vocation of the Emerald Network is to complete the Natura 2000 Network beyond the EU in a coherent manner. The challenge resides in ensuring Emerald quickly becomes fully functional for the achievement of its objectives - the protection at the longer term of the habitats and species of European importance. This most certainly means the Emerald areas are truly interconnected and fully respect and support the conservation of the physically and culturally diverse landscape at the pan-European level.

The Council of Europe’s activities seek to promote a comprehensive and consistent view of the concept of “common heritage” by regarding natural and cultural values as resources for sustainable regional development able to improve the living environment of the populations concerned.  The Action Plan adopted by the Heads of State and Government of the Council of Europe member states at their 3rd Summit (Warsaw, 2005) devotes a section to “promoting sustainable development” which states “We are committed to improving the quality of life for citizens. The Council of Europe shall therefore, on the basis of the existing instruments, further develop and support integrated policies in the fields of environment, landscape, spatial planning […] in a sustainable development perspective”.

European Landscape Convention

“The member States of the Council of Europe signatory hereto, wishing to provide a new instrument devoted exclusively to the protection, management and planning of all landscapes in Europe…”

Preamble to the European Landscape Convention

The Council of Europe, an international intergovernmental organisation founded in 1949, has its headquarters in the French city of Strasbourg and has 47 member states.  Its main objectives are to promote democracy, human rights and the rule of law and to seek common solutions to the major problems facing European society today. The aim is to preserve Europeans’ quality of life and well-being, taking into account landscape, cultural and natural values.

Adopted in Strasbourg by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe on 19 July 2000, the European Landscape Convention was opened for signature by the Organisation’s member states in Florence on 20 October of that year. The Convention provides an important contribution to the implementation of the Council of Europe’s objectives.

Its aim is to promote landscape protection, management and planning, and to organise European co-operation on landscape issues. Regarded as the first sustainable development convention, it represents a major contribution to the implementation of the Council of Europe’s objectives, namely to protect Europeans’ quality of life and well-being, taking into account landscape, cultural and natural values. The Council of Europe member states, signatory to the convention, declared their commitment to achieving “sustainable development based on a balanced and harmonious relationship between social needs, economic activity and the environment”. The cultural dimension is also recognised as being of fundamental importance.

The Convention is an innovative instrument, representing the first international treaty exclusively devoted to all European landscapes as the living environment of individuals and societies. Each Contracting Party undertakes to recognise landscapes in law as an essential component of people’s surroundings, an expression of the diversity of their shared cultural and natural heritage, and a foundation of their identity.

The Convention makes it clear that the landscape has an important public interest role in the ecological, environmental, cultural and social fields, and constitutes a resource favourable to economic activity, including tourism. The preamble of the Convention refers explicitly to the Bern Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats of 19 September 1979. Accordingly, landscapes should not be merely ornamental, but living areas, populated by animal and plant species. ‘Green infrastructures’ – nature – serve as environmental arteries, providing the life-blood that vitalises the landscape.

In this connection, two principles play a major role in application of the European Landscape Convention: integration and consistency. The principle of integration means taking landscape into account in all types of territory and in all policy sectors and is a basic principle and requirement if landscape policy is not to be confined to landscapes which are already protected.  The principle of consistency seeks to avoid any conflict between landscape policies and other sectoral policies or any conflict between the different levels of landscape policy.  Applying this principle makes it possible to ensure that landscape policy objectives are consistent and that the protection, management and planning policies are satisfactorily co-ordinated.  The focus is therefore on striking an appropriate balance between economic, social, cultural and environmental requirements.

The Resolution CM/Res(2008)3 on the rules governing the Landscape Award of the Council of Europe adopted by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe on 20 February 2008 states that the policy or measures implemented with a view to the protection, management and/or planning of the landscapes concerned should involve the active participation of the public, local and regional authorities and other players and should clearly reflect the landscape quality objectives. The public should be able to participate simultaneously in two ways: through dialogue and exchanges between members of society (public meetings, debates, procedures for participation and consultation in the field, for example) and through procedures for public participation and involvement in landscape policies implemented by national, regional or local authorities.

The significant achievements in the Member States on the occasion of the sessions of the Landscape Award of the Council of Europe show that it is possible to promote the territorial dimension of human rights and democracy by improving the features of the landscapes that surround us and thus people’s living conditions.