Many important initiatives have already been taken to conserve Europe’s natural heritage, but – in spite of efforts by government bodies, non-governmental organizations and individuals – the biological and landscape diversity of Europe continues to decline at a rapid rate. An analysis of gaps in existing nature conservation initiatives and mechanisms indicates that they will be better used when:
a coherent framework is set up to mobilize all existing initiatives towards the one goal of conserving biological and landscape diversity throughout Europe;
key factors contributing to the deterioration of biological diversity and landscape diversity are recognized, addressed or influenced.
Recent political and social developments in Europe offer a number of unique opportunities to act in favour of the conservation of biological and landscape diversity. Throughout the continent forestry and agricultural and forestry practices are changing; former military, industrial and agricultural land is becoming available and has a potential for nature conservation; international cooperation is increasing in all areas, and there is growing public awareness and concern for biological and landscape diversity issues. It is recognized in the European context that:
conserving Europe’s natural heritage is a basic necessity for securing sustainable development in Europe;
conserving Europe’s natural heritage is a shared responsibility of all European countries and regions and a task which can only be successfully undertaken in a Pan-European context;
Pan-European cooperation will strengthen the effectiveness of national action under the Convention on Biological Diversity;
the issue of landscape diversity is as yet not adequately integrated into mechanisms aimed at protecting and enhancing the natural environment;
public attitude, awareness and understanding of conservation issues is a very effective safeguard for maintaining biological and landscape diversity;
far-reaching political and economical changes over the past decade require new answers to new challenges in land use and use of natural resources;
sustainable management of the natural environment as an economic resource is a prerequisite for continued economic and social development and prosperity in Europe;
the threats to biological and landscape diversity require urgent action that both integrates and builds on existing national and international activity;
the decline in Europe\’s natural environment has been caused by economic and social action, and thus the integration of conservation considerations into socio-economic policy is a prerequisite for restoring and maintaining biological and landscape diversity;
by facilitating local initiatives towards sustainable development, involving all land users, a new balance may be achieved in rural areas between social and economic dynamics and ecological stability.
These considerations have led the Council of Europe in 1994, in cooperation with other national and international organizations, both governmental and non-governmental, to take the initiative to originally develop the Pan-European Biological and Landscape Diversity Strategy. The Pan-European Biological and Landscape Diversity Strategy is a European response to support implementation of the Convention on Biological Diversity. The Strategy was proposed in the Maastricht Declaration Conserving Europe’s Natural Heritage (1993), and builds on the Bern Convention, the European Conservation Strategy (1990), the Dobrís and Lucerne Ministerial Conferences (1991, 1993), UNCED (1992), and other existing initiatives and programmes. The Strategy aims to strengthen the application of the Bern Convention in relation to the Convention on Biological Diversity, following the Monaco Declaration. The drafting group for the Strategy was lead by ECNC.The Strategy introduces a coordinating and unifying framework for strengthening and building on existing initiatives. It does not aim to introduce new legislation or programmes, but to fill gaps where initiatives are not implemented to their full potential or fail to achieve desired objectives. Furthermore, the Strategy seeks to more effectively integrate ecological considerations into all relevant socio-economic sectors, and will increase public participation in, and awareness and acceptance of, conservation interests.
Following the decision from the Budapest Conference in 2002 the First Action Plan was revised and resulted in the Rolling Work Programme.