The Council of Europe - 800 million Europeans

Natural heritage, landscape protection and sustainable development

Member states of the Council of Europe face various challenges regarding the environment, landscape protection and sustainable development and regional or spatial planning. These challenges often require an international approach.

The Council of Europe has drawn up a number of instruments and guidelines to:

  • protect and manage the natural environment in Europe;
  • conserve and enhance the human environment and habitat;
  • define spatial planning and development concepts;
  • promote a comprehensive approach to balanced sustainable development.

Pan-European Biological and Landscape Diversity Strategy

The Strategy on “An environment for Europe”, approved by the 1995 Ministerial Conference, was designed to encourage the pooling of initiatives, mechanisms, funds, scientific research programmes and existing information in order to preserve and improve biological and landscape diversity in Europe. It aims to ensure that:

  • threats to Europe’s biological and landscape diversity are substantially reduced;
  • the resilience of Europe’s biological and landscape diversity is increased;
  • Europe’s ecological coherence is strengthened;
  • the public is fully committed to preserving biological and landscape diversity.

The Strategy is an innovative and proactive approach to reverse the deterioration of Europe’s biological and landscape diversity. It aims to integrate ecological considerations into the social and economic sectors.

The Strategy reinforces existing mechanisms and identifies additional steps to be taken over the next two decades. It also provides a structured approach and common objectives for national and regional action to implement the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity.

The Strategy is being implemented thanks to the commitment of the major European institutions. Its secretariat is provided jointly by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Council of Europe.

European fauna and flora: preserving wildlife

The Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats, better known as the Bern Convention (1982), protects rare and endangered animal and plant species, and natural habitats. It lists protected species, regulates the methods used to exploit certain species, and asks states to regulate the protection of natural habitats, in particular through the creation of a European network of protected areas.

The Bern Convention is also open to European and African non-member states. It has been ratified by 45 member states, the European Community, and four African states (Burkina Faso, Morocco, Senegal and Tunisia).

Landscape, a reflection of Europe’s cultural diversity

The European Landscape Convention, adopted in Florence in 2000, came into force on 1 March 2004. It underlines the value of all landscapes, including the “everyday” setting in which people live their daily lives. The Convention sets out measures to protect, manage and plan landscapes throughout Europe in order to achieve sustainable development, with a balanced and harmonious relationship between social needs, economic activity and the environment. The Convention also awards a “Council of Europe Landscape Prize” in recognition of the policies or measures put into effect by local and regional authorities or NGOs for the protection and management of their landscapes.

An award for nature conservation

The European Diploma of Protected Areas is awarded to areas whose natural heritage is particularly important and which are adequately protected. The sites awarded the diploma are a showcase for the richness and diversity of nature in Europe. Seventy diplomas have been awarded to date.

Information and education for action

The Council seeks to raise awareness of the importance of protecting the natural and cultural environment through its network of correspondents and some 40 national agencies. The magazine “Naturopa”, published since 1968 and originally aimed at promoting nature conservation and sustainable management of natural resources, broadened its scope in 2001 to include cultural heritage, landscape preservation and sustainable spatial development.

A blueprint for sustainable development

The European Conference of Ministers responsible for Regional Planning (CEMAT) brings together representatives of the Council’s member states to examine the challenges involved in regional or spatial planning. The work of CEMAT focuses on sustainable economic, environmental and social development in greater Europe through regional or spatial planning.

Over the years, a number of texts guiding spatial planning policies have been adopted: they include the European Regional Planning Strategy and the European Regional/Spatial Planning Charter, which advocates a comprehensive, functional, long-term planning policy. More recently, CEMAT adopted the “Guiding principles for sustainable development of the European continent” which provide a flexible and forward-looking framework for co-operation between member states. It also stresses the importance of training in the implementation of sustainable spatial development policies.

Natural and technological disaster prevention – Euro-Mediterranean co-operation

An open Partial Agreement on major natural and technological hazards, covering prevention, protection and the organisation of relief (the EUR-OPA Major Hazards Agreement), was concluded in March 1987. This is open both to Council of Europe member states and to non-member states, such as Morocco, Algeria and Lebanon. At present, 26 states are involved. The European Commission, UNESCO, the WHO and the UN Department of Humanitarian Affairs also take part. Japan has observer status.

The Agreement aims for closer, more dynamic co-operation between the member states spanning various disciplines, using all available resources and know-how to manage major hazards and help others manage them.

Risk prevention is the chief priority, with activities such as the raising of awareness among children, citizen information and the comparative analysis of risk management legislation. A network of 27 Euro-Mediterranean centres encourages interest and participation in member states. These centres contribute to the fulfilment of the partners’ shared objectives by running European information, training and research programmes.

The Agreement contributes to the worldwide action plan adopted during the United Nations Conference on Disaster Reduction (Kobe, Japan, January 2005), from the Euro-Mediterranean angle, with specific emphasis on the comparative analysis of legislation, education and training initiatives and the experience made available by its network of specialised centres, in particular with the European Warning System.



A political organisation set up in 1949, the Council of Europe works to promote democracy and human rights continent-wide. It also develops common responses to social, cultural and legal challenges in its 47 member states.
2002 - The Council of Europe Information Office - Tbilisi.