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Natura 2000 is a title for a network of protected sites of the European Union member states. The main reason for establishment of the network is an effort to maintain European natural heritage.

By means of the NATURA 2000 network of protected sites, the protection of the most rare and endangered wild flora, wild fauna species and natural habitats within the area of the European Union should be provided. Through the protection of the species and habitats of European importance, EU biodiversity should be maintained.

Legal basis for establishment of NATURA 2000 network is given by two EU legal norms:

NATURA 2000 network consists of two types of sites:

  • Special Protection Areas (SPAs) designed in accordance with the Birds Directive; Slovak legislation: designation of a separate, new category of the protected area "Special Protection Area";
  • Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) designed in accordance with the Habitats Directive; Slovak legislation: designation within the particular already existing national categories of protected areas or their zones. In the first phase, the Sites of Community Importance (SCIs) are identified and sent to the European Commission for approval to be designed as SACs

The two directives represent hitherto the most complex legal norms on nature protection in the world.

Wild flora, wild fauna species and natural habitats considered as important for the EU are listed in the annexes of the directives.

The directives lay emphasis on the fact that selection of NATURA 2000 sites is carried out on the basis of scientific criteria (i.e. comprehensive data on distribution and status of particular flora and fauna species populations and particular habitats). The final NATURA 2000 network of sites should cover the most valuable areas irrespective of ownership conditions and current management utilization.

NATURA 2000 should ensure the maintenance of the favourable conservation status of selected flora and fauna species populations and selected habitats. Management utilization of the areas is, however, not excluded if the favourable status is not injured.