The European Diploma for Protected Areas is a prestigious international award granted since 1965 by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe. It recognises natural and semi-natural areas and landscapes of exceptional European importance for the preservation of biological, geological and landscape diversity and which are managed in an exemplary way.
Protected areas may receive the diploma for their outstanding scientific, cultural or aesthetic qualities, but they must also be the subject of a suitable conservation scheme. Since its creation in 1965, 74 protected areas have been granted the European Diploma. They are located in 29 European countries, both member and non-member states of the Council of Europe.
The award of the European Diploma provides an invaluable stimulus for the efficient protection and management of landscapes, reserves or natural monuments and sites with special European significance. For the authorities responsible for protected areas, the award of the European Diploma represent an additional international tool which, under Council of Europe auspices, enhance their management and conservation efforts. The unique nature of the Diploma also lies in the fact that it is awarded for a limited duration; the threat that it may be withdrawn has a deterrent effect in respect of dangers liable to cause harm to the area and acts as a stimulus for the preservation and improvement of the site.
Applications for the European Diploma are sent to the Council of Europe by the relevant national authorities and submitted to a Group of specialists which shall state whether the area in question is of exceptional European interest.
At present there are 74 protected areas awarded the European Diploma, spread across 29 countries.
The Group of Specialists is responsible for: examining the applications for the European Diploma for Protected Areas; deciding on whether to recommend that the Committee of Ministers should award the European Diploma to the area concerned; ensuring the monitoring of the implementation of the recommendations attached to the European Diploma awarded to the area.