Its main objective is to ensure the long-term survival of the most valuable and threatened habitat types and species in Europe not through a network exclusively composed of strictly protected natural reserves, but through a network of natural areas under sustainable management. Natura 2000 is comprised of Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) designated under the Habitats Directive and of the SPAs designated under the provisions of the Birds Directive.

Candidate countries for EU accession are responsible for identifying the SCIs (Sites of Community Interest pursuant to Habitats Directive*) under the Habitats Directive (carrying out a comprehensive assessment of habitat types and species occurring on their territory) as well as the list of SPAs (Special Protected Areas pursuant to Birds Directive) under the Birds Directive. Before the accession the candidate countries can also propose amendments to the Annexes in the Directive, including the species, sub-species and/or habitat types occurring in their territory that are not already listed in the Directive.

Natura 2000 is the largest network of protected areas in the world, covering more than the 18% of the European territory and with more than 26.000 sites designated, The European Commission estimates that Natura 2000 provides direct or indirect employment to more than 12 million people in Europe.

(*Within 6 years following the accession to EU, Member States must announce the SCIs as SAC in the national law)


SCP is a methodology aims the definition of priority protected areas by using the gap analysis and complementary approach in a participatory manner. This methodology involves activities concerning the mapping of vegetation, fauna and flora species, existing protected areas, threat analysis, opportunities, socio-economic data and other relevant data. SCP is a conservation approach ensuring the highest biodiversity representativeness with the lowest conservation cost.