The Council of Europe is an international organisation which was founded on 5th May 1949 with its headquarters in Strasbourg. There are currently 46 member states, comprising all of the European states, including Russia. The council’s aim is to strengthen democracy, human rights and legislative powers in member states. Since 1989 the Council has focussed its activities on the states of central and eastern Europe.
The European Diploma is an award which the Council of Europe has been awarding to important protected areas since 1965. Almost 70 protected areas in more than 20 European countries have received this award so far, after they have met the strict requirements for natural values of their protected area, and ensured the protection of nature and suitable administration and management procedures. Therefore the European Diploma represents one of the most effective tools for maintaining, protecting and publicising these most important parts of the European natural heritage. The process of awarding the diploma is strict and complicated and the expert analysis documentation plays an important role. This expert analysis assesses the natural quality of the territory, laws which ensure its protection, methods used in the management of the territory and the socio-economic context.
The European Diploma is awarded for a clearly defined 5 year period, after which the holder must be verified by experts again to prove that they still have the right to hold the diploma. In this way the motivation and efforts made by individual countries to continue with the protection of such protected areas and to increase the level of protection is ensured. It is also the duty of the national nature protection authorities to carry out regular monitoring of the condition of the protected areas and to provide an annual report for control and audit at the Secretariat of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, France.
The Czech Republic has 3 holders of the European Diploma. These are protected areas of varying size and in different categories of protection: Podyjí National Park, Bílé Karpaty Protected Landscape Area and Karlštejn National Nature Reserve. All three of these territories were awarded the European Diploma in 2000 and were reconfirmed in 2005. By receiving the prestigious European Diploma our protected areas have entered an elite community which includes regions such as the Białowieski National Park in Poland, the Bayerischer Wald Nationalpark in Germany and the Camargue National Reserve in France.
The European Diploma is accompanied by a list of recommendations arising from the real situation in the protected area. These recommendations are binding for the relevant state authorities and should serve to improve the protection of nature in the given area. In the case of Podyjí NP, these recommendations include the call to reduce the negative impact of the varying surface level and flow levels on the Dyje river as a result of the operation of the Vranov nad Dyjí hydroelectric plant and the advice against using the Dyje river for sporting or recreational activities. In the field of agricultural management, the Bílé Karpaty Protected Landscape Area was advised to support the co-operation between Czech and Slovak authorities in the area of cross-border protection of large-surface-area protected areas. Karlštejn NNP was advised to continue to support the renewal of deciduous forest stands at the expense of conifers, to restrict game hunting in the reserve and to improve access to information about the reserve for foreign tourists.
The European Diploma for protected areas represents an expression of European solidarity or unity in nature protection and rewards the care for our natural heritage not only by our state but also by the local inhabitants. The European Diploma has also become an important obligation for the Czech Republic.
Author:Tomáš Rothröckl Created: 4th January 2007