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.

An on-the-spot appraisal can be organised to examine in detail the characteristics of the area, the effectiveness of the protection measures, the management quality, the problems. After that, the Group of specialists decides whether to forward the application to the Committee of Ministers, which is the body entitled to decide on the award the European Diploma to the area concerned. In most cases, the proposal of the Group of specialists to award the Diploma is accompanied by recommendations and, where appropriate, conditions to improve the management of the area or the system for protecting it.

The Diploma has a unique supervisory mechanism. An annual report has to be sent to the Council of Europe by the authorities responsible for the management of each award-winning site. The Diploma is awarded for five years. It may be renewed for a period of 10 years, renewable for successive 10 year period. In the event of a serious threat to an area or a substantial deterioration of the site, an exceptional appraisal may be conducted.